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Help for Stressful Times in the Sports World

Lockouts rule the roost in 2011. First, the NFL muscles flex to show us the veins of how money ultimately rules the football kingdom. We know full well it’s not a game we simply watch on t.v. – it’s a multi-billion dollar business that needs a “dollar-driven enhancement drug” to keep it going.

 The NBA is also beefing up their legal course for a lockout once the playoffs are complete. Still, it’s all about the almighty dollar. What else is new? Both lockouts will have a long-lasting, trickle-down effect on players, sponsors, vendors, and fans.

 These are stressful times in the sports world. High profile players can fare well during the lockout without having to worry about how they’re going to make their mortgage. Rookies and practice squad players on the other hand have had to make major life adjustments during the lockout. One placekicker I know had to move back home with his parents because there is simply no money coming in and no other revenue streams.

 How can players, staff, and yes, even fans, manage the stress level that continues to rise during all the negotiations and court room drama? After all, these are not just open and shut cases that Judge Hatchet could handle in a t.v. half hour. How can we all come out of this better and not bitter? What are the lessons we must learn through this turmoil? What is the message in all this mess?

 1. Just laugh. When you laugh, your autonomic nervous system takes a breather and your heart actually begins to relax a little. Laughter boosts the immune system and helps you fight off viruses and foreign bacteria. Laughter also reduces the “big three” stress hormone levels: cortisol, epinephrine, and dopac. The ability to laugh at yourself or find humor in otherwise serious situations is a stress reducer in itself.

 2. Keep your cape on. Be prepared for when new opportunities present themselves to you. If you allow stress to sideline your current activities, you’re only harming yourself. Phil Parker, author of The Athlete’s Bible – Superman All The Time Version, states, “The ‘Superman all the Time’ philosophy implies an approach to life; a philosophy of sorts, where one never removes his cape – not on any dimension – not mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually or socially.” Remember the boy scouts? Always be prepared!

 3.  Prepare to plan. It does take preparation to make a solid plan. Whether you’re a player, coach, or fan, you have certain sports stresses that can wreck havoc on your psyche. A player needs to create a plan to keep training regularly and intensely so he’s in top physical condition when duty calls again and the lockout is mere media history. A coach needs to stay on the cutting edge of play-calling and team motivation so he can be ready to take the helm once again. A fan needs to sharpen his fans skills; like what gourmet food to cook for proper tailgating, or perhaps measuring himself for his cheese head hat or foam finger.  Each night, make a list of the top five goals you want to accomplish the next day. Keep them focused, realistic, and task oriented.

 4. Let them eat well. Stress can cause you to binge on unhealthy snacks and foods, especially sugar. That causes a cycle of feeling guilty, then making more poor food choices, then walking an extra 10 feet to make up for it. When you’re under stress, fuel yourself well! A balanced nutritional plan can smooth rough paths by increasing your energy level and help you avoid mood slumps throughout the day. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and up your water intake. Try a one-day fast of your favorite unhealthy food, then increase it to two days, or a week – a short time is easier than saying, “I’ll never eat that food again.”

 5. Learn the lessons. You can either come away from a challenging situation bitter or better. You can choose to ignore the life lessons that are inevitably engrained in each challenging circumstance or you can turn your stress mess into a message – a message of encouragement and motivation. Write down at least two positive things that have come from your stressful situation. What wisdom have you gained from dealing with your stress? What lessons will you impart to others who cross your path with a load of stress on their back?

 Utilize the stress-busters above as your “get out of stress jail free” card. You’ll find stress has hit the road and that you’re happier and calmer and maybe even humming a new tune.

Image by Wokintime

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