Did anyone else catch the Packers vs. Lions game over the weekend?
How about that moment when the Green Bay Packers rookie linebacker Quay Walker pushed the Lion’s medical staff, resulting in being disqualified for the rest of the game? Yeah… ouch.
Walker turned to Twitter afterward to make a public apology for his actions.
“I reacted off of my emotions again and take full responsibility of making another stupid decision. Since then I’ve questioned myself on why did I do what I did when the trainer was doing his job!! I was wrong!”
-Quay Walker, Twitter Post
If you watched the game, you also may have seen when the cameras turned to a frustrated Walker who was visibly in tears as he walked off-field.
Ooooofff… I know that feeling too well.
You know the one.
Where you reacted on emotion or from a misread situation instead of responding.
We have all been there. We all have allowed our emotions to get the best of us for at least a time or two. Some of us may have had worse outcomes than others. Some, like Walker, are being filmed for the entire world to witness
The world of sports runs high on emotion. The difference between winning and losing seems like everything. It is easy to forget right from wrong and become tunnel-visioned by your end goal, which may be to win, and the pressure can be all-consuming.
Walker felt that pressure. That burning desire and need to win. Most athletes feel it. It comes at you from all angles. From yourself, your coach, teammates, fans, family, friends, etc. It can be a lot to handle. No wonder it gets the best of some people at times. The pressure becomes a lot to manage.
The thing is though, you CAN manage it.
How? With emotion regulation.
Emotion Regulation, as defined by Psychology Today, is the ability to exert control over one’s emotional state.
Did Walker have control over his emotions when he chose to push the Detroit Lion’s medical staff? Absolutely not. That is why he was remorseful over it. The lack of control got the best of him.
Respond rather than react. It seems simple in theory; but more challenging in practice. It requires leaning on tools and strategies to regulate the strong emotions we may be feeling.
We need to find that space. The pause between the situation or emotion we are feeling and what we choose to do next. If there is no pause or time to reflect, we react. If we pause and think about it, we will respond and make a better choice that is less likely to negatively impact our performance and relationships.
So the next time you feel yourself running high on emotions, check yourself. Take a deep breath, meaning inhaling fully through the nose, pausing for a second or two, and then exhaling audibly through the mouth completely. This quick breathing exercise, which I refer to as a Lion’s breath (no pun intended), will ground you in the moment to focus on answering the next series of questions to regulate your emotions.
Once grounded, I recommend going through a quick exercise called The Three Q’s.
– What am I feeling?
– Why am I feeling this way?
– Do I want to feel this way?
Taking the time to answer these, especially after engaging in the deep breathing exercise, will redirect your focus and energy to find the pause and space to reflect before you react. If the feeling you are experiencing is not serving you, ask yourself what you want to do about it. Posing this question will help you respond more effectively and shift your emotions to something more productive that will protect your relationships and enhance your performance.
We also do not want to walk this path of emotional regulation alone. Having support will strengthen your ability to put these tools and strategies into practice. If you are a coach, use your coaching staff as accountability partners to keep your behavior in check. Teach these skills and techniques to your team and practice them regularly so they can use them when they need them most. Teachers, teach these to your class because they will also benefit from these techniques. If you are a parent, use these skills with your children, especially when they are experiencing big emotions. I use the Lion’s breath technique with my 2.5-year-old, and we started it when he was 1. These are not sports skills; emotional regulation is a life skill.
Here is to hoping that next time emotions run high, Walker can find the space to respond rather than react, and YOU can too. We live, we learn, and we improve.