Arousal Regulation

When you react, you let others control you. When you respond you are in control

What is arousal regulation?

The term ‘arousal’ can refer to a number of states e.g. stress, anxiety or excitement. It is a combination of physiological and psychological activity varying on a scale from ‘deep sleep’ to ‘intense excitement’.

What is stress?

Stress in performance is seen as a continuous negotiation between an individual and the environmental demands associated with the competition in which they are operating. If a wrestler believes the demands of their environment or what is needed to win is greater than the resources/skills they have in which to achieve it, this can cause stress.

Stress as an interaction

Stress has also been viewed as an interactional process, where there is a cause and effect. An individual and their environment provoke cognitive and emotional (thoughts and feelings) reactions. During stressful encounters the individual and the environment can mutually influence one another. This is important to note when you consider stress management techniques.

Stress as a transaction

Stress has also been viewed as a transactional process, where an individual is constantly interpreting their environment and encounters and using resources to cope. This view highlights the adaptive nature of the stress process and the on-going process of the individual to interpret it.

Examples of Stressors


  • Death of a family member
  • Relationship problems
  • Employment changes


  • Problems with coach
  • Performance environment
  • Being taken over by a new board


  • Playing against world class performers
  • Pressure and expectations

How does arousal regulation influence performance?




Directional interpretations


A potentially stressful event occurs. This could be competitive, organisational or personal e.g. being fired, your company being taken over, getting a new manager, or the death of a family member.

You interpret the situation, playing it over in your head. You contemplate what has just happened and how this will affect you.

Depending on your interpretation of the situation (positive or negative), feelings will ensue. For example, sadness, anger, happiness, excitement.

You consider your anxiety/stress in terms of relevance to your performance. You identify your coping resources and consider their availability to deal with the anxiety/stress

You perform well or do not perform well depending on the previous steps in this process.

For example: you have just had an intense argument with your coach, right before its your turn to bat. You step up to the plate and cannot stop yourself from replaying your coach’s words in your head. Your body fills with anger and frustration, your muscles contract and your temperature increases. You contemplate if this stress if helpful to your performance or not. You have concluded that being angry and frustrated right now is counter productive and identify your coping resources to put you into optimal state for performance. You cope with the stress by engaging in a short stress management exercise where you breathe deeply and visualise a successful bat.

References, Resources and Reading

Fletcher, D., & Fletcher, J. (2005). A meta-model of stress, emotions and performance: Conceptual foundations, theoretical framework, and research directions. Journal of Sports Sciences23(2), 157-158.

Fletcher, D., Hanton, S., & Mellalieu, S. D. (2006). An organizational stress review: Conceptual and theoretical issues in competitive sport. Literature reviews in sport psychology321373.

Hardy, L. (1990). A catastrophe model of performance in sport.

Jones, M., Meijen, C., McCarthy, P. J., & Sheffield, D. (2009). A theory of challenge and threat states in athletes. International review of sport and exercise psychology2(2), 161-180.

Lazarus, R. S. (2000). How emotions influence performance in competitive sports. The sport psychologist14(3), 229-252.