Anxiety: a negative emotional state with feelings of worry, nervousness, and apprehension associated with activation or arousal of the body - emotional label for a negatively interpreted arousal
Arousal: a blend of psychological and psychological activation, varying in intensity along a continuum - general physiological and psychological activation (from deep sleep to intense excitement)
Stress: the demands it makes on an organism and efforts the organism makes to adapt, cop, or adjust to those demands.
  • The interaction between the stressors and our physiological and psychological responses to them
  • That it is perceived by someone (cognitive factors)
  • Some stress is healthy and necessary, some is detrimental/all may play a part in sports performance arousal
  • Lazarus & Folkman (1984): "a pattern of negative and physiological states and psychological responses occurring in situations where people perceive threats to their well-being which they may be unable to meet"

Three types of anxieties related to sport performance:
  • Cognitive anxiety – worries and negative appraisal of oneself and future
  • Somatic anxiety – shortness of breath, increased heartbeat, (biological level of analysis)
  • State anxiety – tension, restlessness

Describe the stress process/anxiety as it pertains to the competitive situation/performance (optimal arousal theory):
  • Stress and anxiety increase as the pressure of the situation increases. According to the Inverted-U theory of arousal, stress and anxiety increase over time, following a‘U’ curve, peaking at an optimum point where anxiety and stress are at a healthy level so as not to take over the athlete, but to give the athlete motivation, and at a specific time.
  • In competitive situations, stress increases immensely, as not only is the person physically ‘pumped’ to play, but the person has to play well in accordance with the competitive nature of the situation. The stress levels of a professional soccer player, such as David Beckham, would be much higher in a soccer game than the stress levels of a person simply playing a fun game with a group of friends. When your performance decides others’ opinion of you, as David Beckham’s performance in a world cup game would, the stress comes from the social expectations along with the ordinary stress of the game. Athletes are socially expected to perform well, and generally have numerous things riding on their performance, such as a paycheck. If an athlete does not perform well, then their value as a marketable athlete decreases, thus meaning that their lives as a whole are affected. The stress is thus piled on in competitive situations.

A Level Psychology Through Diagrams
Grahame Hill
Oxford University Press (2001)
Page 256

Describe the five factors that lead to an increase in anxiety or anticipation of an achievement situation:

  1. Nature of the situation: Does the athlete enjoy participating in the situation? If the sport is his/her favourite sport, then the anxiety levels will be lower. However, if the sport is not preferred by the athlete, then the anxiety will be higher as they are not as comfortable playing the sport.
  2. Athlete’s perspective of the situation: Is the achievement worth the effort? If so, anxiety levels will be higher because the pressure is now on. If not, anxiety will be lower, because there is no motivation to do well.
  3. Individual or Group situation? Athletes who participate in individual sports are more likely to have higher levels of anxiety, because if they should fail they cannot shift the blame onto someone else.
  4. Intensity of the Sport/effort to be made: The more intense the sport, the more anxious the athlete. Athletes often psych themselves up before games, in order to prepare themselves for the intense nature of the sport. However, there is a point of limit, and once crossed, the athlete’s anxiety levels are not healthy.
  5. Competition: When the competition for an achievement is high, the athlete’s anxiety levels will be high as well due to the increased intensity of the sport.

List the major divisions of the nervous system
The nerves of the body are organized into two major systems:
Central nervous system (CNS), consisting of of the brain and spinal cord
Peripheral nervous system (PNS), network of spinal nerves linking the body to the brain and spinal cord. The PNS is subdivided into:
  1. Autonomic Nervous System (involuntary control of internal organs, blood vessels, smooth and cardiac muscles), consisting of the sympathetic NS and parasympathetic NS
  2. Somatic Nervous System (voluntary control of skin, bones, joints, and skeletal muscle) http://webschoolsolutions.com/patts/systems/nervous.htm

Describe central nervous system structures that control arousal
Research on patient's brains scanned by PET indicate that the type of thoughts we have influence the balance of brain chemicals, so by learning to think more positively and realistically we can influence brain chemistry in a positive way, but other factors like an unloved, unsupported childhood can influence brain chemistry and physiology in such a way that it makes us less able to cope with stress in adulthood. If we think mainly negatively our brains secrete chemicals that can undermine our psychological and physiological health, whereas if we think more positively we can cause chemicals to be secreted that boost our psychological and physical health.

We also need to be aware that we are not exact carbon copies of each other, we have subtle biochemical and physiological differences that partially influence how we react to stress. For example each person's nervous system can react quite differently to any given stimuli or situation. Some people's nervous systems are more sensitive than others, more easily triggered by stress, and may also take longer to switch on the relaxation mode, once the stress response has done its job . There can also be differences in the amount of stress hormones we secrete in response to a stressor. People who have more of a tendency to being what is known as Type A personality are more reactive to stress and can produce up to forty times more cortisol (a stress hormone), they can produce four times as much adrenalin (another stress hromone),and also pump three times more blood to their muscles than the more laid back Type B personality.

This does not mean however that there is nothing that the more biologically reactive Type A's can do to reduce their stress. Research on Type A personalities who had suffered a heart attack showed that if they were taught stress management techniques then they could dramatically reduce their risk of a second heart attack when compared to Type A personalities who had not been taught stress management techniques.

Our genes can also influence our brain biochemistry as can caffeine, alcohol, diet, exercise and stress. These factors can all have an impact in a positive or negative way on our brain chemistry and make us more vulnerable to developing stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, etc. http://stresshelp.tripod.com/id15.html

Describe the function of the autonomic nervous system and the subdivision
ANS = part of the peripheral nervous system that functions to regulate the basic visceral (organ) processes needed for the maintenance of normal bodily functions; operates independently of voluntary control, although certain events, such as emotional stress, fear, sexual excitement, and alterations in the sleep-wakefulness cycle, change the level of autonomic activity. Functions: to run all the automatic functions of the body like breathing, heart rate, digestion, endocrine (hormonal) system, etc.

ANS = two major divisions: SYMPATHETIC nervous system (initiates the stress response) and the PARASYMPATHETIC nervous system (induces the relaxation response); often function in opposite ways. Both systems have associated sensory fibres that send feedback information into the central nervous system regarding the functional condition of target tissues. http://www.becomehealthynow.com/article/bodynervousadvanced/822

The body's organs and systems are supplied by nerves from the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems which can slow them down or speed them up via hormones and electrical impulses depending on the situation. Normally there is a balance kept between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, but in long-term chronic stress this balance can be disturbed and either one of the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous systems can predominate over the other leading to stress related health problems. http://stresshelp.tripod.com/id15.html

Describe the stress response THE FIGHT OR FLIGHT RESPONSE (evolutionary response?)When a real or imagined threatening stressor is perceived, the brain initiates the stress response by triggering a series of chemical chain-reactions that prepare the body for fight or flight, flock, or freeze response (healthy, vital defense mechanism and triggers the release of hormones that affect every organ and system of the body). The hypothalamus then stimulates the pituitary gland which then stimulates the adrenal gland on top of each kidney to release its stress hormones. The stress response hormones (adrenaline/epinephrine) cause a number of biochemical and physiological changes (increased breathing, blood pressure and heart rates, diversion of blood away from non-essential tasks) which in the short-term are vital and healthy but if the stressor is chronic then these stress hormones can start to undermine our health. Our stress response is designed to be triggered mainly in the short-term. http://stresshelp.tripod.com/id15.html
The hypothalamus responds to signals of stress by recruiting the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system, also called the fight or flight response. The body prepares for the fight or flight response by:
  1. Shunting blood from the skin and digestive organs to the muscles.
  2. Providing more fuel through an increase of glucagon action, in other words, releasing glucose from stored glycogen. The hypothalamus stimulated a release of ACTH from the pituitary gland to increase cortisol levels from the adrenal glands.

Cortisol helps supply cells with amino acids and fatty acids for energy supply while diverting glucose from muscles for use by the brain. The first step in confronting any type of stress is to repond to the fight/flight system as its functions dictate. Physical exercise that expends energy, such s running, jumping rope, and walking fast will help recycle various hormones and secretions to bring the body back to homeostatic levels. It is much easier to solve problems in a more tranquil state. http://www.wisc-online.com/objects/ViewObject.aspx?ID=AP13804

Describe the neurophysiology of Arousal and Attention
Neurophysiology manifests itself externally through preparatory physiological responses to novel stimuli. These changes allow for the brain to be able to “take in information rapidly and efficiently and of giving priority to those systems that might need to respond promptly to that information. These physiological changes are usually manifested in changes:
  1. in heart rate
  2. in electrical conductivity of the skin
  3. size of the pupils of the eyes
  4. patterns of respiration
  5. level of tension in the muscles
The majority of these changes are regulated by the autonomic nervous system. The endocrine system will release hormones to further facilitate this preparatory process.

One of the crucial factors in this process is the evaluation of the signal and the assessment of its significance. Physiologically this entails shifting the level of arousal and focusing available resources (attention) on the demands the signal makes.

Sensory input - Primary sensory pathways - Brainstem and midbrain (sensory pathways have lateral connections with them) - Reticular formation (controls level of arousal and if damaged can render individual unarousable) - 1) Projects pathways to cerebral cortex , and - 2) Central relay structure: the thalamus Impulses sent to higher (cortical) levels of the brain

When this ascending reticular activating system is operating, the individual is alert, aroused, and attentive. Reduction of its activity results in somnolence or inattentiveness; extreme reduction (for example, by anesthesia or concussion) may lead to confusion or unconsciousness, even though the senses still pass messages to the brain over the direct pathways. The reticular system seems to account physiologically for the sustained, tonic shifts in an individual’s level of involvement with the environment, including the control of sleep-wakefulness.

Outline the basic structures in the central nervous system
The central nervous system is the central structure which relays impulses and messages throughout the whole body. It comprises of two major organs: the spinal cord and the brain.

Spinal cord
Within the spinal cord one finds the association neuron. This neuron composes the majority of the spinal cord, and serves as an integration centre or interpretation centre, of sensory neurons and motor neurons. A sensory neuron informs the body of its environment, the association neuron interprets the information, and responds to the environment with the motor neuron.

The brain is divided into three segments: the forebrain, midbrain, and hind brain. Being a hotspot for neurons, the brain creates a central location where impulses can be identified, organised and responded to.

Social Facilitation = When we are have tasks which we find relatively easy, we find the presence of other people a positive stimulus such that we perform even better. However, when the tasks are difficult, we find the audience unnerving and we are more likely to put in a worse performance. When the task being performed is relatively easy, we are likely to do it more quickly. When the task is difficult, then we are likely to take more time to ensure we get it right (it is more embarrassing to be seen to be wrong than be seen to be slow). This is because first, the presence of others increases physiological arousal such that our bodies become more energized, and secondly because when we are aroused it is more difficult to perform new or difficult tasks. The dominant response is that under arousal it is easier to do things we can easily perform. The presence of others makes us suspect evaluation. Depending on how we forecast that evaluation, we may look forward to either adulation or criticism and rejection.

A Level Psychology Through Diagrams
Grahame Hill
Oxford University Press (2001)
Page 254

Zajonc, Heingartner and Herman (1969) got cockroaches to run down a clear tube towards a light. They ran faster when watched by other cockroaches. When put in a simple maze, it took them longer when they were being watched. (But did the watching humans have an effect? Who knows? :).
Michaels (1982) and three colleagues overtly watched students play pool. The better players got better. The novices got worse.

Top sports people are often lifted by the crowd to give their best ever performances at big events. Lower down the order, less confident sports people can find the crowds unnerving and consequently make mistakes.

Application = when you want someone to feel good, give them an audience for an easy task. If you want to destabilize them, give them an audience for a difficult task. This will give you an opportunity to rescue them, building trust.

Defending = when an audience suddenly appears when you are uncertain about an important task, ask them to go away. Refuse to continue until they do and you have subsequently calmed down.

Martens et al. (1990) developed the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory (CSAI). Martens’ original CSAI just measured state anxiety, but the CSAI-2 measures different sorts of state anxiety (somatic and cognitive) as well as self-confidence. The procedure is to test athletes 48 hours, 24 hours, 2 hours and 5 minutes before a competition: Martens calls this a TIME-TO-EVENT PARADIGM. The first test establishes baseline measures and we can see how the later tests show more or less anxiety than the baseline. Martens found that cognitive anxiety stayed constant or dropped steadily on the run-up to the event, rising suddenly after the warm-up; somatic anxiety rose steadily before the competition and peaked dramatically in the minutes before the event.
external image Time_To_Event.jpg

The questionnaire has 27 questions which are answered by ticking "Not At All", "Somewhat", "Moderately So" or "Very Much So". The test produces three scores (somatic, cognitive and confidence) which range from 9 (lowest) to 36 (highest). Here are some examples of the questions:
  • My body feels tense (somatic anxiety)
  • I'm confident I can meet the challenge (self-confidence)
  • I feel nervous (cognitive anxiety)
The CSAI-2 has been used in lots of sport psychology research, by Rainer Martens and by lots of other researchers. Despite being 20 years old, the CSAI-2 remains pretty much the last word in sport-specific anxiety testing. There have been over 50 published studies using the CSAI-2 to test the link between anxiety and sporting performance, in particular the direction of anxiety; ie does anxiety improve performance or reduce it?

Sports Competition Anxiety Test for YOU to fill in http://www.brianmac.co.uk/scat.htm