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5 Steps To Achieving And Staying In A Flow State of Performance

Written by: Paige E. Roberts, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


If you are an athlete there are five foundational steps to resetting your nervous system to stay in your flow state for optimal performance.

To begin with we must understand there are two ends of our nervous system spectrum. The first is the sympathetic nervous system state. This is our hypervigilant or muscle guarding state associated with the stress hormone cortisol production which causes a fight, flight freeze reaction. The other end of the spectrum is the parasympathetic nervous system state. This is our relaxed, rested, recovery, and digestion reaction. Our flow the sensation of being calm, cool, collected, confident and composed exists below the sympathetic nervous system state and above our parasympathetic nervous system state.

When an athlete goes through a mental trauma such as a loss or a physical trauma like an injury their nervous system will reset to a sympathetic state. As Dr. Robert Scaer MD the late neurologist and author of “The Trauma Spectrum” found we are incapable of deciphering between a mental or physical trauma, so our nervous system reacts the same way. Keep in mind most of our reactions all day every day are unconscious reactions outside of our conscious awareness and control. Our five senses sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste take in information at such a fast unconscious rate we organize it without consciously remembering it. This unconscious reaction shows up for an athlete as catching a glimpse of another athlete running towards them, so their body unconsciously reacts by trigger the sympathetic nervous system to muscle guard for protection. The unconscious uncontrollable reaction combined with the conscious pressure to perform triggers the sympathetic nervous system state. This triggering on top of an already hypervigilant sympathetic nervous system from past mental and physical traumas result in an athlete’s inability to get in and stay in the flow. This looks like either slowing down during a race, baulking when it’s their turn or an inability to complete a precise pitch, hit, throw, or catch.

Therefore, it is pertinent we reset our nervous system state persistently to keep us in our “flow state”.

First Step: Get Enough Sleep!

If we get less than six hours of sleep, we wake up inflamed which is an aspect of conditioning our nervous system to stay in the sympathetic-hypervigilant-cortisol nervous system state. And if you get less than eight hours of sleep our neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine do not recharge from the day prior causing your sympathetic nervous system state of cortisol to increase.

Second Step: Take Deep Belly Breaths!

When we consciously take in deep breaths, we know we are strengthening our parasympathetic nervous system state so we can counter the sympathetic nervous system state. This practice can be applied easily by mindfully taking in a deep breath to the point your stomach is completely extended.

Third Step: Turn Off Electronics Before Bed!

Our sympathetic nervous system state is strengthened by electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) persistently unconsciously triggering your brain and body all day and all night. To counter the triggering, you must unplug electronic devices or even shut off breakers, power down or put smart devices into airplane mode and turn off your WIFI adapter at night. And sorry but the electronic beds adjusting all night, electronic fitness trackers worn, and electric blankets are directly stimulating your sympathetic nervous system and can speed up the development of degenerative diseases too. Toss them out.

Fourth Step: Stop Consuming Inflaming Substances!

When we consume chemicals, alcohol and high levels of sugar packed with free radicals we are triggering our sympathetic nervous system state. By eating whole, unprocessed antioxidant rich foods we keep from contributing to the sympathetic nervous system state.

Fifth Step: Exercise Daily!

When we exercise within reason 30-90 minutes daily, we are countering the negative stress response associated with triggering the sympathetic nervous system state with good stress.

These are the foundational five steps I require all my athletes to do to assist them in getting in and staying in flow as opposed to living in the performance damaging sympathetic nervous system state.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and visit my website for more info!


Paige E. Roberts, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Paige is a sports psychotherapist, athlete mental health advocate and a peak performance expert. She holds a degree in Exercise Science, a Master of Social Work and is a doctoral candidate of Integrative Medicine. She is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, Clinical Licensing Supervisor, Certified Light Therapist, Certified Brain Health Practitioner, Certified Brainspotting Practitioner and Consultant. Paige has a private practice (On Point Performance Neuro Training) where she specializes in helping athletes overcome life hardships, beat performance anxiety, recover fully from sports injuries or failures, and rebound from performance slumps or blocks so they can reach their full potential in sports and in life. Paige was led down the path of starting her own practice specializing in athletes from her struggles as an elite athlete and the loss of numerous friends to suicide. She is on a mission to end suicide of athletes.



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