Hello, and welcome to another edition of “lady who is a therapist and also a coach’s wife.” I want to talk about in-season anxiety. And, I want to give you some practical tips for how to manage it.
I am not typically someone who struggles with anxiety. However, during football season I can have real difficulty.
It wasn’t that bad early in his career. But, several years ago we went through a couple of tough seasons and were (ahem) “not rehired.” That event took a toll on me I never would have anticipated.
Now, I have to be very intentional about managing fear and anxiety during the season – even if the season is going well.
If you are one of the many, many wives who struggle to cope during the season, here are some of my best suggestions.
Tips for Managing In-Season Anxiety
- Set Boundaries: Depending on the intensity of your feelings, you may be able to go to games – or not. Listen on the radio, or check the score after. Be a part of the booster program or send support from afar. There is no perfect way to manage this life, there’s only the best way for your family. Figure out what works best for your “home team.”
- Break the Tough Stuff into Smaller Chunks: Anxiety is our body’s response to perceived danger. In an effort to protect us, sometimes our brains go running way ahead, trying to anticipate anything that could go wrong. We have to help our brains “stay present” so they don’t get overwhelmed. We need to consider our “window of tolerance” as the incredible Aundi Kolber puts it. If all you can manage is thinking about next week’s game rather than the whole season, stop there. Or just stay present for the first half, first quarter, or (like I did this week) “I just need to see how this next play goes.” For a fuller explanation of Aundi’s approach, see link here. Her work is phenomenal.
- Avoid Triggers: There is no special prize for the wife who reads every comment on social media, faces up to every bleacher coach or plants herself in the center of the rowdiest part of the stands. If you can do that, have at it! However, for many of us, our hearts are too tender for that. Determine what parts of the season can be most painful and put some safeguards in place. Most Friday nights I am very quiet, very far away from the crowd and I stay away from social media for several days after each game. This routine seems to give me the strength I need for the next week.
- Use Creature Comforts: Children aren’t the only ones who benefit from tactile comforts and transition objects. Our bodies are soothed by those things that physically ground us in the moment. Wear things that make you feel good. Enjoy your treats and favorite warm drink. Carry something in your pocket that connects you to the precious man you married. Manage the weather variations in the most comfortable way you can. We struggle enough to stay calm without our bodies being uncomfortable as well. Indulge in self-care at these times.
- Breathe: Here’s some science. Tuning into your breath has always been a tried and true centering/calming exercise. However, when you breathe out a little longer than you breathe in, your brain receives a signal that it can relax, it is safe. More details on how this all works here but even a few minutes focused on this can be helpful.
- Meditative Prayer: Sometimes I am able to pray about specifics, but if I’m in an especially fearful spot focusing on those specifics seems to feed the anxiety. I spent a good portion of last season simply repeating “The Lord’s Prayer”. It was a comfort knowing that I was communicating with God by simply saying, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” Meditative practices have a long history of being helpful for anxiety and staying present.
- Prayer Warriors: I’m doing better this year, but last year I was so fearful I knew I needed backup. I enlisted four women I love dearly and put them on a group text. Each Friday I let them know how I was doing and they faithfully prayed me through that season. Just knowing I was not alone in it was a great help.
Okay girls, there’s my best stuff. For those of you who don’t struggle with in-season anxiety, this may seem way over the top. But, for those who know this experience with me, I am hopeful it will be helpful. Sports seasons are hard enough without feeling like you don’t have what you need to cope. May you be blessed with peace this season – and a few wins as the cherry on top.