Peak performance training & biofeedback

Peak performance training with biofeedback is usually associated with sports and that is understandable but we could equally discuss this in the context of any performance (Music, business presentation, leadership situation etc) which requires one to give of his or her best under pressure. When the stakes are high these situtations have something in common.

It's about your emotions stupid.

Our thoughts alone can trigger a stress response

Our thoughts alone can trigger a stress response

Some of us grew up in environments where we were schooled not to show our emotions - "Big boys don't cry", "Never show weakness", "Stand up like a man".

The once-commonsense view saw emotions and logic as ideally quite separate.  Spock on Star Trek was often protrayed as superior due to his ability to work with logic rather than emotions.

The truth of course is that cognition and emotion are locked together.  It's our physiologiy at work. What we think - is integral to the generation and regulation of emotion.  Ideally we should use our own mind for a change rather than be a slave to it.  We will get back to the issue of peak performance shortly but lets explore the topic of emotion first.

The process of generating an emotion starts when we are presented with a situation that includes various forms of stimuli. Our senses are ideal for keeping us alert to threats. Our sight, hearing, touch and sense of smell provide fast access to the essential mechanism we all possess for "fight or flight".

Let's imagine you are a business leader making a presentation to potential investors. The stakes are high, you have prepared well but the moment you step forward to present to the room it's a "whole new ball game".  A little voice reminds you that "you better not screw this up .. if we don't raise funds soon we are toast".

Your hands are sweating and you feel a tightness in your chest. You consciously try to slow your breathing and that helps until you look around ready to start. You spot the "top dog" in the audience and he is not even aware of you - he is gazing at his phone and you fixate on him. Is he paying attention? Has he spotted you for the shallow fake person you really are?

As you make this totally imaginary appraisal, you are effectively feeling threatened. Two brain systems - the amygdala and the insula are mobilising an emotional response and all of a sudden you freeze. Unable to speak you shuffle forward and backward and reach for a glass of water as you try to remember how you were going to start your presentation. 

Leaving aside biofeedback, there are five ways we could grasp to regulate our emotions in this situation - little ways with which we can mentally reframe the situation and get back on track. Probably the most effective method of reframing the situation is referred to as Reappraisal.  We will cover these in other articles and actually they would be part of the setup for biofeedback training anyway.

As we have discussed in previous articles, our emotional state (the package of what we think and feel) determines what behaviours are possible for us in a situation and of course our behaviour determines what results are possible for us.  This implies that whether we use NLP, biofeedback or any methodology we need to first become aware of our "state" and then manhandle it into the most appropriate one for the situation.  It's a process of learning. We learned to behave the way we are acting now - and we can learn to improve providing we sense what improvment means. and can be guided to change. This is where biofeedback can help.

Some sensor possibilities with a NeXus 10

Some sensor possibilities with a NeXus 10

A multimodal biofeedback system can give us detailed information on our mind-body state. We can simulate a stressful situation or measure what is happening during the stressful activity and learn how we respond in terms of our autonomic nervous system.  Feedback of a carefully selected signal can allow us to learn what balance feels like again. It is useful to use NLP artfully to help this process.

In search of peak performance?

Understand that thoughts, emotions and behaviour are woven together and cannot be prised apart. Recognise that we can learn to become aware of how our body responds to pressure and learn to reframe our state for maximum resourcefulness. You don't need technology to achieve this but it sure helps.