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Sadness for Sports Fanatics

The first time a client came into my office, explaining that he was feeling depressed after his favorite hockey team had lost a championship game, I thought he was either exaggerating, or being sarcastic. But he was serious, and over the course of the hour he explained his feelings of loss, despair, irritability, anger, and his inability to focus at work (all common symptoms of depression). I thought, what a rare and unusual case!

Not long after the session, I was taking with another clinician at the practice, and she was telling me how she was having the same depression symptoms–in response to the same game!

It turns out that experiencing the blues after a sports-related defeat is a common experience for sports enthusiasts, and for some the symptoms can be shockingly painful.

Are you feeling down after a sports-related loss? Here are 4 strategies for beating those blues:

1. Take a Step Back

The networks do a great job before a game, especially a championship game, to make it sound like the most important thing that has ever happened in the history of mankind. Of course, they never say “and remember, it’s just a game.”

This, in combination with the fact that you’re a huge fan of your team, makes the situation a very emotionally charged event. There’s the thing: when something is emotionally charged, it looks and feels a lot bigger that it really is. Yes, your team lost–and that sucks. But 99.9% of the things in your life are unaffected and unchanged. Taking a step back will give you a broader perspective to put this loss in it’s rightful place (a place that won’t ruin your week).

Tip: list things in your life that aren’t related to the sports team, specifically things that are going well. For the moment, ignore any areas that aren’t going great (If you’re feeling depressed, you’ll have a tendency to focus on things that are not going well. Fight this!)

List things that bring you happiness. Examples: where you live, the season of the year, your favorite movie, your friends, your family, your health, things you like to do, your job, even OTHER sports teams that you’re crazy about (isn’t there a new season starting soon)?

As you ‘take a step back’ you’ll begin to see that the sports event is a small part of your life’s big picture, and it shouldn’t have any power over how you feel.

2. Stay Social

People who are feeling down or depressed have a tendency to isolate themselves. Also, if the sports season is over, you might be lacking that scheduled time to get together with friends to hang out and watch the game.

Social withdrawal only makes one’s mood worse. So make an effort to keep your social life strong, even if you don’t think you’re feeling up for it.

3. Fill The Void

If you’re a die hard fan and the season is finished, you’re going to notice a post-season void. Fill the mental and emotional space with something else. Find something else you’ll enjoy; some project, hobby, group, or event to get involved in.

  • Plan a ski trip.
  • Join a dart league.
  • Start watching another sport

It doesn’t matter. Just do something!

4. Talk About It

Talking about your sports-fan blues with a friend will help you to process the disappointment that you’re feeling. Commiserate with other fans who are having some of the same feelings. It can help just to know that people care (and they do), and to be reminded that you’re not alone.

Pretty soon you’ll be talking less about the loss, and more about what your team’s going to do next year (they’re going to crush it, of course!).

5. Wait it Out

“Sports Fan Depression” is probably better described as the “Sports Fan Blues.” While the symptoms can match those of depression, and while they can be surprisingly painful and disruptive, they generally have a short ‘half life.’ In most cases, you’ll be feeling better in a few days (to be diagnosed with something like Major Depressive Disorder the symptoms would need to me more longstanding–at least 2 weeks). That said, if it’s been a few days and you’re not feeling better, or if your symptoms are so severe that they’re effecting your sleep, work, or relationships, you might want to consider meeting with a healthcare professional like a professional counselor.

Being Part of a Tribe

Being loyal to a sports team is part of being a member of a tribe. That might be a city you’re from, or a university or college you attended, or perhaps you inherited a team–a lot of people are fans of a team simply because their father was a fan, or their grandmother was a fan.

Why do people stick with a team that loses?

The Red Sox went 86 years without getting to a World Series. People lived their entire lives and didn’t see a victory. But, if you’re in Boston, what are you going to do? Forsake the Sox and Become a New York Yankees fan? No way! While Benedict Arnold would change sides, you never know what’s going to happen. It seems that every year at least one team that’s favored does awful, and a team with low expectations has a record-breaking season. You never know what’s going to happen; so stick with your team 🙂

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