Mental resilience part 2


In part one we discussed how positive self-talk can lead to success. In this segment we continue the discussion as to how positive self-talk along with visualization and arousal control all work together when preparing for competition or evaluation.

Visualization of success can be a great way to train your mind for different scenarios. Runners may visualize a perfect start for their 400m race, baseball players may imagine crushing the perfect pitch into the stands, special warfare candidates may visualize getting awarded their beret. One thing that I don’t see discussed often is an individual’s emotional and hormonal response (physical arousal) to visualization. Have you ever psyched yourself up for an event? Does this get your heart rate up? Do you get a boost of adrenaline? During this phase are you also visualizing the event? Often times the answer to all these questions, is yes. This is an example of arousal, you visualize the event and your body is physical reacting. During the PAST I see candidates get themselves worked up for the underwater event all the time; they are scared, nervous, and anxious, their heart rate is high and they have already psyched themselves up or out of the event. These candidates are lacking arousal control.

When you get yourself pumped up you are purposefully stimulating a fight or flight response from your sympathetic nervous system. That physiological response gets you psyched up and prepared for battle but only lasts seconds. The downside to this arousal state is that it takes at least 20 minutes to physically recover from a true sympathetic nervous system response. For instance, when you are driving and narrowly avoid a collision, likely your heart is pounding and your respirations have increased significantly. It’s going to take 20 minutes to recover from that adrenaline dump. Apply that to the special warfare candidate fretting about a 25m underwater exercise, that nervous anxiety has their sympathetic nervous system primed to get them through the first evolution. However during the 2-3 minute rest period between events they are experiencing a crash. Their body needs to recover from the initial response. Because of this, it is most likely they will perform worse on the second event and the remaining events of the PAST.

In this context arousal control would be the ability to visualize the event without eliciting a response from your nervous system. If you picture yourself doing pushups on the PAST and you have a physiological response during that visualization exercise, how do you think you will feel on test day? You will without a doubt be shaking in your boots nervous before the performance. Your own fear, anxiety, and imagination of the unknown are often much worse than the actual events you are anticipating. Your physical responses to those thoughts will dictate performance on test day. Don’t lie to yourself about your ability, however control your thoughts and fears through positivity. You must live between the two extremes of relaxation and tension all while coaching yourself silently.

Often it is our own attitude or perspective towards an event which makes or breaks our ability to endure. I have heard plenty of stories of candidates quitting a training evolution before it even begins because they think it is going to be hard. Their preconceived ideas overwhelm them, and they have lost the ability to maintain an open mind. In the team environment attitude can be contagious, both good and bad. Teammates may be struggling silently or often they are outwardly asking for assistance. Remember that each member of your team has their own story bringing you all together and your interactions add to everyone’s ability to endure. I have watched weak teams fail as strong individuals, and weak individuals succeed as a strong team. The constant is the ability to communicate a positive intention of success without letting negativity infiltrate the group. Anchor your ‘why’ within yourself, let that resonate through your actions, this journey will complement your values along the way.