Visualisation – Easing the Pressure to Perform!
A famous quote by Bo Bennett states, “Visualisation is daydreaming with a purpose.” So, how can students use visualisation to their advantage?
Visualisation (i.e. mental imagery) is a technique used extensively in high pressure jobs such as with athletes, musicians, doctors, acrobats and soldiers. It involves imagining oneself in a real life environment performing an activity engaging most of one’s senses (e.g. sight, hear, feel and smell). When done properly, visualisation can be a very effective way to practise given it activates the same parts of the brain used in actual performance.
Studies have shown visualisation to not only be effective in decreasing anxiety, but also with enhancing self-confidence, concentration and ultimately performance.
Students face many situations in their life – whether it be academically or socially – where they feel a considerable amount of pressure to perform. Students will;
- Feel nervous and anxious,
- Be required to manage adversity and unforeseen circumstances, and
- Manage all of the above with an unwavering concentration for the task at hand.
This is where visualisation can help.
There are four key steps students can use to help manage performance pressure.
- Immerse in the moment – The first step is to accurately imagine the environment ahead of time. A vital consideration is to try and engage all senses, being as detailed as possible. For instance, using the ‘mind’s eye’, what will likely be heard, what will be smelt, and finally, the associated feelings.
- Relax! After being immersed in the moment, the next step is to take several deep breaths. This is an effective way to ‘short circuit’ the physiological effects of anxiety; helping regain control and composure.
- Imagine setbacks and how to overcome them – Visualising successfully completing and with great ease is not necessarily the best preparation. To make visualisation more useful, one is best off – during preparation – contemplating the possible things that could throw ‘their game’. Planning and thinking through the solutions for these setbacks in advance will ultimately help to navigate through times when things don`t go to plan (and let’s face it – this often happens)!
- Visualise the outcome and success – Finally, picture being in a state of relaxed control, feeling happy with the obstacles that have been overcome. After all, enticing a feeling of control will help with your concentration during the main event! Furthermore, visualise how it would feel to perform well.
Visualisation is a powerful mental preparation technique that improves well-being and performance. We trust that the above steps will help students better manage the inevitable performance pressure that accompanies school life.
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