Managing Energy to Perform at Your Best
By: Seth Kaplan
Achieving a good mind-body interaction for elite performance is known as developing “coherence.” An excellent way to enhance coherence is to strike a balance between stress and recovery. There are many mental, emotional, and physical stressors that can deplete our energy resources. For example, if something is “weighing on our minds” it can lead to cognitive anxiety and nervousness. When we are under emotional stress we can become angry and frustrated. Physical stress can lead to soreness and pain in the areas of the body where we carry the most physical stress: in the neck, shoulders, forehead, and jaw. If we are under chronic stress, in its many forms, and do not institute periods of recovery, we can experience a drop-off in performance – on the court, on the links, in business, and in the classroom. Therefore, it is imperative to employ various recovery techniques so we can bring our mind and body into balance and coherence.
The following are 5 tools, techniques, and strategies to reduce stress and recover energy so you have the energy resources to compete at the highest levels and perform at your best:
- Exercise – Routine aerobic exercise reduces stress through the release of endorphins and improves overall conditioning. Use of weights can enhance power and speed. Fitting exercise into your day requires motivation to activate and good time management skills.
- Nutrition – Eating small meals including healthy servings of fruits and vegetables is a great way to boost energy and improve wellness. Eating large, unhealthy meals can lead to sluggishness and procrastination. Both are certainly performance limiting factors. Staying hydrated throughout the day is also extremely important.
- Relaxation Exercises – Utilizing rhythmic breathing helps to bring your mind and body into a homeostatic balance. Simple meditative techniques such as closing your eyes and going “blank in your mind” is also a great stress-reducer and replenishes energy into your system. Taking a ”mental vacation” through use of visualization is another technique to relax and gain coherence.
- Micro-sleeps – These are periodic, 10-15 minute naps taken during the day. Performance psychology research shows that just a 6-minute “power-down” reduces stress, boosts energy, and improves learning and memory.
- Sleep – Our mind and body performs at its best when we have 16 hours of wakefulness and 8 hours of sleep. Often, it is difficult to log 8 hours of sleep each night, but we perform at optimal levels when we can “recharge the batteries.” Developing a sleep routine, with the help of a sport and performance psychology professional, is an excellent way to achieve a solid night’s sleep so you can be productive and efficient during the day.
Excessive stress and inconsistent recovery creates an imbalance in our autonomic nervous system. This imbalance makes us feel “stressed out”; it saps our energy resources and inhibits cognitive functioning. Those factors all lead to negative performance outcomes. But if we maintain coherence, by managing stress and recovering energy, we are programming the mind and body to interact in optimal ways.