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Yes! As was reviewed in the Can Athletes Feel Angry and Still Be Mindful: Part I article, athletes can have anger and still be mindful.
The key is a the moment when the athlete recognizes their anger and makes a split-second decision change or channel this emotion into positive results.
In his book, Hockey Tough, Saul Miller encourages athletes to use productive focus. Athletes are typically not very productive when you focus on being angry about what someone else says, worrying about what a coach is thinking, staying upset about your position, or time in the game. These are not productive areas to focus on.
Tools to help manage Anger and Re-Focus
1. Miller (Hockey Tough) discusses knowing your ABC’s. This means when you catch yourself being overly upset or angery, or having an unproductive focus, you should have three strategy thoughts and define these as your ABC’s. These are three quick choices that you know you can direct your attention to, such as a move or technique. Miller described an example of ABC’s that a hockey player might have A: keep moving my feet, B: make good passes, and C: take a breath. These ABC’s should be clear, simple, and easily accomplished. When you are intensely angry or frustarted these three quick, easy-to-do stratgies can help.
2. Write down daily goals on paper or a white board and read them prior to any practice or competition. Mentally rehearse accomplishing these goals before practice or competing. See yourself be successful and imagine the emotion you want to have with the action. If you become overy angry remind yourself of your daily goals. Go back to rehearsing those in your mind.
3. You might also have daily affirmations that you write. These are positive statements you write and say to yourself. Again, Saul Miller gives some good examples in his book, including, ” One shift at a time”, and “I’m in control.” Make affirmations that you can most identify with. They can be general or very specific to your sport. The point is the more you see these, and say these on a daily basis, the more you can pull these up to help you in the heat of the moment. It’s very difficult to shift powerful emotion if you do not practice or have well established, easy to do, alternative steps.
4. You might also use WIN and ask yourself, “What’s Important Now?” Athletes sometimes say “WIN” and they immediately understand that this means focus or change focus when they recognize anger or other emotions are getting too intense.
Can you imagine a moment when you might say “Ill show him or her” or a ref makes a call and you completely disagree? In that moment you might start to justify an intense emotion of anger. What would you do to channel this so you could use it productively?
If you constantly repeat “This is unfair and I’ll show all of them” you will likely rev yourself up and become overy heated. Anger is not bad it just is. How much anger can you tolerate and how will you use it to help? Maybe you can redirect it and channel it to a clear focus and repeat, “WIN, WIN, WIN” in your mind. This might help take that fuel and push your game up to a better level. Figure out how to use this dialogue to take you in the direction you want or need to go. This is not only mentally tough (it takes discipline), but also mentally smart.
5. Heart Breathing is another quick and easy tool that helps manage emotions. When athletes feel intense anger it is likely their breathing is affected, possibly becoming more rapid and/or shallow. Breathing through emotion can help manage anger when it is becoming too intense and interfering with playing. This comes from the HeartMath Quick Coherence technique in Transforming Stress. The brief version of this is to shift your focus to your heart and imagine breathing from your heart center, possibly taking slightly deeper inhalations and exhalations as a way to calm yourself.
The point is, when you’re angry and you become too heated, have a plan. Be prepared. Have a simple, easy stratgey to pause, and use it wisely or change directions. Chooes a strategy from the list or create one of your own.