Stress and sports performance

There has been extensive research into the effect of stress on sports performance; it is widely recognised that some stress can be beneficial but there is fine line between beneficial stress and detrimental stress; in short overly high stress leads to lowered performance:

When overall stress levels  are too high symptoms such as anxiety, anger and depression can be commonly experienced and for the athlete this can have a negative impact on performance on both a physical  and psychological level; anxiety interferes with focus resulting in missed shots or opportunities to score, even against a weaker opponent and the resulting frustration can quickly develop into anger and inappropriate behaviour (arguing with umpires or referees, insulting other players and even physical aggression) and in this world of social media, images of inappropriate player behaviour can quickly be shared around the world.

Depression often manifests itself as lowered enjoyment and enthusiasm in life, reduced energy and motivation and a tendency to withdraw from family, team-mates and friends; in addition concentration and focus are likely to decrease, whilst negative, black-and-white thinking increase.


Learning to manage stress is therefore important if optimal performance is to be not only achieved, but maintained.   Whilst the world is full of potential stressors for everyone, athletes also experience specific stressors in the form of possible burnout, career-ending injury, loss of contract and income, loss of sponsorship, career transition.

Solution-focused therapy  can help you learn to lower your stress levels, increase your self-belief and confidence. Sometimes guided visualization and imagery are used to help you to widen your perspective and begin to recognise and focus on your own strengths and resources which you can draw on to find solutions.

For appointments please call 07899 625 156 or email




Mental skills for sports performance

Whatever sport you play, your performance depends not only on your physical skills but also your mental skills.   Whilst you are in control of your preparation for the game, you can never predict how the game will play out.  Injury, the state of the pitch, the weather,  bad calls by the referee, superior fitness of the opposing side are all factors that are out of your control; how well you manage such unpredictability depends very much on your mental skills.

The ability to manage mistakes is essential and having effective strategies to do this minimises the potential negative impact can have not only on individual players but on the team’s performance.

One of the most effective way of managing mistakes is through positive self-talk; instead of feeling embarrassed or guilty at missing a penalty, dropping the ball or conceding a free kick, accept that you’ve made a mistake, mentally park the mistake for analysis post-match, and say something positive to yourself, for example:

  • I’m better than this
  • Let it go
  • Focus on now
  • Move on
  • Turn it around

The power of positive self-talk

Your self-talk is controlled only by you, not your team-mates, nor your coach. Your self-talk influences how you feel, and how you feel influences how you perform!  There’s a direct correlation between self-talk and performance backed up by research (Gregersen et al 2017)

Flip it over

Why not spend some time thinking about recent situations when you think your self-talk was not as positive as it could be; for each example of negative self-talk come up with something you could have said to yourself which would have been more positive and would have set up more positive feelings and better performance.   Physical skills take practice to learn and improve and so do mental skills such as self-talk.

Hatzigeorgiadis, A., Galanis, E., Zourbanos, N., & Theodorakis, Y. (2014). Self-talk and competitive sport performance. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 26(1), 82-95.

Need some help?

If you would like help with sports performance call me on 07899 625156 or email




Self-reflection: Part 2

In my previous blog about self-reflection I suggested keeping 3 lists over 7 days:

  • What’s working well
  • What’s not working so well
  • What’s not working at all

1 What’s working well

As you read through this list make a note of your personal strengths that you have drawn on which have contributed to the things that are going well.

2 What’s not working so well

As you read through this list make a note of your personal strengths ( that you identified above) which you could make more use of to improve the things that aren’t going so well.

3 What’s not working at all

As you read through this list ask yourself some new questions:

  • what options do I have?
  • what else? (try think of as many as you can)
  • what could I have chosen to do?
  • how could I have done things differently using the personal strengths that I have?
  • do I need help from someone else?

If the same situations or challenges happened again  . . . 

  • how would I like to manage it?
  • what personal strengths could help me to manage it differently?
  • would I act in the same way as before?


I hope you can see that there is no self-blame here; none of us are perfect yet we can all learn to do things differently if needed.   It’s easy to feel demoralised when we reflect on the parts of our lives that aren’t going so well but feeling demoralised can be overwhelming and lead us to negative feelings of hopelessness, anxiety and depression.

By adopting a solution focused approach you can identify and then use your own personal strengths to recognise how they are already helping you and to become aware that you always have a choice in what you do and how you handle a situation.

As a solution-focused hypnotherapist I help clients identify their strengths and resources which they may have overlooked and support them through a step-by-step process of making whatever change they are wanting to make.  I use hypnotherapy (a form of deep relaxation, very similar to daydreaming)  as a way of helping clients learn to relax and reduce anxiety and negative thinking which  cloud our perspective.

During hypnotherapy the critical conscious faculty of the conscious mind is by-passed, allowing the creative solution-focused unconscious mind to help you listen to your inner wisdom and life experience, with new insights into yourself and the changes you want to make.  Sometimes this can take as few as 3 sessions, sometimes longer as each of us is different and each of us will be wanting different changes.

For face-to-face appointments in Bristol and Skype sessions elsewhere, please call me on 07899 625156 or email me at – have a good day today! Yvonne





I recently had to write a self-reflective essay on a course I am taking and it helped me realise that it was a very long time since I had reflected about myself and my life.

Like most people I always seem to be caught up in the day-to-day demands and challenges of life.  Reflection allows us to assess all areas of our lives, relationships, career, finances, personal development, health etc and to ask ourselves three important questions:

  • What’s working?
  • What’s not working very well?
  • What’s not working at all?

I admit it can feel a little frightening to take a clear and honest look at our lives but ignoring things which need attention, simply allows them to continue and possibly even worsen.

A step-by-step way of reflecting is to write the above list on a piece of paper and each day for a week write down something for each question.  You aren’t looking for solutions or causes but just  creating  an awareness of what is happening right now.

I will explain the next step in part two of this blog and the most important thing you can do to begin to find solutions.

Your self-talk follows you everywhere

Our self-talk is probably one of the most important factors in our happiness and success – but it can also undermine the even the most talented and likeable people if they are  unaware of their self-talk or fail to understand its significance.  The reason why it is so important is because of the cycle it sets up; it impacts on our self-belief and then in turn our performance (at work, in sport, in relationships etc).  Poor performance feeds negativity back to our self-talk and so the cycle continues.

One of the first steps I help clients take is to ask them to write down some positive thoughts about themselves; most tell me that they find this difficult and of course anything can be difficult if you’ve never done it before.  Over time this new skill can be practised and established as a means of countering the old negative self-talk and by beginning to change the cycle to a positive one.  Positive self-talk can also provide a psychological barrier against loss of confidence when we face challenges in life – just because we find a situation difficult doesn’t mean we have to feel bad about ourselves. 


Positive self-talk bolsters our confidence no matter what is happening in the outside world and allows us to navigate our way through to the very best of our ability; it helps us to reframe a mistake or lapse in focus and to get back on track.  Many a sports person has been down a point, dropped the ball or scored an own goal but has used their positive self-talk to pull themselves up and back into the lead.  In everyday life we too sometimes take our eye off the ball and it’s the positivity of our self-talk that can help us stay calm and regain our composure and focus; wherever we go, whatever we do, whoever we are with, we take our self-talk with us.  If you need help to improve your self-talk and confidence then call 07899625156.





When the new plan doesn’t seem to be working

2019 Happy New Year ! 


So here we are again at the start of another new year  wondering if we will reach our goals.    In our enthusiasm to make positive changes it can be easy to overlook the fact that any change involves a process; change is rarely an event.

All success, whether it be in our personal lives or in our career, involves a series of steps and as we look ahead at our goal it is easy to think that we will simply progress from one step to the next in a neat linear manner; however real life is not like that.

In spite of all our best efforts we may find ourselves stuck on the same step,  for what can seem an uncomfortably long time and as a result our motivation and self-belief can take a nose-dive leaving the door wide open for negative self-talk,’ ‘what’s the point?’, ‘I knew I couldn’t do this’, ‘everyone else is making more progress than me’, ‘I’ll never be able to succeed’ etc.

The reasons for staying on one step or at one stage of change are many; sometimes we are unconsciously not ready to progress, sometimes life throws a curve-ball at us, sometimes our goal was too big,  sometimes despite all our commitment and best intentions we just don’t make progress at the speed we want.

Accepting life as it is, with it’s setbacks and disappointments can sometimes be the only thing we can do and  whilst to some that can feel like a form of giving up or surrender, it does allow us to stay in a more positive frame of mind instead of simply giving up.

When we look beyond any present disappointment and remind ourselves that it is only temporary we can stay on course – when a train is late leaving the station, as frustrating as that is, we don’t get off and abandon our trip because to do so would mean we would get nowhere.

Sometimes life is like a game of snakes and ladders for everyone, so hang on in there until you reach the ladder again!


Social Anxiety

Over the years I have seen many clients with social anxiety and have witnessed  how miserable it has made them.  Social anxiety is an intense fear of being negatively judged or even rejected by others.   Suffers often cope by avoiding certain situations, sometimes for years and yet whilst any avoidance strategy may bring relief, it is only temporary and is never a real lasting solution.

Social connection is what allows us to feel a sense of what Deci & Ryan (2000) referred to as ‘relatedness’ and provides psychological safety as opposed to the isolation that many sufferers of social anxiety experience.

Sports teams and business organisations all perform better when their members and staff feel as if they are part of the team or business; social cohesion fulfills one of our basic emotional needs, the need to belong.

Social anxiety often results with  sufferers avoiding the very  situations where the sense of group cohesion and belonging could be given a chance to develop; avoidance minimises risk, the risk of feeling vulnerable and yet to feel vulnerable is part of life, part of the human condition.

With practice, sometimes practice with very small steps, confidence can grow and social situations can be experienced differently, as an opportunity to create a network,  to create a sense of belonging and to create an ante-dote to loneliness and isolation.   Small steps are always the beginning and they create new pathways which can allow us to discover new experiences and new people; imagine my delight when a very shy, social anxious client of mine went on to organise a new staff sports team at work and then imagine my double delight when a year later I saw him taking part in a quiz show on tv !

Change is always possible and there’s a world full of possibilities waiting to be discovered !




Black Friday . . . do you really need it?

Image result for shopping



Black Friday is here again with the temptation of huge discounts on a whole range of items.  Online shopping makes it so easy to spend and to overspend from the comfort of our warm and dry homes.   The thrill of a bargain is tempting for us all and we can all easily overlook our reasons for buying.


  • Is it the thrill and satisfaction of the discounted price that we really want or the item itself?
  • Will we have discarded the item in the near future?
  • Can we really afford it?  Are we confusing the idea of deserving it with being able to afford it?
  • If the item wasn’t discounted would we still want to buy it?

The thrill can blind us to our real motivations for buying with all kinds of perceived yet unconscious benefits that we think the item will bring us; will we look more beautiful, will we look more successful, will it cheer us up, will it mend our broken heart, will it impress our friends?

Placing our emotional wellbeing and self-confidence in a new bag or new pair of shoes, even when on discount, is hoping for a  quick fix and the rational part in all of us knows that quick fixes are at best, short-term.

So take a moment before you hit ‘buy’ or find yourself in the queue to pay, be honest with yourself about your real motivations for buying . . .  so that Black Friday is only about the retailers ‘losing’ money and not your bank account!

How ready are you to make a change?

Image result for january

January 2019 is just around the corner and yet  with the distraction of Christmas it’s easy to forget about making a change until January 1st has come  . . .  and gone!

Change is a process, not an event and like all processes needs a degree of planning.  Di Clemente & Prochaska (1998) identified 5 stages in the process to change:

  • Pre-contemplation
  • Contemplation
  • Preparation
  • Action
  • Maintenance

One of the most important stages is Preparation – without preparation (finding a gym that you like, finding a enjoyable route to run, teaming up with a friend to exercise etc) the best intentions fall by the wayside.

So as we approach Christmas why not take some time to reflect and prepare for the changes you want to make in January (or at any time!) and maximise your chances of success.

The importance of chunking

The age of technology with smart phones etc has speeded up much of our day to day lives; we can now communicate with immediacy thanks to messaging and emails, we can shop without cash and can pay for our shopping with contactless cards.  Life has never been faster and yet this increased pace of life can result in us having unrealistic expectations both of others and ourselves and an inability or unwillingness to play the long game.

When we set ourselves a goal we often assume we should be able to achieve it quickly and when we don’t we can feel disappointed and demotivated and give up.   Some goals can be achieved quickly, but many require persistence before results are seen.  Persistence is easier when we chunk up our goals.  The goals can be personal, work or fitness-related but all can, on some level, be chunked up into a series of steps or phases.   The advantage of chunking is that  each step or stage of action becomes more manageable and  achievable and as such boosts and maintains motivation because each step is forward-moving in direction and takes us closer to the end goal.

Chunking requires a revised expectation in terms of time and also in terms of our self-discipline; it can be easy to push forward with speed on days when we feel good but we do so at the risk of burnout.  The tortoise understood this whilst sadly the hare didn’t!