I work in education and we run workshops at the end of every semester entitled “Coping with End-of-Semester Stress.” I thought, because tension seems high lately, that the community could do with some strategies to curb anxiety. While I could just do a top-ten list of ways to get blackout drunk, I just might have to save that one for the very end of the season.
It might seem to some that Villa will be written out of the Premier League after twenty-five seasons afloat. Those people (if you’re nodding, you’re one of them) have given up hope; they think, there’s no way Villa will survive. Benteke will be sold. Maybe Weimann and Lowton, too. They’re fixated on the drop; they dream in numbers: 24, 24, 31, 34, 37, 37, 37. They have made Voodoo dolls of Paul Lambert, and are determined to kick Randy Lerner in the shins if they ever see him. Is this angst all for nothing? Well, no; no one wants to see their club do poorly, let alone drop from the Premier League. Still, too much stress is not going to be beneficial; furthermore, magical thinking is not real. For example: Well I can’t watch the match/wear polka-dot socks/drink three beers/spin in circles/scratch my… nose, because last time I did that, United used Villa as their personal piñata for 90 minutes.
But, back to stress.
According to studies, excess amounts of stress can reduce gray matter in regions tied to emotion and physiological functions, potentially causing psychiatric problems. It also increases your risk for chronic diseases, raises stroke and heart attack risk, and repels others away from you. (Whose stress levels went up just by reading that?) When it comes to stress, it’s important to be like Teflon: let it slide. But, Kristina, you’re saying in your best Matt Turvey voice, aren’t you a walking ball of anxiety? And aren’t you the one who had a near-meltdown at the mere sight of Gerard Piqué’s shaved head? Well – yes. So let’s all learn techniques to avoid breaking our television sets with our fists.
It’s easy enough to tell others to exercise in order to release endorphins; to eat good brain-foods, like blueberries, almonds, and dark chocolate. To swap alcohol for green tea and water. Even more simple is telling someone to “relax.” If you’ve been on the receiving end of “Everything is fine, just relax” then you’ve probably had the urge to punch that particular someone in the face. With a hammer.
So let’s just say, for example, that we let Sunderland slip by us and score a goal.
Take a deep breath. Breathing deeply can release endorphins in your body, making you feel more at ease. Let it out, and scream your head off. Letting out the emotion, as opposed to having it well up, is far better for you. Just have courtesy if others are around. When I’m particularly stressed, I pet my dog to cool down; he’s always by my side when I watch football matches, and has seen the worst of me: shouting, cursing, or crying.
Post-match, if things haven’t gone our way, you might want to try one of these activities instead of hitting the bottle:
- Crack open a book. Research found that this method works better – and faster – than listening to music, going for a walk, or drinking a cup of tea. Six minutes of silent reading is enough to slow down the heart rate and ease tension in the muscles.
- Make art. Even if it’s just coloring a line drawing, it’ll work to calm you down by bringing your focus elsewhere.
- Buy something. This is one of my favorite things to do, but also one of the most hazardous, as my poor wallet suffers. Sometimes I get so aggravated that I’ll give myself a $50 limit and run to Sephora. Even if I don’t end up purchasing anything (which is rare), the browsing alone serves to make me calm.
- Hug it out. At the risk of sounding incredibly girly, I’ll ask the people I love to give me hugs when I’m frazzled. This is even better when the hug comes from a romantic partner, because it can lead to an even better way to expel stress.
If you try these methods and they fail, I’ll meet you at the bar. Hopefully, though, we’ll manage to stay up. In the meantime, I urge you – Frems of the world – to take a really deep breath and try to not let the anxiety get the best of you.