“A little anxiety from time to time can help with task performance…[as] Anxiety improves performance until an optimal level of arousal is reached, as described by the Yerkes-Dodson Law. “
The quote is by psychologist and author Clifford B. Dobson, Yerkes-Dodson: A Law for All Seasons, That might best explain why Garry Kasparov became a world chess champion and John McEnroe became a seven Grand Slam tennis champion by the age of 25 despite performance stress.
Psychologists Robert Yerkes and John Dillingham Dodson developed a concept of stress and performance now called the Yerkes-Dodson Law. Based on rodent experiments, Yerkes and Dodson concluded that optimal stress levels help achieve goals. With too little stress, individuals lack the incentive, motivation, and arousal needed to “get above and beyond.” These psychologists propose that too much stress impairs judgment and attention, impairs cognitive and decision-making abilities, and creates unhealthy anxiety that often leads to failure.
Many scientists believe that to encourage a person to achieve peak performance, such as playing chess, participating in a game of tennis, or completing a complex task to meet a work deadline, some I agree that stress is necessary.
Authors of studies published in e-life It even suggests that some degree of stress may be beneficial for brain plasticity. Specifically, these researchers wrote that acute stress could provide neurological benefits similar to exercise. Stress stimulates the release of certain hormones and other biochemical factors that stimulate neurogenesis (the birth of new nerve cells) in the hippocampus. Hippocampal neurogenesis supports memory consolidation, adaptability to the environment, and overall brain health. “Stress can be a powerful regulator of the mammalian brain,” they say.
However, other researchers have criticized the Yerkes-Dodson method as being too simplistic. What works for rodents doesn’t necessarily hold for humans, they say. Stress is just one of the variables that affect performance. Multiple traits of human nature also play a role, including personality traits, self-development, creativity, emotions, risk-taking tendencies, and ways of thinking.
Confidence, Resilience, Mental Toughness
Both Kasparov and McEnroe displayed the mental toughness, resilience, confidence, and mental toughness needed to be a winner, despite occasionally exhibiting seemingly stress-related aggression, anger, or emotion during play. and gave an idea. In fact, Kasparov later wrote a book on how to build his confidence and credits regaining his confidence that allowed him to beat Anatoly Karpov in the final match to retain the chess title. and meIn a 2022 documentary about his career, McEnroe said his emotional outbursts were not due to anger, but a “coping mechanism” for dealing with pressure on and off the court.
in 2016 study Of the South African tennis players, the author says “Resilience and mental toughness are related to effectively adapting, coping, maintaining function or performance, and achieving despite experiencing adversity, pressure, setbacks, or stress. ”
Scientist Gil Windle has this to say about resilience: Review and concept analysis “as tThe process of effectively negotiating, adapting to, or managing important sources of stress and trauma. An individual’s assets and resources, their lives and environment facilitate their ability to adapt and “bounce back” in the face of adversity. “
Perhaps it is not just a particular level of stress, but constant exposure to stress that helps contestants like McEnroe and Kasparov cope with their environment, erase the distractions around them, focus, and perform at their best. It probably contributed to the ability to develop the confidence to perform. level.
When stress builds up too much
But what is the optimal level of stress and when does stress go from beneficial overload to unhealthy overload? , agree that it can be highly dependent on the ability to manage stress, and the presence of other physiological and psychological problems.
At the 2014 Chess Olympiad in Norway, 67-year-old Kurt Meier suffered a stroke and died, possibly due to his competitive anxiety and focus. In 2000, Latvian Vladimir Bagirov died of a heart attack during his chess tournament in Finland. Meanwhile, other prominent chess players known to suffer from depression and anxiety have committed suicide or been hospitalized with mental illness. jumped off. Historians show that Grigorian was often “disheartened and depressed” after losing.
Of course, stress overload goes far beyond chess. Grand Slam champion tennis player Naomi Osaka and Olympic champion gymnast Simone Biles cited mental health issues in deciding to leave the sport they love, at least temporarily. Both may be examples of what some researchers call stress-induced fatigue disorders.
A 2021 study published in BMC Psychiatry, Scientists describe stress fatigue as “It is a disorder characterized by severe fatigue, decreased tolerance to further stress, and decreased attention and memory. “
Spanish behavioral neuroscientist Carmen Sandy may best sum up the effects of stress and performance. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews – Cognitive Science:
“Mild stress tends to enhance cognitive function, especially when implicit memory or simple declarative tasks or cognitive load is not excessive. , it impairs the formation of explicit memories and, more generally, their formation, requiring complex and flexible reasoning (commonly observed in hippocampal and prefrontal cortex-related functions). On the one hand, it improves implicit memory and performance on well-rehearsed tasks.”
Building Confidence and Mental Strength
As Sandi has said elsewhere, “The view you adopt of yourself will greatly affect how you go about your life.” You can’t succeed if you’re drowning in self-doubt and timidity, facing uncertain challenges, reaching out for what-ifs, and letting insecure emotions rule your mind. Here are some tips:
- Think positive. Signs inside Chicago-area tennis clubs remind players to: “If you think you can’t win, you can’t win.”
- Strengthen your visualization skills. Imagine an upcoming situation, a project deadline, or a competition. Think in your head about what you have to do to be successful, what you have to do to reach and achieve your goals, and prepare your mind and attitude.
- Practice mindfulness. Ha
- Don’t be afraid to lose. Failure provides the learning and experience necessary for future success.
- Be confident in your skills. Know “you got this”.
- Eat a nutritious diet and get enough sleep. A healthy body produces a healthy mind.
T.o To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.