Tips to help you stay calm, survive Ironman week

KAILUA-KONA — The Ironman World Championship is a spectacle to behold, but, at times leading up to the big event, even the chillest of folks might find themselves getting hot-headed.

“Ironman, once a year, is something that definitely piques everybody’s anger and temperament,” said Johnny Fox, a psychotherapist in the Kona area.

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“We’re so used to everyone having that aloha spirit and respect in our, sort of, continuous circle here on the island, that all the sudden, when people come from other places and don’t have that (spirit), then we’re kind of like, ‘grrehh,’” he added.

But, whether you’re behind the wheel or on the job, keeping your cool is a must this week. Here’s a few tips from Fox to help get through the coming days:

– Anticipate you’re going to need more time

With more cars, cyclists and pedestrians in town, Fox suggests giving yourself an extra 10 minutes when headed somewhere. Don’t allow yourself to get into a time crunch — like leaving at 8:55 a.m. when you have to be to work by 9, he said. Plan ahead for road closures.

“We got to take responsibility, it’s not like we didn’t know Ironman was coming,” said Fox. “We got to anticipate that and work through it so we don’t set ourselves up for failure.”

– Take it easy on the sugar, caffeine

Switching to tea or decaf coffee this week to reduce your consumption of caffeine, which can affect your mood, could also help deter an unwanted — or even unwarranted — outburst. Cutting back on sugar can also help, Fox said.

“Our heartrate races every time we have sugar or caffeine, so, you pair that with anger and all the sudden (you are wondering) ‘why am I so angry? Well, you’re full of caffeine, and now a racer’s in front of you, so you’re going to respond to it,” he explained.

– Focus on breathing

If you get worked up, whether it be because you nearly collided with a not-so-courteous athlete or you are simply overwhelmed, try to regulate your breathing.

“Breathing is always going to be the key to calming yourself down, whether it’s anxiety or anger,” Fox explained.

A lot of the time, when a person is angry or anxious, he or she will either hold their breath, which will cause the brain to go into a fight or flight mode, or start breathing faster, which sends the brain into a state of hyperactivity.

“That sends an impulse to the brain that you’re about to be in immediate danger; you need to get out of there,” said Fox. “It just sort of fills our body with adrenaline” only compounding frustration, anger or anxiety.

– The power of 60 seconds

If you’ve had a frustrating driving experience or a bad day at the office, Fox suggests taking a minute to yourself to relax and give your “brain some time to just chill for a second.”

“If you get to work or if you get home and if you feel like that anger is there, sit in the car in silence by yourself and just give yourself a minute,” he said. “We drastically underestimate how much just taking time and sitting in silence — and doing almost a meditation — can change us.”

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– Remember, there is a light at the end of the tunnel

“Reinforce it with ‘it’s going to end.’ Ironman is two weeks long pretty much and that’s about it. We’re going to go back to Kona and go back to small town feel and go back to knowing everybody,” Fox said. “It’s going to go back. It goes back every year.”