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Understanding Stress

Updated: Nov 12, 2023

What is stress ?


Lazarus & Folkman (1984): "special relationship between the person and his environment, assessed as exceeding his capacities and endangering his well-being"


By this definition, we understand that it is the interpretation of the situation by the individual himself, which leads him to feel overwhelmed and which generates in him different types of stimulation/aggression.

It is the person himself who determines that the situation is beyond him.


There are 3 phases of Stress:


1. When stress does arise, this is called the Alarm phase.



In order to make us understand that we are in a stressful situation, the brain, body, and heart send various signals:

  • Sensory Signals: which impact our body, eg: heart beating faster, stomach aches, muscle tension, sweating ...

  • Emotional Signals: which impact our generated emotions, eg agitation, anxiety, excitement, ...

  • Physical Signals: which impact our behavior, e.g. speaking faster, isolating oneself so as not to face, becoming disorganized, ...

  • Psychological signals: which impact our reasoning, eg difficulty in making decisions, feeling of loss of control, loss of self-confidence, etc.


2. After the Alarm phase, there is the Resistance phase.


The Athlete will consume a lot of energy in order to cope with the situation. The skills he learned in training will be usable.


The stress is then sufficient for the Athlete's optimal zone to be reached and for him to be able to perform at his maximum.

Thanks to this stress:

  • Body: The muscles necessary for the successful completion of a gesture are ready, my attitude is good;

  • Brain: Rational thoughts, my clear game plan in my head, I'll be able to follow it easily;

  • Heart: The excellent sensations, the emotions I feel are controlled and allow me to be confident.


It is necessary to have stress in order to perform.



3. Be careful, with too much stress generated, we arrive too quickly in the Exhaustion phase.


As explained in the article on energy management (https://en.raphaeltorti.com/post/manage-your-energy-during-competition), the Athlete does not have an unlimited reserve. Stress devours reserves until they are exhausted.


If the stress peak is not managed, the emotions of panic, rush, irrational behavior arise.

Gradually the Athlete foils, he finds himself unable to use his skills adequately and rationally.

He has no more energy to withstand stress.


Having high-intensity training increases energy capacities (mental and physical).

The Athlete can thus deal with stressful situations while having a safety net, as this is still training.


Conclusion :


Always keep in mind that stress is necessary for performance:

  • Stressing and accepting it is positive.

  • To stress, not to accept it and in short not to face it, leads to not understanding the situation and to being overtaken by it.

Stress is an element that allows you to situate yourself in your performance zone:

  • Find routines to stimulate yourself by increasing your stress if you are too soft;

  • Find routines to calm yourself down and lose that excess stress that triggers disturbing emotions, preventing you from being rational.


You know you are going to stress, so prepare your weapons to deal with it!


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