Stress Solutions for Student Athletes: A Digital Toolkit
by David J. Bidler
If you’re reading this, the chances are that your life just got flipped upside down.
Your training routine has been disrupted.
Your season was cut short. The rules of the game changed unexpectedly-and the playing field feels anything but level.
Seeing your teammates on Zoom isn’t the same as seeing them in practice.
Motivation may be harder to maintain.
Nothing feels quite the same as it did a few months ago.
This toolkit won’t change that.
What it will do is give you some tools to approach each day with a clearer mind.
It will give you some training tips to stay mentally and physically fit.
It will give you some simple breathing exercises and breathing principles to help you bring your best to the sport of your choice-and to the sport of life.
We hope it helps you take control of stress, win the game within, and feel your best when it matters most.
What is stress?
Stress is any physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension that we experience-whether positive or negative.
The positive stress of training strains muscles so they grow. Stress that exceeds our ability to effectively manage it can take a toll on our mental and physical health.
Whether positive or negative, all stress has the potential to cause changes to our body and brain.
When we experience stress, the body responds first.
Our heart rate increases, skin temperature warms, and our breathing patterns change-all before we are consciously aware that we’re getting “stressed out.”
The more that we understand the body’s stress response the more that we can choose how stress affects us.
Why Does Stress Management Matter?
Stress management is arguably the most important skill of the 21st Century.
Take just a second to think about the goals that mean the most to you…
Now, take a moment to visualize some of the challenges that you may meet as you work to achieve these goals.
The skill of stress management will play a major role in your ability to meet these challenges when you encounter them.
How We Think About Stress Matters-A Lot.
Stress is a natural part of modern life. It is our perception of stress that has the greatest impact on how it effects our health.
In a study of over 180 million Americans those who thought that stress negatively impacted their health had a significantly higher risk of physical and mental health issues.
Thinking of stress management as a skill can dramatically change the way that stress effects you.
Here are some simple tools to hone that skill-especially when stress hits suddenly and you need to manage it on the spot.
Stress Tip: Noticing the slight changes in breathing and muscle tension that take place before the feeling of stress-or anxiety-is noticeable lets you get the jump on the stress response.
30 second stress solution: Shift your focal point of vision from narrow to peripheral. Take in the whole room with your eyes. Span your gaze as wide as you can. This is why cows are so chill. Seriously. Peripheral vision is one of the quickest ways to make changes in your brain that lower stress levels in the body-and you can do it anywhere, anytime.
2 minute stress solution: This 2 minute breathing exercise will shift your body and brain into a state of relaxation. Use it before bed or whenever you need to shift from stressed to relaxed in 2 minutes.
5 minute stress solution: This 5 minute stretching and breathing sequence will teach you how to direct airflow throughout the body. Great for reducing low back or shoulder tightness-or just mellowing out.
Breathing for Sport: The Key to Unlocking your Innate Athletic Potential
We have presented our Breathe to Perform seminar to coaches and teams across the Northeast for the past several years.
The number one response post-seminar is: “I wish that I knew this sooner.”
Breathing determines our ability to get oxygen into muscles. It determines how we stabilize the body and protect it from injury. It affects the levels of stress and anxiety that we experience before a game, how we perform during training or competition, and how quickly we recover afterwards.
Use this time to improve your breathing and sharpen your athletic edge while reducing stress and anxiety at the same time.
Try these simple exercises from our Breathe to Perform Sport program!
- ) Run 5k with nasal only breathing. This is a great test of your aerobic capacity. Train your lungs and your legs-and watch your athleticism improve!
2.) Sprint workout with recovery breathing exercises. 400 meter sprint x 4 with nasal only breathing. One minute rest between sprints. Use this time to practice your breathing and determine how to best lower your heart rate before the next sprint. 100 meter sprint x 5. Rest 10 seconds between sprints. Maintain nasal only breathing and try to match your time from the first set throughout the workout!
3.) Simple post workout cool-down
Use this toolkit anytime that you want to get ahead of the stress response while training your physical and mental game for next season-and pass it along to a teammate who may find it helpful!
(If you’re interested in learning more about breathing for stress reduction, improved energy, and athletic performance just check out our Breathe to Perform Online course.)
David Bidler and Lex Clark, Breathe to Perform
Follow us @breathetoperform on Instagram for stress management strategies, breathing exercises, fitness training, and more!
David Bidler is president of Physiology First, a nonprofit organization that shares solutions to stress and anxiety management with students across the globe.
In 2017 David co-founded Breathe to Perform to share the power of better breathing with individuals, families, workplaces, and teams. David is the author of Breathe To Perform: 3 Simple Breathing Exercises to Reduce Stress, Improve Energy, and Peak Athletic Performance.
David owns and operates The Distance Project: Strength and Conditioning in Freeport, Maine.