Using Compassion Focused Therapy to Improve Athletic Performance
So, what has Compassion Focused Therapy got to do with sport? Athletes who are psychologically well are likely to feel and perform better. Since two of the greatest barriers to wellbeing are shame and self-criticism, CFT is perfectly placed to address the effects of shame and self-criticism on sporting performance.
An increasing number of athletes have found that Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) can help them to enhance their performance. Consider these pointers for using CFT to get the most out of your sporting endeavours:
- Overcoming shame and self-criticism: Athletes can suffer from the effects of shame and self-criticism, just like everyone else. CFT can help everyone, including athletes, to overcome such difficulties.
Self-criticism before, during or after a performance places us in a threatening state of mind. People literally bully themselves and feel worse for it. This state of mind and physiological response can be referred to as our threat system. This can sap your energy – energy that would be better put into your performance. It can also stunt creativity, which is a vital factor for many sports. It’s therefore helpful to develop a more supportive and compassionate relationship with yourself – one that gives you positivity, energy and flair.
Shame can prevent you from accessing the input you need from others. By addressing shame, athletes can begin to feel better, open up to others and get the support they need to excel.
- Combating the frustration of being injured: Injuries can bring frustration (as well as physical pain) for athletes in particular – especially when they block you from achieving your goals! This frustration can also lead to anger (with yourself and/or with others), sadness and anxiety. By exploring your competing emotions, and using your compassionate mind to good effect, you can prevent frustration, anger, sadness and anxiety from taking over and ruling the show.
- Getting a good night’s sleep: Practicing CFT exercises such as soothing rhythm breathing and compassionate imagery before bedtime can help you get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is an extremely important aspect of your life, and poor sleep may affect your performance.
- Dealing with pain from sports injuries: Pain is unfortunately a common aspect of an athlete’s life. Although medication can help, some medications may be prohibited, and medication may also trigger digestive difficulties and perhaps even lead to addiction. CFT has been effectively used by a number of athletes to help reduce the experience of pain and reliance on medication.
- Maintaining a smart, strategic perspective of your training: Your capacity to push yourself with a sense of excitement and passion is hugely important, especially when you’re in pursuit of success. However, sometimes our inner drive, and the drive of those around us, can be problematic and lead to exhaustion. CFT can help you to organise your training and keep the balance in your life – in a strategic way that utilises your inner drive effectively and prevents exhaustion.
Athletes are usually highly driven and competitive, and this clearly has its benefits. But how do you switch out of this mindset with your friends and family? If you can’t keep these different elements of your life in balance, this may lead to significant relationship problems. Mindfulness, soothing rhythm breathing and imagery are just some of the exercises that form part of CFT and can help you to switch to a more beneficial mindset, bringing harmony to your relationships.
Balance is important whatever you do for a living – and however you choose to spend your spare time. CFT can help you to find this balance whether you’re struggling to fit work and family time together, battling to extricate yourself from the office each day, or simply finding that you have too much to do and too little time.