Are our emotions something that help us when it comes to sport, or do they hold us back? The answer? Both. Learning how to balance and control your emotions is what matters.
In our first part of this two part series, we covered five strategies to help regulate emotion ranging from facing your fears head on, to listening to inspiring music to get you in the zone. This was based on research by Professor Marc Jones at Staffordshire University on how athletes can better manage their emotions when competing. In this second part, we cover tips 6-10.
Relax Your Body: Try tensing your muscles for a few seconds and then consciously relaxing them to feel a sense of calm, physically as well as mentally. Research shows that this leads to a reduced heart rate, lesser feelings of physical exhaustion, and diminished anxiety.
Learn From Others: Try to emulate athletes that deal with emotionally difficult situations well; this is an effective strategy to manage anger and stress. For instance it has been shown that Role-playing exercisesoff pitch reduce angry behavior on pitch. The ability to learn from others is a hallmark of developing a growth mindset and a very important life skill.
Develop Self-Awareness: Keep a journal or review film of situations where strong emotions arise during play and how you dealt with them. This allows you to identify which emotions are healthy, competitive ones for you and which are not. This is important to know so that you can get the best from your emotional state. Keeping a diary to improve self-awareness is a simple and effective way to improve metacognition.
This can be incredibly effective when combined with challenging self-handicapping thoughts (check out part one of this blog), as your newfound awareness can help you identify which thoughts and emotions need challenging.
Reframe The more important you believe the situation to be, the more likely you are to have a strong emotional response to it. Research suggest that reminding yourself that “it’s just another match” can help reduce the noise and intensity that emotions can bring.
Reframing our ideas of failure and success can also be effective. In the earlier mentioned research by Professor Jones, he details an example where a Premier League striker was struggling to score goals, and feeling down because of it. Helping him reframe his definition of success to include all the other things he was doing well helped raise his spirits and find his goal scoring form again.
Take Deep Breaths: Much like muscle relaxation, focusing on taking deep slow breaths can be an important factor in regulating emotion. These breaths increase feelings of relief and lead to lower physical symptoms of negative emotions such as muscle tension. It also provides a sense of control of the situations, slows things time and gives you space to consider how best to proceed.
Final Thought: Every athlete no matter their level needs to learn how to balance their emotions. There is no perfect formula. What works well for someone else is no guarantee that it will work well for you. Using some of the techniques described in both parts of this blog series will provide a strong platform to explore what works best for you.