Worry. That small word carries so much weight for someone with an anxiety disorder. Studies show that 1 in 5 adults, or nearly 40 million Americans, live with anxiety and that women are more than twice as likely as men to be diagnosed. Ask any of these women and we will tell you that anxiety is not the same as worry. It is much, much more than that.
Anxiety stems from genetics, hormonal changes, and/or trauma and comes in different forms and varying degrees of severity. It looks different in every person and, based on its origination, is triggered by different stimuli. Anxiety, left untreated, can lead to panic attacks, muscle tension, trouble sleeping, digestive issues, feelings of impending doom, unreal fear, depression, and even thoughts of suicide.
I don’t want to give the wrong impression. The coaching life didn’t bring on my anxiety. Trauma-related anxiety is something that I have battled since I was about 13 years old. However, the coaching lifestyle underscores some triggering emotions & situations for me and required me to learn to deal with my anxiety in a different way than others. I have had to learn to take power over my thoughts and emotions or at least put up my best fight.
The anxiety that I live with increases my need to feel in control of the details of my life and, as we all know, that is next to impossible as a coaching family. The intricacies of the coaching life stir up thoughts that people outside of this profession may not understand. Sometimes my thoughts run wild with things that I know are unlikely and even irrational.
Sometimes I think...
- Practice has been over a while. Coach usually texts me by now and he hasn’t so something must be wrong. Was practice horrible? Did he pass out from heat & exhaustion? Did he have to drive somewhere & get into a wreck?
- His phone is constantly going off. Who is texting him like this? What can they possibly need from him? Is he really even talking to coaches or players or is there something else going on?
- He is hardly ever home and when he is here he is exhausted. Are the kids getting enough time with him?
- Is this lifestyle negatively impacting our marriage? Can we really survive coaching life long term?
- Our record isn’t great. His position group had lots of mistakes last week. Is his job on the line?
In the heat of the moment, these worries are very real and, if I allow them to continue, they can overrun my thinking and spill over into my emotions and even impede my basic functions.
These thoughts and others float in and out of my head constantly, which I know can be detrimental to my mental health.
Managing my anxiety as a coach’s wife is something I choose to tackle every day. To do this, I had to take a look at myself and determine some basic elements of my anxiety disorder. I needed to identify the things causing my thoughts to run wild.
I worked to understand:
- When is worry triggered?
- What makes me feel more secure?
- And how can I communicate my thoughts and feelings with my coach?
Apart from the positive physical effects, running, stretching, yoga, or just going for a walk around the neighborhood give me the mental space to think clearly. I generally feel better after a workout of some sort but sometimes, the worry is so thick it gets difficult to see a way out. Those days are tough. On these tough days, I tend to journal. I stop whatever is going on and force myself to make time to journal.
For me, journaling is where I can empty those worries out of my head and body. It is a private place where I can write out all the irrational thoughts and far-fetched concerns that swirl around in my head. It feels like I’m mentally taking out the garbage with each page I fill. I always make sure to end my journaling time with positive thoughts by reminding myself to find the good around me.
For me, finding the positive in every situation helps the negativity dissipate and allows me to focus on the good instead of the dreary and worrisome. Sometimes that good is hard to see. And sometimes it is as small as “I had a great hair day today”, or “Coach got home 30 minutes early this evening”, sometimes the little positives thoughts are all it takes to shake the worry away. A win is a win.
Therapy, communication, transparency with Coach, and showing myself grace have helped me learn how to manage my anxiety disorder in the midst of living the Coach’s Wife Life. It’s a grind every day that I gladly take on so I can be available and whole for myself and those that I love.
If you believe you may be dealing with anxiety please know you are not alone. Today, on World Mental Health Awareness Day we want to encourage all coaches' wives to remember that no one needs to face anxiety alone.