Let's Get It On - Raising Your Arousal Level
In the last article I promised to discuss some methods and techniques to raise your arousal level and get some serious adrenaline flowing in your system. If you haven’t figured out why you might want to do this then check out the discussion of optimal state of arousal from the previous 3 weeks of tips.
There are different approaches to raising your arousal level: in no particular order they might include:
The term ‘visualization’ is an over-used, misunderstood term, but it CAN be very effective both to lower and raise arousal level. Let me illustrate this by talking an extreme use of visualization. Some years ago I met a world-renowned rugby player, known for his extreme intensity and superb conditioning on the rugby pitch. I asked him what he thought of when he was playing, and he surprised me by telling me that he imagined that the ball was his infant son, and that all the other players were trying to take it away from him. Not surprisingly he played as if his life depended on it.
Now at the risk of sounding like a total Star Wars nerd, I should say that dragging your infant children into your visualization is perilously close to using the dark side of the Force. Nevertheless, this rugby example illustrates how powerful visualization can be. With a little imagination you might be able to develop a less extreme visualization that is still capable of engaging your fight or flight reflex to the desired level.
Music is a path to the unconscious mind, and as such it can also be used to raise arousal level. A friend of mine got to watch a world class boxer warm up before a title fight in Montreal. The boxer in question listened to the extremely loud, extremely heavy metal music for 3 hours before the fight, all the while talking about how he was going to decimate his opponent. By the time he stepped into the ring he was almost beside himself with rage.
Unfortunately this boxer ended up running out of gas and LOSING his match. In the post-mortem after the fight his coach figured that it was because he had been too angry for too long before the match. Being enraged is very emotionally and physically fatiguing, so he didn’t have enough gas left in the tank for the actual fight.
The take-home lessons are: a) that music can certainly raise level of arousal, and b) that you want to be careful not to exceed your optimal state of arousal
To use the breath to calm down one should breathe slowly and deeply, relaxing after each exhalation. To use the breath to become more aroused you still want to breath deeply, but a little faster and a little bit more ‘deliberately’. Try to become more and more focused on the task at hand with each breath. Be careful not to hyperventilate.
A characteristic of a low state of arousal is a diffused focus – an ability to relax and to concentrate on everything, and nothing, at the same time. A highly aroused person, on the other hand, has a very narrow focus. In a combative context he will usually only focus on his opponent, and not really see or hear any other distractions (the crowd, the coaches, the noise, the fighters in the next ring, etc.).
To a large extent focus is a consequence of arousal, rather than something you can use to manipulate your arousal level. Attempting to focus in on your opponent if you need to raise your level of arousal can’t hurt though, especially if used in conjunction with some of the other techniques mentioned.