Wellbeing

Understanding Mental Health

PFA Charity 24/7/365 Confidential Counselling Helpline: 07500 000 777

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The quality of your mental health moves along a spectrum, and sometimes changes in how you feel are temporary. Quite often, you can take small steps to improve your wellbeing, and regular practice of these actions may be enough to help you maintain good mental health in the longer term.

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Check out our tips for overcoming common football-related worries.

Anxiety

Playing professional football is stressful, and many players still find it difficult to admit feeling anxious. We know it can be hard to talk about your fears, but asking for help is the best way to start overcoming anxiety.

Here are a few things you can try to manage anxiety:

  • Talking therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), are very effective for people with anxiety problems. You could even try online self-help CBT packages if you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone face to face.
  • Improving your lifestyle by reducing alcohol intake, keeping active, eating well and getting enough sleep can help you relax.
  • Confiding in someone you trust can help you let go of bottled-up emotions and switch your focus to the positive aspects of your life.

Stress

A small amount of stress can help push us to peak performance, but it’s unsustainable to work under high pressure for extended periods of time.

Too much stress can have far-reaching consequences for both your mental and physical health. Try some of these methods to help ease the tension:

  • Take regular breaks and give yourself time to breathe.
  • Create a simple relaxation routine to help you unwind.
  • Make a to-do list and tackle your tasks, one at a time.
  • Focus on problems you can fix, and take steps to resolve them.

Panic

The ever-changing environment of professional football can cause a lot of instability, and many players can quickly become overwhelmed. This can lead to feelings of panic, which can easily build and spiral.

While panic can be scary, you can learn to feel less fearful. Here are some proven techniques to help you cope:

  • Face your fear – Often you’ll find the situation isn’t as bad as you expected, and it can be a great way to learn how to manage your anxieties.
  • Track your triggers – Keep a record of what causes your panicked feelings so you can start to develop a coping strategy.  
  • Drink in moderation – Some people drink when they’re nervous, but alcohol can actually make you feel more afraid or anxious.
  • Try alternative therapies – Some people find complementary therapies helpful, like massage, mindfulness and herbal products. 
  • Tap into your faith – Practising religion or spirituality can help you feel connected and remain calm.

Anger

Keeping feelings like frustration, resentment and pain to yourself is unhealthy, as you risk compounding your issues until you reach boiling point and explode in anger.

This can be dangerous for your health, and impact others around you. Here’s how you can express your anger safely:

  • Take an anger-management or assertiveness course to help you learn how to control your anger and channel it into more positive action.
  • Maintain your workout routines to help release tension, improve your mood and boost your self-esteem. 
  • Monitor your alcohol intake to make sure you’re not numbing your emotions or engaging in behaviour you’ll later regret.
  • Pay attention to behaviour patterns to help you identify the root cause of your anger, and better understand your own responses.
  • Talk to someone you trust, like an understanding friend or a professional counsellor, to help you make sense of how you feel.

Depression

Depression is different to feeling sad, and unfortunately it isn’t something most people can manage on their own. If you’re having negative thoughts regularly, you might need professional help.

All the tips described above can also help with depression, but these are the two main ways that other people manage their symptoms:

  • Talking therapies such as counselling can help you tackle the origins of your depression and learn how to overcome it.
  • Medication such as anti-depressants can help you manage your feelings, and can be prescribed by your GP or club doctor.

First Points Of Contacts

If you are struggling, here are few support resources we recommend for any professional football player, past or present.

In the first instance, you should contact:

  • The PFA. You can call our 24/7 counselling helpline on 07500 000 777, email wellbeing@thepfa.co.uk or call the main office on 0161 236 0575.
  • The medical team at your club. Don’t bottle up how you feel, talk to your physiotherapist, club doctor or club chaplain.
  • Your doctor. The club doctor or your own GP can help, and may refer you to specialist support from other organisations.
Wellbeing

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Can the PFA help even though I’m no longer playing football?

Yes. Our wellbeing services are available for all current and former professional footballers. We support the person behind the player, for football and for life.

I feel alone. Will you really be able to help me?

You are not alone. Our team have all overcome their own challenges and can relate to how you’re feeling. Your wellbeing is our number one priority and we will do all that we can to support you. Please call our 24/7 helpline 07500 000 777 so we can help.