If you play on a team or in a league, chances are, you’re probably a fairly competitive guy. (After all, you do want that end-of-year trophy, don’t you?) That also probably means you care about the outcome of each game. So you may be quick to overreact to something done by your teammates, opponents—or even yourself. But losing your cool on the clock could cost you the game. Often times, the best thing to do is walk away. Remove yourself from the situation. Even if that means walking to the sidelines for water, or bending over to untie and retie your shoe. “Anger dissipates very quickly if you get out of the situation,” says sports psychologist Dr. William Wiener. If that doesn’t work, here are five other anger-cooling methods you can try. Channel your energy: “Anger is an emotion that’s caused by a discharge from your limbic system,” explains Dr. John F. Murray, a clinical and sports psychologist and author the Mental Performance Index. “Basically, a pea-shaped area in your brain causes a response when you’re frustrated.” Some people are better at talking through their anger—before doing something that might be socially unacceptable. “In sports, you should take all that extra emotion and use it to your advantage as a source of energy.” So, instead of exploding on the ref, bottle that energy and let it explode on the field in the form of faster sprints or harder swings of the bat. Change how you think: “People are not frustrated by stuff that happens to them, but rather by how they think about the stuff that happens to them,” says Dr. Patrick Cohn, a sports psychologist and founder of Peak Performance Sports in Orlando, Florida. So your teammate didn’t pass you the ball when you were wide open. He probably just didn’t see you. “Athletes need to talk themselves down from the anger and realize that no one is perfect.” Understand your opponents: You may get elbowed in the face during a basketball game but it’s usually not intentional. “Your competitors are there to beat you too,” says clinical health psychologist Dr. Jayme Albin. “Don’t personalize foul play or bad sportsmanship. They’re not out to get you. Just remind yourself that the opposing team has the same goal you have. That’s part of the sport.” Communicate: “People explode and have anger when they’re holding something in,” says Dr. Michael Fraser, a clinical psychologist and chief of staff at Behavioral Associates in New York City. If you’re human, there’s going to be a time when you need to say something to someone and haven’t said it. When you take the passive route, you’re like a soda bottle—shake it up and you’ll explode. Fraser suggests assertive communication with your teammates. “Express yourself in a respectful but firm way so that someone hears it.” Accept, accept, accept: “Sometimes the officiating is unfair. Sometimes the other team isn’t respectful. Acceptance is part of any sport,” admits sports psychologist Dr. William Wiener. “You have to accept that there will be injustice and realize that losing your cool doesn’t do any good at all. In fact, most athletes get derailed when they’re angry and usually lose focus, causing them to perform at a lower level.” Plus, you could get ejected from the game. Then what good are you to your team?
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