Game 1 of the Minto Cup on Tuesday was riveting.  Brampton led the game for the first half of the game only by two goals.  And then the penalties started, and boom. They are trailing by two.  You can just image the emotions of both teams, coaches and even the referees officiating the game.  In the final seconds of the game, the captain of Brampton Excelsiors and the Head Coach are given a match penalty which means an automatic suspension for 3 games.  Now emotions are really running high as you can imagine.  Game 2 gets cancelled, and the Canadian lacrosse world waits in limbo to see what will happen next. (see the article link for the full story).

You can imagine the array of emotions from hatred, revenge, anger, discouragement, blame, worry, doubt, disappointment, feeling overwhelmed, frustration/impatience to boredom of waiting for a decision to be made.  Players, coaches, officials, volunteers running the Minto Cup and fans, all experiencing many different emotions for various reasons.

Emotions are powerful. They can impact how you think.  My guess is we have all had the experience when stress is high, and you feel like you can’t think straight.  Emotions listed above can actually narrow how we think to become very focused with high levels of cortisol (stress hormone)– as we are in fight or flight.  Where as positive emotions such as fulfillment, joy and gratitude, can open up the brain to think more creatively for example.

Elizabeth Scott, MS, describes emotional resilience as our ability to adapt to stressful situations or crises. Those who are more resilient can “roll with the punches” and adapt to adversity without lasting difficulties.  Less resilient people have a harder time with stress and life changes be them big or small.  How effective is our own emotional resilience no matter what the emotion?

The good news is, we can build our emotional resilience “muscle” to deal with those stressful situations in the moment and even help to speed up the recovery from stress.  It is as simple as taking a breath.  Simple yes, but not simplistic.  HeartMath® Institute has done extensive research to help us understand the connection of heart rate variability (the space between heart beats) and our emotions and have shown that we can change our emotional outlook by changing our heart rate variability. And yes, you change your heart rate variability with specific breathing techniques. Research has even been conducted in first responders such as police to help lower stress and enhance critical thinking “in the moment”.

This is not new news really. Think about the number of times you have been upset and someone may have said “take a deep breath, calm down”.  We do this naturally.  Breathing at the pace of 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out can be enough to start to bring down stress levels.  Take the technique to the next level, and you can decrease cortisol levels in your body to come back to a more coherent state. (Note, cortisol can stay in the body for 26 hours after a stressful situation, even when the source of the stress is no longer there…so breath!!).

With practice, a Quick Coherence® breath can be enough to decrease the cortisol levels to allow you to think more clearly as our stress response is lowered.

So, the question is, what if the player, head coach and ref that were involved in the incident had been trained in HeartMath® breathing techniques and had a higher level of emotional resilience then they did in the game? Wouldn’t it be interesting to know the different outcomes if all the parties involved took just one Quick Coherence ® breath before they reacted?

We will never know; however it is not to late for you to start building your own emotional resilience.  Just put your attention to the area of the heart. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of the heart or chest area.  Breath a little deeper and slower then normal, or whatever is comfortable for you…..

You have just taken your first breath to improving your emotional resilience. Game on!

Minto Cup: Championship lacrosse game postponed after referee threatened

Melanie Wanless is a Certified HeartMath® Mentor helping to transform the experience in sports, 1 adult at a time.