Feelings of stress and anxiety negatively impact our productivity and how we enjoy your day-to-day life. In some cases, we cause our own feelings of stress and anxiety by constantly having negative thoughts float through our minds. Learning how to consciously reframe these thoughts is important.
Cognitive reframing is a psychological technique that consists of identifying and then disputing irrational or maladaptive thoughts. Reframing is a way of viewing and experiencing events, ideas, concepts and emotions to find more positive alternatives.
The way you think about anxiety and stress impacts your emotional, cognitive and physiological response to it, which in turn has a direct impact on your results and success. For example, reframing physical fear as your body being very alert and very ready for physical activity changes the subjective experience of that fear.
Reframing your negative emotions
You want to reframe your anxiety as excitement. It’s relatively easy to do since the physiological response to anxiety and excitement are identical. It’s easier to reframe anxiety as excitement, rather than trying to “calm down,” since it’s emotionally more taxing to try to enforce an inauthentic state.
The first thing is to acknowledge that the anxiety/excitement response does have benefits. It kicks your body up to a higher level of arousal, which is the general physical and psychological activity level your mind/body system is preparing itself for. The trick is to find the balance so that your arousal level is neither too low nor too high.
Though the physiological state is similar, the cognitive and emotional responses (and the massive impact that has on performance and success) are very different.
- Threat focused
- Reduces self-efficacy (the belief that you can complete a task successfully)
- Reduces the quality of decision making
- Opportunity focused
- Improves self-confidence and self-efficacy
- improves decision making
Studies, like this one, show how mental training strategies optimise psycho-biological states and improve performance in athletes. In fact, “compared to negotiators experiencing neutral feelings, negotiators who feel anxious expect lower outcomes, make lower first offers, respond more quickly to offers, exit bargaining situations earlier, and ultimately obtain worse outcomes.”
The more often individuals reframe their pre-performance anxiety as excitement, the more likely they may be to trigger upward motivational spirals, and the happier and the more successful they may become.
Reframing leads to physiological responses in the brain that lead to calmness, confidence, activeness and enthusiasm. As you practice reframing, your body will make permanent physical changes that make your reframing “muscle” stronger, which in turn will further improve your enthusiasm, your effort and your results.
How do combats sports help?
Because fighting is such a raw, primal thing, training in fighting sports hits a deep part of the human soul. You’ll stand face to face with deep challenges. Either “he’s much better than me, he’s going to kick my ass” or “he’s more experienced than me, he’s more skilled than me, but he won’t outwork me.” When you go down that road, when you stand face to face with your doubts and your fears, and you fight the mental battle and win, it changes who you are. The more you practice, the stronger you become.
Stress and anxiety are sources of power. Either it’s negative, and it’ll lead to anger, frustration, illness and death. Or it’s positive, and it’ll lead to courage, enthusiasm, opportunity-seizing and success. The choice is ours.