As any top performer can tell you, stress is a make or break mental game of football. While biology may have written the playbook, you can still score if you know how to quarterback the calls in your head.
That may sound like a bit of a stretch to make an analogy, but it’s a little more apt than you may realize at first blush. Consider the words of the late comedian and commentator George Carlin on Baseball and Football (where baseball is life and football is your career).
“Baseball is a nineteenth-century pastoral game. Football is a twentieth-century technological struggle.” And that sounds like the work-life balance thing. But more specifically he went on in more detail. “In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy’s defensive line. In baseball, the object is to go home! And to be safe! I hope I’ll be safe at home!” Look, stress is a thing. Stress is a thing we try to ignore, not admit to, hope will go away. Guess what? It won’t. Sorry to break it to you. Stress does everything bad from raising blood pressure to grey hair to saying dumb, dishonest things like “It’s not you, it’s me.” And, arguably, it’s behind every test pilot who ever said, “I got this.”
Manage both fatigue and inertia
Stress can be your body’s way of giving a soulful cry for help. Do you sit at your desk for hours on end, feeling the stress building up? Know when to stand up and move around a little. Walk away from your desk for a few and when you come back you’ll probably realize some of that stress has diminished. Better yet, try to get regular exercise, even if it’s just taking a walk during your lunch break. By the same token, do you get enough sleep? Be honest with yourself on this one. Almost none of us do. If you’re tired during the day, the extra effort to focus and deliver can be a great source of stress and anxiety within your own body. Try getting to bed earlier for a few nights and see how you feel at work. It’s an easy experiment and you get to sleep through it.
Managing your fatigue and inertia are two positive changes that are within reach and naturally reduce your susceptibility to anxiety.
Unhealthy coping mechanisms
Identify any unhealthy coping mechanisms you use and get them under control. Keep careful track of your behaviors during and after stressful situations. And be on the lookout for dangerous ones.
Are you taking your stress out on other people? Conversely, are you withdrawing from the happy things in your life like friends, family and activities?
Are you overcommitting yourself to avoid the time to deal with problems?
Are you eating your emotions? Watch out for relying on junk or comfort foods to feel better. Stress eating can contribute to obesity which, in turn, can lead to fully-baked anxiety disorders.
Are you oversleeping, procrastinating, or zoning out to escape?
Are you self-medicating–smoking, drinking, taking pills?
This is the most honest self-assessment you need to take. These behaviors provide no relief from stress. Rather, these behaviors cause more stress to ultimately accumulate on you.
It’s easy to get swept up in the business of doing life and forgetting to live it. All work and no play makes Jack a bundle of nerves. Carve out time for yourself every day to do things that you choose to do, not things that got assigned to you. Play a board game or a musical instrument. Have a conversation with someone that makes you happy. Whatever it is, do something enjoyable every day.
While you’re at it be sure to include time to relax and just “be”. Keep your sense of humor. Laughter releases stress and helps fight off new stressors.
Stress can be a powerful isolator, leaving us incapable of expressing our experience to the very people best equipped to bring relief. Connecting with family and friends regularly and in person helps break down the walls of isolation caused by anxiety.
Even if the people you choose to vent to have no influence over the cause of your stress, simply getting it off your chest brings relief and provides a healthy reset before you return to the source. It also helps to release stress reducing hormones in your body. Friends and family are good for you in a very stressful world. So, don’t be a stranger.
Accept and adapt
It’s also helpful to look at the stressors you can’t avoid and adapt your behavior to reduce the anxiety they cause.
If your work load seems impossible, assess your work patterns to be sure you’re managing your time well. It could be that you’re getting in the way of yourself. If the commute drives you crazy, accept that you can’t make it go away. Give yourself the time it takes and use it in a pleasurable way–your favorite music, an audio book, or maybe carpool with someone you enjoy being with.
Recognizing those things that are unavoidable and predictable, and taking the steps to adapt to them, can reserve your energy for those times you get blindsided. Then you can better read the other players and make more effective decisions.
Stick to the play or call an audible? Be the best Quarterback you can be.
Contact Jamie to find out more about peak performance, developing a superior mindset and improving your top line.