The Football Manager's tool kit to beating stress

We receive a lot of health and wellbeing news stories and press releases in the Healthy Performance office every day.  Our favourite one this week is the news that the League Managers Association (LMA) have sent every manager in the Premiership and the Football League, a 120-page survival guide. The ‘survival booklet’ offers expert advice from clinical psychologists, cardiovascular specialists and even an addiction counsellor on how to handle the multiplying stresses and strains of their job.

Football management has become a game of high stakes and high pulse rates as you will see on nearly any edition of Match of the Day … think of Sam Allardyce and you’ll imagine an irate guy berating a referee; picture Nigel Pearson (if you dare!) and you’ll remember his recent episode of grappling an opposition player on the touchline and, who could ever forget Kevin Keegan’s famous interview meltdown live on Sky Sports?

The LMA have dug a little deeper underneath these episodes and revealed the intense pressure on those in the dugouts is such that of the first 54 managers to have a health check by the LMA, 44% had ‘significant cardiovascular and lifestyle-related health issues’.

With this worrying trend in mind, what advice does the booklet give to managers? And could the booklet be a useful guide for employees? The booklet kicks-off with some sage advice from US stress expert Jon Kabat-Zinn – ‘You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf.’  Some further highlights include,

Managers are advised not to slate referees, even after they have had a poor game, and focus only on things they can change.

If a manager receives a nasty text from a chairman, or is misquoted in the press, deep belly and chest breathing exercises are suggested.

Anxiety before big matches or demanding press conferences can also have a devastating impact. Some managers have turned to anti-depressants.  The booklet advises avoiding caffeine and alcohol, taking regular exercise and yoga or pilates to deal with the issue.

Meditation is recommended as a tool to improve wellbeing.  It urges managers to take time in their daily routines, such as cleaning their teeth, to improve mindfulness.

On diets, the guide suggests eating cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, soybeans, eggs and liver – foods rich in *acetylcholine and **choline.

There is a section on keeping a healthy heart, and the advice ranges from telling managers not to smoke and to watching their salt levels. Supplements are recommended such as essential oils, multivitamins and pomegranate juice along with super foods like kale, sweet potatoes and mackerel along with no less than seven portions of fruit a day.

Another relevant topic is sleep, and the booklet states that TVs should be left outside the bedroom and says that should bosses struggle to sleep, a bath and a relaxation CD before bed can help.

In summary, whilst it is hard to imagine a Louis Van Gaal, a ‘Big’ Sam Allardyce or a portly-Steve Bruce attempting a yoga position, this booklet is certainly a useful tool for bosses. It tackles dangerous issues that affect us all, regardless of our roles.  There are plenty of useful tips within the guide that many organisations could use to boost their own levels of employee health and wellbeing.

At Healthy Performance we’ve developed top class Management and Leadership programmes that inspire and encourage managers to achieve greater results, focus and commitment from themselves and their teams. Our programmes, delivered through short term impact workshops or longer term strategic projects, demonstrate exceptional skill, professionalism and credibility. Contact us today and our highly experienced team will be able to meet your expectations and business needs.

*Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that plays an essential role in the chemistry of your brain and the function of your nervous system.
**The more choline-rich foods you eat, the more acetylcholine your body can produce.