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Worry-less riding: Calming your horse event anxiety Noreen Esposito Ed.D., PMHNP-BC Presented at Eno Triangle Horsemasters (USPC)

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Presentation on theme: "Worry-less riding: Calming your horse event anxiety Noreen Esposito Ed.D., PMHNP-BC Presented at Eno Triangle Horsemasters (USPC)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Worry-less riding: Calming your horse event anxiety Noreen Esposito Ed.D., PMHNP-BC Presented at Eno Triangle Horsemasters (USPC) February 9, 2012

2 Overview The best riders have “mental toughness” The what, why and how of emotions Understanding worry and anxiety A thinking rider’s thoughts Tricks and tips Mindfulness: a way of being

3 Mental toughness: How the best excel under stress Mental toughness is: A characteristic that helps the best (elite) athletes to succeed. “She has mental toughness” How athletes such as Olympic riders cope with the stress and pressure of competition. It’s multidimensional (different components) Where does it come from? Inherited: 50% comes from genetics & biological history Learned: 50%


5 Today’s presentation Two key components of mental toughness, both associated with managing anxiety are: Emotional awareness Attentional control

6 Emotions Emotions come from thoughts and bodily sensations Thoughts including interpretations, judgments and beliefs influence our emotions and their intensity Thoughts elicit physical responses Body sensations lead to thoughts

7 Emotions Emotions have physical characteristics : Crying (sadness & grief) Butterflies in stomach (anxiety) Physical urges (hugging when happy, running when scared) Emotions lead to “motion” Emotion is thought & feeling & readiness to act


9 Emotional State An emotional state is a moment in time Like tides, emotions are temporary…come and go Last a few seconds to minutes Remembering that an emotion is temporary can make it more tolerable “This will pass”

10 Emotions Vary in intensity from One situation to another One person to another Some people experience emotions more intensely than others Some people seem generally calm Some people heat up quickly and calm down slowly

11 Emotional Trait

12 Emotional traits

13 Primary Emotions Joy Love Interest/Curiosity Sorrow Surprise Fear Disgust Guilt/shame Anger

14 Secondary emotions In response to our primary emotions & subsequent thoughts/feelings and judgments 2ndary emotions are a complex pattern of learned responses such as being Angry about being angry Angry about being sad Anxious about feeling fear

15 Vulnerability to emotion Physical stresses that affect our basic human needs for food, shelter, warmth and comfort can interfere with our ability to regulate emotion: Thirst, dehydration Hunger, poor nutrition, junk food Too much or too little sleep Insufficient exercise Pain, physical discomfort Prolonged stress Illness Drugs/substances may have negative effects Too much caffeine Medications Substances like cigarette smoke, alcohol or other drugs

16 Vulnerability to emotions Thoughts and words can also make us more vulnerable to emotions Judgments about ourselves and about others Negative self talk or stories we tell ourselves Invalidation: discounting our emotions, thoughts and things we do.

17 Validation Invalidation… discounting our emotions, thoughts and things we do. Invalidation: “there’s nothing to be anxious about, you shouldn’t feel that way” Leads to secondary emotions…guilt, frustration and social isolation Validation: “it makes sense that you might feel this way” Leads to positive feelings of happinessy, a sense of social connection and normalcy, allows the body to relax

18 Painful Emotions: Fear/Anxiety Fear: A present (in-the-moment) emotion Elicited by actual or potential danger, alarm or apprehension of something specific Purpose is to prepare to do battle Ends when danger is over Anxiety A future-oriented emotional & physical response Elicited by an imagined future situation Continues until you convince yourself otherwise.

19 Anxiety Underlying emotion is fear Possibility of failure, danger or misfortune but not actual or real threat Fear can be of external or internal Sometimes the fear is fear of the possibility of anxiety Physical symptoms: Increased heart rate Shortness of breath, Sweaty, cold clammy hands chest tightness, dizzy Anxiety can be State (temporary) and/or Trait

20 Anxiety trait A trait: An enduring characteristic Anxiety trait: Responds to most challenges or thoughts of challenge with worry. Predominantly worrisome thoughts about situations

21 Anxiety state and/or trait What does this mean for our performance at horse (and other life) events? Someone who has: Low trait anxiety(Quarterhorse) + high state anxiety (what if wolf appears horizon?) = peak performance High trait anxiety (Arabian) + high state anxiety (what if piece of paper (or wolf) appears on horizon) = difficult to impossible performance

22 Anxiety Thus No physical arousal (no anxiety): inadequate performance Low level physical arousal: good for performance High level physical arousal: detrimental to performance If very high physical arousal, steep drop in performance, reversed ONLY by reduction in physiological arousal

23 All anxiety is anticipatory Mark Twain: “I’m an old man now. I’ve lived a long and difficult life, filled with so many misfortunes, most of which never happened.”

24 Horse shows do not cause anxiety

25 © N Esposito, 2012 Chain of thoughts and emotions

26 So what to do?

27 Where we are 2 nd wave: Cognitive and behavioral approaches target an athlete’s psychological and social characteristic. At this point there is very limited research that shows the usefulness of these now standard interventions by themselves. Goal setting Imagery Self talk Arousal increase or reduction Psyching up Relaxation 3 rd wave of interventions: A growing body of research on indicates that the incorporating MINDFULNESS with C_B can have a significant long term effects on anxiety.

28 Things to help worry/anxiety Worry time Schedule 15-30 minutes/day. Intentionally worry, just let worry run its course Things that don’t work Trying to suppress worry Reassure yourself or get assurance from others, won’t really help Criticize yourself for worrying Relief from panic: Panic episodes that are disrupting your life deserve professional consultation and are treatable. In the interim, these may help you through an attack: At the earliest signs of panic: Remind yourself these are harmless fight or flight symptoms Unpleasant but normal Unpleasant but you are safe The 5 minute rule (adrenaline takes 5 minutes to be eliminated from you circulation, so it takes 5 minutes for physical symptoms to lessen and leave) Sit with the symptoms until they are gone

29 Other Techniques Progressive muscle relaxation: When: post competition What : progressive muscle relaxing Goal:, increase awareness of muscle tension decrease arousal post performance Enhances positive feelings and wellbeing May also work with difficulty sleeping night before.

30 Techniques Cognitive restructuring When: pre performance & post What: reinterpret thoughts to develop different interpretation of situation De-emphasize the importance of competition Reframe interpretations, for example in the chain of thoughts, there are many cognitions that can be interpreted differently

31 Techniques Imagery When: Pre competition, at least a week or more What: see next imagery slide Goal: increase familiarity with tasks & gives positive feedback of imagined performance

32 Imagery routine Ability to imagine yourself successfully (or unsuccessfully) completing a act. Pick skill to imagine. Do relaxation before visualization Make imagery as realistic as possible Smells, sounds,… all senses Bring skill into focus (ie test), view from your own eyes (be in the experience). Try to feel the movement,, the connection between your body and your horse”s Practice skill in real time

33 Managing emotions: visualization Go over the test in your mind, play it like a video, rewinding and replaying until it is the way you want it to be. Visualize this excellent video in your mind every night before going to sleep Imagine yourself smiling regardless of what happens.

34 Goal setting: SCAMP S: SPECIFIC: about your goals. How will you know if you met the goal? C: CONTROLLABLE: Make the goals challenging but within your control. You can’t control how a judge will score, what the weather will be. You can control your personal performance “I will hit all the marks in my ride” A: ATTAINABLE: work on step-by-step goals so you build your confidence and can actually succeed in meeting your goals. M: MEASUREABLEL Be able to check yes I did it, no I didn’t, perhaps how well you did it on a scale of 1-10…. So you can see improvement P: PERSONAL AND PROGRESSIVE: Devise goals that will help YOU progress based on where you now

35 Control what you can You can’t control weather, the mood of the judge, your other competition but you can control how you react to those things. Minimize vulnerabilities: Get sleep, eat well, check out competition, visit show site ahead of time, Find a way to think positively about challenges an adversity If it can’t be changed, accept it and find something positive about it.

36 Social support Any of the 4 major categories Emotional support Esteem support Informational support Tangible support Perceived support helps people feel safer and situations are less stressful. (knowing you are going to a show with supportive friends) Received support Sometimes helpful if person wants it Sometimes increases stress if person is not ready for it.

37 Other Anxiety Treatments Medications Antidepressants Anti-anxiety CBT Long lasting effects (at least 10 years)

38 What to remember about anxiety & worry Anxiety is the physical unpleasant feeling interconnected with worry thoughts Worry is a fear of uncertainty “what if” Worry is always focused on the future Worry can’t persist if you are focused on the present moment worrywarts

39 Mindfulness The goal is to experience reality as it is in the present moment

40 Goal mindfulness Increase happiness Reduce suffering

41 Types of Mindfulness MBSR (Mindfulness based stress reduction Kabat-Zin) MBCT (COGNITIVE TX) MB-EAT eating awareness MBRP (relapse prevention :substance abuse recovery) DBT (Dialectical behavioral therapy: Lenihan) ACT (Acceptance commitment therapy: Hayes) ABBT-GAD (accept based behavr tx for GAD)

42 Mindfulness Increases emotional awareness Helps decrease worry and ruminating distractibility Mindfulness is being who are are, not who you want to be Mindfulness is being in the moment


44 Assumptions We are doing the very best in dealing with our emotions We can get better and be more skillful in dealing with emotions Learning emotion skills and behaviors is not just at horse events, but in all areas of our lives. From Lenihan, 1993 DBT


46 Resources Mindfulness can be learned at any age Examples of readings for children Mindfulness for children The mindful child (Grenland) Maclean & Maclean (Peaceful Piggy Meditations).

47 Bibliography Chang, C. H. (2009). Handbook of sports psychology. New York: Nova Science Publishers. Gardner, F. L., & Moore, Z. E. (2006). Clinical sport psychology. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. Gardner, F. L., & Moore, Z. E. (2007). The psychology of enhancing human performance : the mindfulness-acceptance-commitment approach (MAC) : a practitioner's guide. New York: Springer Pub. Gucciardi, D., & Gordon, S. (2011). Mental toughness in sport : developments in theory and research. Abingdon, Oxon: New York : Routlege. Hamilton, A. J. (2011). Zen mind, zen horse : the science and spirituality of working with horses. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub., LLC. Hayes, S. C. (2011). Get out of your mind and into your life. Nwe York, NY: MJF Books. Karageorghis, C. I., & Terry, P. C. (2011). Inside sport psychology. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. Linehan, M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York: Guilford Press.

48 Bibliography Morris, T., Spittle, M., & Watt, A. P. (2005). Imagery in sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. Nicholls, A. R. (2009). Coping in sport : theory, methods, and related constructs. Hauppauge, N.Y.: Nova Science Publishers. Stevens, L. (2008). Group Resilience. Equestrian Life. Retrieved from Equestrian Life website: Savoie, J. (2003). It's not just about the ribbons : it's about enriching riding and life with innovative tools and winning strategies. North Pomfret, Vt.: Trafalgar Square Pub. Spradlin, S. E. (2003). Don't let your emotions run your life : how dialectical behavior therapy can put you in control. Oakland, Calif.: New Harbinger. Thatcher, J., Jones, M. V., & Lavallee, D. (2012). Coping and emotion in sport (2nd ed.). Abingdon, Oxon ; New York: Routledge. Weinberg, R. S., & Gould, D. (2011). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology (5th ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

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