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  • Writer's picturelondonmiddlebury

Managing Frustration at the Lanes

Frustration is inevitable with any sport. Whether it’s missing a free throw in basketball, making a poor pass in soccer, or falling on the ski slope, it is easy to get upset at yourself for making mistakes. Bowling is no different. Obviously we strive to make a strike every shot, but that is not realistic. No human being is perfect, so to expect perfection is unattainable. Instead, we should focus on making realistic goals and using our mistakes as learning points. However, this is easier said than done. The immediate instinct to scream out in frustration after throwing a gutter ball is hard to control. In fact, we can blame this on our sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our immediate reaction to stress and anxiety. One strategy to overcome the instinctual outburst involves breath.

In a time of frustration (i.e. when you throw your third gutter ball in a row) your sympathetic nervous system engages by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. It is difficult to perform well when your heart is pumping a mile-a-minute, so deep breaths can be used to counteract the increased heart rate and blood pressure. In short, deep breathing helps to stimulate the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve helps you stay composed during performance because it acts like the breaks in your car by slowing everything (i.e. heart rate and blood pressure) down to a more homeostatic (balanced body) state (Psychology Today). Therefore, deep breathing may be the key to reel in your frustration at the bowling alley.

Some things to think about when deep breathing:

  1. When you feel yourself start to become frustrated, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. This will help to calm you down, as well as center your mind and body for your next throw.

  2. On each inhale, envision a balloon blowing up inside of your stomach. Expanding your stomach is important for maximal vagus nerve stimulation.

  3. TAKE YOUR TIME! Deep breathing takes practice, and a little bit of getting used to. So if you don’t see results right away, don’t give up. Keep practicing during both competition and practice.

Once you are comfortable with deep breathing in times of frustration, you can add another aspect to further your focus and control in a stressful/frustrating situation. Finding your center is a practice that many athletes use prior to and during competition. It involves envisioning the center of gravity in your own body, and using that image to find stability and support.

Some things to think about when finding your center:

  1. The human body’s center of gravity is about two inches below your belly button. Close your eyes and become familiar with where this is, and how it feels when it holds all of your attention.

  2. Practice stopping intermittingly throughout the day to locate your center. Hopefully over time it will become easier to focus your mind on this part of your body.

  3. When you feel comfortable, incorporate this exercise into your bowling games. In addition to deep breathing, you can counter an onset of frustration by focusing on your center.

Deep breathing and finding your center can also be used in congruence. Perhaps you take a few deep breaths, find your center, and then take a few more deep breaths. Or maybe finding your center first, and then deep breathing, works best for you. Regardless of what technique you find most helpful, having a strategy to manage your frustration will greatly compliment both your bowling game and mental health.

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