MENTAL RESISTANCE IN CONTEXT IV. – Stress, subconscious, and brain
What are the reactions of our body to stress which can be physically separated from the physiological point of view, and thus understand the nervous and hormonal processes that occur in our body during unwanted stress. There are countless of these very professional and accurate information today. But what will it be if we are not the doctors, the therapists, or does it explicitly care about us? What is good to know that when adrenaline or cortisol is being washed out, that or that hormone affects the sympathetic or parasympathetic, or that under stress does our body want to either fight or escape? Of course, all of this is certainly valuable knowledge, but for a practitioner who wants to improve his physical performance in tedious situations, the information is theoretical and almost inapplicable. I also do not need to know how the engine works today, but I want to be able to drive it and use it in practice.
In the last chapter, I tried to answer the role played by the subconscious level of the athlete and how he participates in the ability to withstand the pressure and stay active in the game. Likewise, I tried to explain that the main reason why our subconscious helps or blocks us is the presence of so-called subconscious stress. This stress is triggered when a certain pattern of behavior that is incompatible with the physical activity we are doing is activated through the environment in our subconscious.
Here’s an example from practice:
Last season, with one of our leading Czech hockey players playing at KHL, I have been dealing with a topic that has been the subject of the last few weeks. When he appears in the chance and has the opportunity to shoot, a foul feel, which usually results in excessive firing of the missile and the puck flies over the gate, flies in his body. (I deliberately mention this situation as an example) There is a question as to where does that unpleasant feeling come from? There is no problem in training. The answer is just the presence of stress, which is activated only by a sharp action in the game, and that has the consequence for us, at that moment, of the negative intervention of our subconscious in the action that is being carried out. Where does the stress take and what activates it is the private matter of the player. What, however, is important to realize that if stress is not removed from the subconscious, we can build on the head and coach a lot, but in the game the situation will reappear in varying degrees.
Before introducing further examples of stress from practice, we should first understand practically why players are dropping performance and what role our brain plays.
From high school we know that the brain consists of two hemispheres, each of which performs a different function. The left performs analytical functions, ie. rational and logical thinking, speech center, memory, and so on. But what we all do not know is a practical example of these sports functions. And especially the fact that the left hemisphere, home to automatisms and belief systems, is essentially responsible for all our learned skills and their implementation. The sporting language means that this hemisphere is in charge of the technical execution of sports movements – running, jumping, skating, strike, missiles, recordings and just about all the skills the athlete needs for his sporting performance. What is also important to emphasize that the hemispheres control our body from the eyebrows down to the cross, that is, the left hand controls the right half of our body.
But the right hemisphere, which logically controls the left half of our body, is responsible for those processes that have nothing to do with logic. I mean alternative processes, namely our creativity, emotion and empathy, intuitive perception, and simply everything that is just the thing of the moment. Simply put, that may not be so revolutionary. But let’s try to translate it into sport: the function of the right hemisphere gives the athletes the ability to sense the situation, anticipate the movements of the opponent and read the game as such. This means also the athlete’s ability to predict the correct moment of the game, such as when to retreat or to attack, how to strike the most efficiently where it is not expected, or where to stand in order to gain a pass and effectively reap the capabilities provided by the left hemisphere – missile and turn it into a chance. It simply mediates the qualities that the athletes themselves make players. And that’s how I get back to chapter 1, which I called Efficiency. I believe that all the coaches know well what I’m talking about. There is a difference between a player who does what he wants and a player who switches over at important moments, takes the situation on himself and simply does something that does not make sense (the left “logical” hemisphere has no explanation) , but it is effective and creates a difference. This instinctive courage is the property of the right hemisphere that takes over the rudder.
Practically speaking, if both hemispheres work and interact with each other, then everything we have trained we can use effectively. We can say with a bit of exaggeration that we are in “Flow” and we use our full potential.
Stress blocks energy.
Let’s go back to the brain. Our brain as every other organ in our body needs enough energy for its optimal function. Here I could make a turn on the subject of what energy it is and how it works and how it works in our organism, but I would turn it off from that goal and follow them in a holistic context. It is enough for me to track down the cause simply by understanding that any unwanted / unconscious stress blocks this brain energy. And again, to understand the practical impact again: when our brain does not have enough energy, it is logically unable to ensure effective coordination of both halves of our body.
How does it work in practice?
Many factors that trigger stress in our subconscious will trigger a competition for us through the external environment. Depending on the degree of intensity of the stress (we can also understand how the situation falls on us, as we perceive subjectively), we will decrease the hemisphere thematically because the brain consumes energy to cope with the stress of the situation. Outwardly, this condition will manifest itself by automatically weakening our ability to effectively control the body. And because we need to coordinate the whole body, our performance will be limited (by saying: the chain is as strong as its weakest link) by the weakened half of the body and the weakened function of our brain.
In sport, we can see this by, for example, a deterioration in the coordination of movement – we stop taking steps, lack of strength – our legs become heavy and stop running, lack of sense of punch – exaggeratedly putting force into action, loss of orientation and spatial vision – we do not see or hear our teammates “Tunnel vision”, poor forecasting and timing failure – we miss the ideal opportunity to shoot or “we are everywhere and nowhere”, imprecision – only the “eye”, the slow reactions and the other.
Practical cases of sport where subconscious stress affects performance.
(Reference is made directly to the feelings of athletes related to situations in competition).
- Suddenly I will have an urge and such internal pressure to rush and play extra blows, for example, with too much force or power to the ranks and I will make mistakes. But when I think about it calmly, my opponents do not push me, I have time, it’s just no rational reason.
- In the important situations suddenly my hand stiffens and I do not shake. Like I suddenly start thinking and realizing the weight of the situation.
- As if I had a sudden slow reaction and I’m late at the balloon. I hit the waist and hit my butt, which I do not normally do during training. I’m just afraid to lean on it.
- I suddenly lose the feeling for the balloon and my movement is so cracked. As if I suddenly disconnected completely and did not know what to do.
- I feel like I do not read the situation at all and do not meet the balloon. The opponent is at all a step ahead.
- In penalties, the goalkeeper goes ahead. Like he knew exactly where I was going to kick. I feel like I’m not going to.
- I play imprudently, like I’m afraid of contact, but it’s not a problem in my training.
- I want to score so much that if I get into a chance, I’ll overcome it with a shot and I’ll overplay it.
- When I am at the end of the route I suddenly think that I might fall, so I slow down and stop attacking.