Have you ever felt the urge to hurl your golf club into the water hazard? Scream obscenities at opponents? Call yourself an idiot for making a mistake?
Managing anger is a challenge for all athletes. Here are four strategies to manage your anger most effectively:
–Anger is a healthy, human emotion we all experience (whether or not we’re aware of it). People describe anger as tightening in the chest, pounding heartbeat, flushed face, muscular tension, trembling, and/or racing thoughts. Anger can help by energizing and signaling a time to assert our rights.
–Aggression is a behavior that’s not healthy. Screaming, throwing things, acting violently—these behaviors serve only to increase anger, not diffuse it, and may cause serious harm to others.
2) BREATHE. Deep breaths are simple yet powerful. However, we often forget to use them when we need them most. What do you notice about your breath right now? If you’re angry or anxious, your breath is likely shallow and quick. To practice diaphragmatic or belly breaths, inhale through your nose and let the breath travel deep into the pit of your belly. Push your belly out with air. Exhale completely through your mouth. Rinse and repeat. Let your breaths gently become slower and deeper.
3) Challenge your thoughts. Is it true someone can “make” you get angry? NO. We are responsible for our own emotions and reactions. Other negative interpretations include “He’s trying to get to me” or “Nobody understands” or “I just blew the game”. Seek the facts and avoid jumping to conclusions. Athletes can use “trigger words”: words or phrases about the task at hand that are under their control, like “Quick and loose”, “Eye on the ball”, “Stay low”, “Do my best”, etc.
4) Communicate directly. Tell someone what you want or don’t want: “I want to stop arguing” or “I don’t want to disrespect you.” We’re more likely to reach our goals when we state them clearly. Did you know that simply labeling an emotion (e.g. “I’m angry”) can decrease its intensity? Instead of “You’re purposely ticking me off,” say “I’m angry when you leave your stuff by the front door.”
What strategies work best for managing YOUR anger?