The “muscle-to-mind” and “mind-to-muscle” are stress management strategies that help athletes manage their activation levels and performance anxiety. Mind-to-muscle means that relaxation goes from the brain to muscle, and some examples are meditation, visualization, and autogenic training. Muscle-to-mind techniques go in the opposite direction; some examples are breathing techniques and progressive muscle relaxation.

Often, we see some self-proclaimed mental coaches and mental health professionals teaching those strategies as a “one size fits all.” However, to truly work, those techniques must match how you respond when the pressure is on. And one way to find out is to use the psychophysiological stress profile. To perform this assessment, I will connect you to a multichannel device that measures your physiological reactions and expose you to minor stressors (it would be unethical to expose you to real stressful situations). Because people use the same pattern of physiological responses to stressors (challenging events), I can identify how you are responding to the critical moments during competition. Then, we choose the self-regulation skill (muscle to mind or mind to muscle strategies) according to your specific needs.

The second step will be implementing the proper self-regulation skills into your sport practice, which is the most important part. Often, professionals who do not have performance psychology training do not know that there are specific moments when the athlete can self-regulate. They will tell you to self-regulate whenever you feel anxious or have negative thoughts, which is not true! If you try to self-regulate at the wrong time, it moves your attention from the task at hand to internal sensations, and your performance will decrease. So, it is important to know when you can use the energy management skills you learned and when you will have to bring whatever you are feeling.

In summary, there are many techniques I use to help you manage your activation levels during the competition, and a lot of people, from yoga instructors to mental health professionals, can say they will teach you some of those techniques, but it will NOT work if those techniques do not match your specific needs and it is implemented at the wrong time.

So, if you want to talk about mind-to-muscle and muscle-to-mind strategies and learn which one would be best for you, and how to use it, schedule your free consultation.

Andrea C. Dias, MA, ABSP