Cognitive and Somatic Techniques

Anxiety Management Techniques: Cognitive & Somatic

There are two different types of Anxiety management techniques and which are: Cognitive and Somatic Anxiety management. Cognitive is the thought process of preventing anxiety, and is the mental element of the anxiety management. Where as, Somatic is the physical element of anxiety management and an element that allows athletes to show their anxiety through actions within their sport.

Cognitive anxiety management techniques:


The first cognitive anxiety management technique is imagery. Imagery is where an athlete will imagine themselves in a calm situation where they are in control away from the anxious situation. This can also take the form of mental rehearsal, kin-aesthetic imagery and creative imagery are also effective. Imagery can be used to help relaxation and focus. 
It can take two forms: External imagery and Internal imagery.External imagery is when the athlete can picture themselves performing the task successfully. For example a tennis player could picture an ace serve and where the ball will land before serving to focus them. However, the athletes must be a skilled and experienced performer if the picture is to be of value.

Where as, Internal imagery is the mental rehearsal of skills and techniques and instead focuses on specific elements of the skill without picturing the whole scene. For example, a full-swing in golf can be rehearsed continuously without envisaging other players around due to fact that golf is also mainly a solitary sport. Mental rehearsal is productive because it is thought to stimulate the nervous system and the muscles in a way that replicates the real situation.  A sporting example of this cognitive anxiety management technique would be British Long distance runner, Mohammed Farah who practices his technique continuously before, during and after any event for example, he will even practice his breathing techniques routinely to enable him take in as much air as possible when running.  

Thought Stopping

Though stopping requires an athlete to refuse to think negatively. Any negative inclination should and must be stopped and substituted with a positive thought. Thought stopping may be more effective if a person is inclined to be both confident and extroverted. Individuals with introverted tendencies and those prone to learn helplessness may find trying to channel these negative thoughts difficult. An athlete will use this though stopping process before a match or an event of high importance, an example is professional rugby league club Leeds Rhino’s players will have to try to channel out any negative thoughts when they go up against any other high profile and talented team such as rivals Bradford Bulls. Leeds Rhino’s coach Brian McDermott ensure that this thought process is broken down to ensure the best possible outcome for his team.

Positive Self-talk

Positive self-talk involves the athlete endorsing their own ability or progress by literally talking to him or herself. This is often common in tennis because if they play a bad shot or loose the point they will positive self talk to help them win the next point. This is often common in British tennis player, Andy Murray as you can see him muttering to himself after a lost point or a ineffective shot, of course many players across the sporting world do this as well and for some players you can see the negativity of the self-chatter. This involves the athlete being able to take into account where they are up to with their ability, and being able to progress by talking to themselves to help figure out where to go next. Speaking aloud will commit you (the athlete) to the task and is effective in raising confidence. However, positive self-talk is only of value if performers are of a high standard and are experienced.

Rational Thinking  

Rational thinking is thought that anxiety grows from an imbalance of perception between ability and situational demands. Rational thinking involves focusing inwardly on the internal and narrow style of attention and evaluating the situation and it possible logical consequences. (Martens, 1975). Rational thinking works effectively if the athlete has the experience and skill to evaluate a situation realistically. The Inexperienced athlete would be unable to make a rational evaluation. An example of rational thinking is when Manchester City were losing 3-0 at home to Sunderland in March 2011/2012 season, but went on to rescue a point an earn a 3-3 draw. This is a prime example of rational thinking because Manchester City were 3-0 and through rational thinking it helped them to focus on the game and attempt to rescue a result which they very well did as they ended up drawing level at full-time.

Somatic anxiety management techniques:


This technique involves the measurement of physical changes that happen to the body when arousal and anxiety increase. Accurate measurements of changes in heart rate, blood pressure and skin temperature can be taken once it is known that a performer is becoming anxious. Once these changes are being monitored, It is thought that the performer can control the physiological effects of excessive anxiety, such as muscular tension and adopt a calmer state.  A psychologist named Petruzello discovered that there is strong evidence that biofeedback is effective in improving performance.

Progressive Muscular Relaxation

Progressive muscular relaxation which is also known as (PMR) is a technique that was devised by Jacobson in 1929. requires the athlete to increase the tension of the muscles throughout the body and gradually relax each group in turn. Many studies have proved that PMR helps relaxation, however (Cox, 1998) believes that PMR is only successful when used alongside other relaxation techniques. A major disadvantage to this technique is that it is very time consuming and can take between 30 and 45 minutes to complete.

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