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How your athletes can avoid stress

Brian Mackenzie provides some tips on how to manage stress.

Stress is experienced when an individual feels that they cannot cope with a situation with which they are presented. If an athlete is in a stressful situation, then their athletic performance, whether this is in competition or training, will be affected. The coach can limit the effect on the performance of competitive anxiety by assisting the athlete in identifying an appropriate coping strategy.

Tips to avoid stress

Aim to exercise regularly. Exercise dissipates the adrenaline that builds up in stressful situations and leaves us feeling with a sense of achievement and control.

Eat healthily. Ensure you are getting adequate vitamins and minerals in your diet. One recommendation that very few of us manage is to eat five servings of fruit and vegetables daily.

Make sure you are getting enough sleep. People need varying amounts ranging from 5 or 6 hours to 10 hours a night. By trial and error, you will know how much sleep YOU need to perform at your best.

Learn to think and set yourself realistic goals and objectives. Work through one problem at a time in a logical way.

If you feel a panic or anxiety attack coming on, think through the problem by breaking it down. Imagine the worst that can happen. Nine times out of ten, it then appears less serious.

Say NO to tasks and projects you cannot take on. People will not think any less of you. After all, they haven't got ESP.

Remember that you are human, and mistakes are inevitable. Learn to view mistakes as learning opportunities and problems as challenges.

Practice positive visualisation. Think about a time or a place when you were relaxed and at peace. It could have been on a holiday or a day off. Try to recreate the situation again in your mind, thinking about the sights, sounds, and smells you experienced. Visualise yourself back into the scene. You will find that after 5 to 10 minutes, you feel much more relaxed as your brain does not know the difference between imagining a situation and being there. Some people call it daydreaming, but visualisation is a potent tool in reducing stress and anxiety.

Take time out for yourself. Make sure you are doing some things in your life because they are important to you, rather than because you ought to or should do. You deserve to take a break occasionally, don't feel guilty enjoying it.

Accept your strengths and weakness and like yourself anyway. If you don't like yourself, you cannot expect anyone else to. Understand also that you cannot change anybody else - only yourself.

Practice physical relaxation techniques. Progressive relaxation contracting and relaxing all the body parts is a very effective way of reducing tension.

Sports Massage is an alternative method of helping to relieve tension and to relax you.

Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2003) How your athletes can avoid stress. Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 6 / October), p. 10

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2003) How your athletes can avoid stress [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Brian Mackenzie is a British Athletics level 4 performance coach and a coach tutor/assessor. He has been coaching sprint, middle distance, and combined event athletes for the past 30+ years and has 45+ years of experience as an endurance athlete.