Most of us are aware that physical activity and regular exercise are great ways to reduce stress. The release of endorphins alone is enough to create better moods, and the physical exertion can offer better rest at night, lower blood pressure, and better overall wellness.
However, the benefits of working out with and contributing to a sports team in your community can offer even more if you are seeking relief from life’s pressures, such as a sense of community and a chance to make a difference. If you are considering starting an exercise routine for the sake of alleviating stress, you may wish to consider the following tips on how to use recreational team sports to ease depression and anxiety symptoms.
Tip #1: Realize your natural skills and enhance them, rather than competing without prior training or talent recognition. If you’re a strong swimmer, join a recreational swim team. If you’ve got a killer arm, join a softball team. Go ahead and show off your already developed skills if your goal is to ease depression symptoms. Focusing on creating new skills may be best left for another time, as the process can be daunting in competitive situations.
Tip #2: Find a team that isn’t hyper-competitive. If you want to decrease anxiety, find a community sports team to join that is more focused on fun than on being fierce. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to win, being in a high-pressure environment will do nothing to reduce stress if you aren’t a serious athlete.
Tip #3: Focus more on enjoyment than perfecting your athletic prowess. Once you’ve found a more laid back team to join, focus your sights on having fun. Laughing and enjoying yourself are essential to fighting depression and anxiety symptoms, but you can only do so in recreational sports if you are willing to take yourself a little less seriously. Rather than treating yourself as if a scout were watching, gain a bit of perspective and relax.
Tip #4: Learn to sound out negative fan responses. They’re normal, and they aren’t meant to be taken personally, no matter how vitriolic they sound. Just because you’re there to have fun and decrease your stress doesn’t mean the fans are. Some people will be so intensely involved from the sidelines that they feel inclined, for whatever reason, to make personal attacks on active participants. There’s no making sense of it, so don’t trouble yourself. No matter what you do, you’ll be susceptible to negative feedback as a recreational sports player. It will likely be very limited, so take it with a grain of salt if it does happen every so often.
Tip #5: Join a team you can socialize with in order to gain the benefits of the community. Having a sense of comradery with your teammates is an essential part of defeating depression symptoms with recreational sports. As such, be sure to select a team that you will get along with on and off the field.
Tip #6: Invest in yourself. Purchase the correct gear, clothing, tools, etc., to make the experience more fulfilling and to increase your self-esteem. Showing up to practice in your baggy gym attire from high school will do nothing to help you feel better about yourself. Athletic stores specialize in attractive clothing and gear for every interest, so take advantage of what they have to offer.
Tip #7: Work hard and give endorphins a chance to kick in. Taking part in team sports isn’t comparable to running on a treadmill for an hour. There are plenty of starts and stops, as well as unscheduled interruptions. Because practices typically last a few hours, physical activity is spread throughout. As such, in order to take advantage of the endorphin release that is concurrent with 40-60 minutes of concentrated exercise you’ll need to put in a solid effort at all times. Not only will the endorphins fend off depression and anxiety symptoms, but you’ll also feel a rush from contributing more to your team.