Wellbeing and Mental Health in Football

Football can be a very lonely place with pressure to perform from within the club, the media, fans and family and friends. We are hearing of more and more footballers suffering with feelings of depression, anxiety, panic and thoughts of suicide.


Anxiety is a type of fear usually associated with the thought of a threat or something going wrong in the future, but can also arise from something happening right now.

Around 1 in 6 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem like anxiety each year, which has steadily increased over the past 20 years. It is also likely that individuals do not seek help for significant levels of anxiety, meaning many remain without diagnosis or treatment.

Signs and Symptoms

Life is full of potential stressful events and it is normal to feel anxious about everyday things. There can be a single trigger or event that raises anxiety levels, but generally it’s be a number of things that increase anxiety levels, including exams, work deadlines, how we think we look, going on a first date or whether we feel safe travelling home late at night.

Anxiety has a strong effect on us because it’s one of our natural survival responses. It causes our mind and body to speed up to prepare us to respond to an emergency.

These are some of the physical things that might happen:

Rapid and / or irregular heartbeat
Fast breathing
Weakened / tense muscles
Churning stomach / loose bowels
Dry mouth
Anxiety also has a psychological impact, which can include:

Trouble sleeping
Lack of concentration
Feeling irritable
Feeling depressed
Loss of self-confidence
It can be hard to break this cycle, but you can learn to feel less worried and to cope with your anxiety so it doesn’t stop you enjoying life.

Causes of anxiety

Feelings of anxiety can be caused by lots of things and vary according to what you’re worried about and how you act when you feel apprehensive. They depend on lots of things such as:

how you were brought up
what’s happened to you in your life
the way you learn and cope with things.
Just knowing what makes you anxious and why can be the first steps to managing anxiety.

Getting help for anxiety

Fear and anxiety can affect all of us every now and then. Most people get through passing moments of anxiety with no lasting effect. People experiencing anxiety in their everyday lives often find the personal resources to cope through simple remedies.

Helping yourself

Talking it through: Although it can be difficult to open up about feeling anxious, it can be helpful to talk to friends, family or someone who has had a similar experience. Although you might feel embarrassed or afraid to discuss your feelings with others, sharing can be a way to cope with a problem and being listened to can help you feel supported.

Face your fear: By breaking the cycle of constantly avoiding situations that make you anxious, you are less likely to stop doing the things you want, or need, to do. The chances are the reality of the situation won’t be as bad as you expect, making you better equipped to manage, and reduce, your anxiety.

Know yourself: Make a note of when you feel anxious, what happens and the potential triggers. By acknowledging these and arming yourself with tips to deal with these triggers, you will be better prepared in anxiety-inducing situations.

Relax: Learning relaxation techniques can help you calm feelings of anxiety. Practices like yoga, meditation or massage will relax your breathing and help you manage the way you feel about stressful experiences.

Exercise: Even small increases in physical activity levels can trigger brain chemicals that improve your mood, wellbeing and stress levels. This can act as a prevention and treatment for anxiety as well as lead to improved body-image, self-esteem and self-worth.

Healthy eating: Eat lots of fruit and vegetables and try to avoid too much sugar. Very sweet foods cause an initial sugar ‘rush,’ followed by a sharp dip in blood sugar levels which can give you anxious feelings. Caffeine can also increase anxiety levels so try to avoid drinking too much tea or coffee too.

Avoid alcohol or drink in moderation: It’s very common for people to drink alcohol when they feel nervous to numb their anxiety, however the effect that alcohol has on how you feel is only temporary. When it wears off you feel worse, potentially more anxious, and your brain will be less able to deal with anxiety naturally.

Talking to someone

If you feel anxious all the time, for several weeks or if it feels like your anxiety is taking over your life, then it’s a good idea to ask for help

Talking therapies like counselling or CBT are very effective for people with anxiety problems, CBT helps people to understand the link between negative thoughts and mood and how altering their behaviour can enable them to manage anxiety and feel in control.

Mindfullness is a variation of CBT focusing on changing the relationship between the individual and their thoughts. Using meditation can help people be ‘mindful’ of their thoughts and break out a pattern of negative thinking.

Distorted thinking

We all have distorted thinking in one way or another. I know I certainly have. We are human! However, it can sometimes lead to stress and anxiety and we can become overwhelmed by negative thinking. We can challenge those thoughts and distortions once we become aware that we are doing it. Have a look at the list and next time you find yourself thinking this way, just catch that thought and challenge it. Ask how appropriate it is, Is there enough evidence to make that thought completely true? By keep challenging these thoughts, we can decrease the power of them and actually start to embrace the positives in the situation.

Benefits of Counselling

People usually listen to us with the intention of answering and putting their opinion forward. In counselling, we listen with the intention of understanding and seeing the world through your window. Counselling can ensure that you feel heard, give you a space to think and talk about your emotional issues. It’s a place where you can completely be yourself without being judged. Counselling can help you find the source of your problems and the courage and strength to face them. Counselling is about having somebody there, walking beside you on your journey.

What is Person Centred Therapy

Person centred therapy is a talking therapy. It’s not about giving advice but rather about giving you a safe place to explore your feelings and bring about autonomy. The therapy uses three core conditions, empathy-to view the world through the clients eyes, congruence-to be completely honest with the client and Unconditional positive regard-to be completely accepting of the client. This approach has both client and counsellor as equal partners in the therapeutic relationship. The Counsellor is not the expert on how the client feels . The client has all the answers inside of them and is responsible for their own experiences. The Counsellor is there to listen and enable the client to bring about change that is right for them. The organismic self of a person is overridden by the self concept with our true needs being ignored and pushed away. Think about the organismic self of a baby crying to have it’s needs met. If the mother doesn’t attend to the baby’s needs, then it’s self concept takes over as it starts to believe that crying is wrong and it is a bad person for wanting it’s needs met. This goes on all through our lives and the self concept eventually gains control and our organismic self is pushed further into the background until it isn’t heard at all. Person centred therapy is about listening to the organismic self and giving it back that control.

Crying is not a sign of weakness

Many people see crying as a sign of weakness and men in particular (although not exclusively) are brought up with the stigma of big boys don’t cry and men shouldn’t show their emotions. Much of this again goes back to parenting and the generations of beliefs that have been passed down to us and how society itself tries to avoid emotions and places men and women in certain boxes. As a child, if you fell and hurt your knee, you may think crying is weak if you were told to not be a baby and be a big boy/girl, brush it off. This may also have the effect of teaching you that your feelings and your pain are not important, so you should just push it all away and get on with things. Some may even have been punished for showing emotion. “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry for!”. Crying is not a sign of weakness, it just shows we have emotion. It alerts us that something is wrong and needs addressing, like a survival mechanism, a warning. It’s also the release of anxiety and stress hormones. Crying is beneficial and it’s a normal part of being a human being. People who are able to express their emotions and have a good cry are reported as having better psychological outcomes than those who suppress it. Many men (again not exclusively) are brought up to believe that the only emotion that is acceptable is anger. This restriction of their emotional range can have a very negative effect on their psychological well being and can lead to depression, anxiety related disorders and addiction. So, if you feel the need to cry, go ahead and cry. You’re a human being with emotions and it’s ok to express them

Wellbeing and Mental Health in Football

Football can be a very lonely place with pressure to perform from within the club, the media, fans and family and friends. …


Anxiety is a type of fear usually associated with the thought of a threat or something going wrong in the future, but can …

Distorted thinking

We all have distorted thinking in one way or another. I know I certainly have. We are human! However, it can sometimes lead …