Arousal is about getting ready for action and often causes an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and neural activity. It’s often referred to as being “in the zone” or “psyched up.” It’s about waking up your body so it’s ready to perform. Arousal, however, must be maintained at the appropriate level for a given task in order for you to be effective. The optimal state of arousal in any situation, whether routine or an emergency, is one that energizes you for proper action, but doesn’t distract or hinder you from carrying out the task.
While it’s important to be able to reduce your arousal level when needed, it’s just as important to be able to increase it when necessary. After all, you wouldn’t want to be all mellowed out for a forced entry with potentially armed suspects inside, right? Do you feel like you’re moving slowly, your mind is elsewhere, you feel heavy, or you’re slow to react? If so, the key is to be able to voluntarily induce, adjust and maintain an optimal level of arousal for the situation.
Here are some techniques for increasing arousal level that you might consider:
1. Act energized. Mental and physical arousal go hand in hand. Warming up is a well-known method of psyching oneself up. If you’re with a partner or team, you can jump around and bump into each other to pump each other up and to get energized. If on your own, you might consider pushups, jumping jacks or a short jog. This technique also has the added benefit of limbering up your body for physically demanding tasks to come. If you’re feeling fatigued earlier in the day, a light workout several hours prior to your shift might also help combat the fatigue.
2. Listen to some beats. Music is a commonly used tool for psyching yourself up. The key is to pick music with a fast tempo that gets your heart pumping in a positive, enthusiastic way (think Rocky soundtrack). Combining music with physical activity is a common way to increase your motivation and energy level.
3. Pick your company. Spend time with others who are as excited and enthused as you are. It’s motivational to share a common objective and feelings with your team or partner. This can help you feel united and driven.
4. Cue yourself. Cues are prompts, either aloud or silent, that you give yourself to generate more energy. Cue words to increase arousal can be general (e.g., “Get tough”) or specific (e.g., “First one in owns the room”). They can also be sounds (e.g., “Hoo-ah!”).
5. Pay attention. Be aware of distractions. Breathe out unwanted thoughts with your next exhale and refocus your attention instantly on what is important right now, at this moment.
6. Promote self-efficacy. This is a skill that can be used prior to and during a situation. Tell yourself positive statements, out loud or silently, that are task related, addressed to yourself, and serve as instructional and motivational. Self-talk should focus on achievement rather than ability. These statements (e.g., “I can do it” or “Stay in it”) are often combined with cue words or sounds for maximum effectiveness.
7. Use anger productively. This involves thinking about something that makes you mad and gets your juices going. It’s akin to method acting that performers use to psych themselves into a role. The guideline is situation-appropriateness. You want to avoid your anger getting so out of control that it becomes a distraction or leads to inappropriate force that can end up getting you in trouble.
If you would like support in learning how to increase your arousal to an optimal level so you can engage in optimal performance, please contact the Psychological Services Bureau at (213) 738-3500 to schedule an appointment. Appointments and all consultations are confidential. To obtain additional information, visit our intranet site (http://intranet/intranet/ESS/Index.htm).