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Chapter 4. Arousal, Stress, & Anxiety. Arousal. Arousal – blend of physiological & psychological activity in a person AND the intensity at the moment. Arousal intensity is on a continuum – low (coma) to high (increased heart rate & respiration, sweat) Can be pleasant or unpleasant. Anxiety.

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chapter 4

Chapter 4

Arousal, Stress, & Anxiety

  • Arousal – blend of physiological & psychological activity in a person AND the intensity at the moment.
  • Arousal intensity is on a continuum – low (coma) to high (increased heart rate & respiration, sweat)
  • Can be pleasant or unpleasant
  • A negative emotional state that has worry, nervousness, apprehension and associated with activation or arousal of the body
  • Two parts:
    • cognitive anxiety – thought – worry, apprehension
    • Somatic anxiety – the degree of physical activity perceived.
two types of anxiety
Two types of anxiety

1) State anxiety – the ever-changing mood component

  • Cognitive state anxiety – the degree one worries or has negative thoughts
  • Somatic state anxiety – the moment-to moment changes in perceived physiological activation.
two types of anxiety cont
Two types of anxiety – cont.

2) Trait Anxiety - a part of the personality – an acquired behavioral tendency of disposition that influences behavior

  • This predisposes an individual to perceive as threatening things that really aren’t threatening.
  • They may respond with state anxiety reactions that do not really fit the situation.

High trait-anxious people usually have more state anxiety in highly competitive, evaluative situations than do people with lower trait anxiety.

measuring anxiety and arousal
Measuring anxiety and arousal
  • May look at physical changes: heart rate, respiration, skin conductivity, biochemistry
  • May have the person report “my hands are sweating.” Called – self-report measures
  • May rate low to high

Generally, if you have high trait anxiety, you will have high state anxiety.

  • May be situation specific.
  • May learn coping skills to over come this.
stress and stress process
Stress and stress process
  • Stress – occurs when there is a substantial imbalance between the physical & psychological demands placed on an individual and his/her response capability – and under conditions where failure to meet the demand has important consequences.
four stage stress process
Four stage stress process

You can intervene at any time

sources of stress and anxiety
Sources of stress and anxiety

1-Situational sources of stress

  • event importance
  • uncertainty

2-Personal sources of stress

  • trait anxiety
  • self-esteem
  • social physique anxiety
how arousal anxiety affect performance
How arousal & anxiety affect performance
  • Drive Theory – as an individual’s arousal or state anxiety increase, so does his or her performance.

- Related to social-

facilitation theory


Social facilitation theory – predicts that the presence of others helps performance on well-learned or simple tasks and inhibits or lessens performance on unlearned or complex tasks.

  • So increased arousal will bring out the dominant response
  • Implication – eliminate audiences and evaluation in learning situations

2) Inverted-U Hypothesis –as arousal increases, so does performance up to an optimal point where best performance results, Further increases in arousal, however, cause performance to decline.

inverted c theory cont
Inverted C theory – cont.
  • Maximum arousal level is lower when: need fine muscle control (archery)

or have to make

complex decisions (quarterback).


Maximum arousal level is higher when: skills are mostly large muscle actions (weight lifter) or simple decisions are needed (cross country skiing).

3 individualizing zones of optimal functioning
3) Individualizing zones of optimal functioning
  • Athletes have a zone of optimal state anxiety in which their best performance occurs.
  • Does NOT have to be at the midpoint of the continuum, but varies with each person
  • Optimal level is NOT one point, but a bandwidth.
4 other theories un tested or little support
4) Other Theories - un-tested or little support

a) Multidimensional Anxiety Theory

  • Looks at how somatic anxiety and cognitive anxiety affect performance.

b) Catastrophe Model – performance deteriorates with worry + high physical arousal

c) Reversal – how the athlete interprets arousal will impact performance. (Can shift positive to negative and vice versa.)

anxiety direction and intensity
Anxiety – Direction and intensity
  • How an athlete interprets the direction of anxiety (facilitating or debilitating) has a significant effect on the anxiety-performance relationship.
anxiety direction and intensity cont
Anxiety – Direction and intensity – cont.
  • To understand the anxiety-performance relationship, both the intensity (how much anxiety one feels) and direction (a person’s interpretation of anxiety as being facilitating or debilitating to performance) must be considered.
  • Coaches should help athletes realize that arousal & anxiety are conditions of excitement - not fear
significance of arousal performance views
Significance of Arousal-Performance Views
  • Arousal and state anxiety do not always have a negative effect on performance—they can be facilitative or debilitative depending on the interpretation.
  • Self-confidence and enhanced perceptions of control are critical to perceiving anxiety as facilitative.
significance of arousal performance views cont
Significance of Arousal-Performance Views – cont.
  • Some optimal level of arousal leads to peak performance, but the optimal levels of physiological activation and arousal-related thoughts (worry) are not the same.
  • Interaction of physiological activation and arousal interpretation is more important than actual levels of each.
significance of arousal performance views cont26
Significance of Arousal-Performance Views – cont.
  • Psyching-up” strategies should be employed with caution because it is difficult to recover from a catastrophe.
  • Athletes should have well-practiced self-talk, imagery, and goal-setting skills for coping with anxiety.
why does arousal influence performance
Why does arousal influence performance?
  • Increases in arousal cause muscle to become more tense and this may interfere with coordination
increased arousal
Increased arousal
  • Increased arousal causes a narrowing of a performer’s attentional field, misses important cues AND they scan the field of play less often.
under aroused
  • Attention & concentration change
    • Under-aroused, the focus is too broad – sees relevant AND irrelevant cues
implications for practice
Implications for practice
  • Identify the optimal combination of arousal related emotions needed for best performance

a) Help athletes find this combination

b) Help athletes use strategies to maintain this combination.

implications for practice32
Implications for practice
  • Recognize how personal and situational factors interact to influence arousal, anxiety, and performance
implications for practice33
Implications for practice

3) Recognize the signs of increased arousal and anxiety in participants

  • cold, clammy hands
  • need to urinate frequently,
  • profuse sweating,
  • negative self-talk
  • dazed look in the eyes
  • increased muscle tension
  • butterflies in stomach
  • feel ill, headache, dry mouth, constantly sick, trouble sleeping, can't concentrate, performs better in noncompetitive situations.
implications for practice cont
Implications for practice – cont.

Tailor coaching & instructional practices to individuals.

Ex- High trait anxiety + low self-esteem in a very evaluative situation = de-emphasize situation and stress athlete’s preparation.


Moderate levels of trait anxiety + moderate self esteem in high stress = ok

  • Low trait anxiety + high self-esteem in a non-threatening environment = must have pep talk
implications for practice cont36
Implications for practice – cont.

Develop confidence in performers to help them cope with increased stress and anxiety.

  • To increase confidence:
    • foster a positive environment, i.e., give frequent and sincere encouragement
    • instill a positive orientation to mistakes and losing. If losing becomes too important, they won’t get better.
    • provide many simulation situations – practice for the unexpected.