Watching Marin Cilic succumb to emotional upset in the 2017 Wimbledon Final was excruciating. Few people want to see an athlete embarrassed on a world stage. But it gives a stark example of the impact that our emotions can have on our performance.
Cilic’s inability to manage his frustration meant that he was unable to play his best game. As he got more upset, his game deteriorated. His emotional outburst and the spiralling down of his game led to a relatively quick end to his Wimbledon bid.
In comparison, Federer, who wasn’t playing his best game either, composed himself at the end of each point and doggedly played the best he was able to – and won the prize.
There are a number of mindfulness tools that can help us compose ourselves when upsetting things happen. My top three are:
- Breathe deeply: Learn to shift your focus away from the upset and onto your breathing. Here’s a variation on the old saying of take a deep breathe and count to 10: Take a deep breath in for a count of four and then a deeper breath out for a count of six. Repeat. Repeat again. After 60 seconds the body will start to settle.
- Distract yourself with something you like. There is a reason why cat videos are so popular – they are a great emotional distraction. Have a video or songs on standby to help you ‘change the channel’. Smile!
- Move. Emotions are connected to body posture, so get up and move if you can. Jiggle your arms and legs if you are clenching in frustration. Stomp up or down stairs if you need to release anger. Find a piece of greenery and walk towards it. Open your arms palms upward, or put your hands on your hips to give you ‘attitude’.
The hard part is remembering these tools and techniques when you need them, so the key is learning and practicing the techniques before you need them.
Some suggestions: Find a physical class, a YouTube video or a mobile app. Put a reminder in your calendar to practice at least weekly. Make it fun. Buddy-up if you can.
What’s your ‘go to’ emotion switcher?