How Fantasy Football Deepened My Relaxation Practice

September 2019

I recently took the dive into the Fantasy Football world.  Having become an avid football fan in recent years, and especially loving game days with my son, Jamie, I found myself being drawn into the excitement and frenzy of Fantasy Football (FF).  Jamie is a spirited FF participant, winning several leagues in the past few years, and drawing me in with his impassioned outbursts (sometimes expletive-ridden) as we gather on any given Sunday to watch our games. 

 

I noticed that Jamie’s enthusiasm was infectious, and soon I was rooting for his fictitious team and following players across the NFL.  My allegiance to my home team (Go Pats.  Sorry, don’t hate me), expanded to an appreciation for other teams and individual players.  My once a week Pats game morphed into tuning in for Monday nights, Thursday nights, and Sunday marathons of football viewing.  Not religiously and obsessively, but I certainly found myself clicking over to the games more often than not. 

 

So when Jamie informed me that he and his Dunoyer cousins were starting a Fantasy Football League of their own, “The Doon Squad,” I jumped in.  We’ve got Looney Doons, Legion of the Doon, Doonsday, Doon Shakalaka, Mount Doon, the Big Kadoona Burger, Here Comes the Doon, and me…. Mama Doon.  My first indication of just how animated my own FF firieness would become was on “draft night.”  We were all gathered in a Google Hangout, and I loved seeing my 5 Dunoyer nephews and brother-in-law, Francois, as we waited for the draft to begin.  And then the draft started.  Jamie was totally revved up, as he got the first pick and scooped up Saquon Barkley.  From there the serpentine picks rattled on, and not 30 minutes later, we were done.  I took a deep breath, was actually pretty happy with “my team,” debriefed with Jamie and was all in.  

Fast forward to the season.  I am now becoming fully schooled in the whole Fantasy Football thing.  I had no idea…  Podcasts, TV shows, numerous online articles, apps… you name it…. all devoted to Fantasy Football.  The weekly match ups.  The waiver wire.  Tuesday drop/add day.  Thursday, Sunday, Monday games.  But it is exciting.  And I am loving it. 

And then comes week 2, game day, Sunday, September 15th.  I’m preparing food and super excited to have Jamie and his friend, Anthony, coming over for the day. Red Zone is set up.  The potato and leek galette is in the oven, biscotti cooling, drinks ready, my healthy energy cookies on deck.  Anthony brings two outstanding bottles of Beaujolais.   We settle in, contemplating who we are playing, who is on the bench.

Bam!  The games start.  First of all, watching Red Zone is like an exercise of brain gymnastics, but I am getting the hang of it.  My phone dings from time to time, as my FF players score points for me.  Phone, Red Zone, Patriots game.  Bing, bang, bong, back and forth.  And I begin to notice something.  I am so amped up. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. But I realize that I’ve been in overdrive the entire day, anticipating the excitement of my first season of FF.  I think of this as “eustress.”  My nervous system activates and pours out adrenaline, responding to my excitement and the buzz of energy in my living room.  Jamie and Anthony, although clearly animated, appear quite chill underneath their enthusiasm.  I don’t think their nervous systems were spitting out adrenaline at all.  They are veterans of FF. 

But I am not.  By the end of the day, and before the evening games—yes, more games—I am still enraptured, but exhausted.  Granted, I live with a body that even on a good day is short on energy, but my brain is spinning and I know that it is time to lie the heck down, and turn off all devices, screens, TV.  So I do. 

Monday morning.  I decide to turn on one of the FF podcasts.  I’m psyched about learning the ins and outs, post Sunday games.  Not 2 minutes into the podcast I have to turn it off.  The blaring music and bellowing, over zealous commentators rev me right up again.  My morning routine tends to be meditative and a slow gearing up for whatever is on tap for the day.  And then it hits me.  If I am going to do FF, I have to up my relaxation game!  I can do that.  No problem.  I have been honing and practicing relaxation for years now.  In my daily life, whenever I find myself rushing and getting caught up in my head, not my body, it’s my signal to breathe, release tension, and ground into the earth.  God knows I am far from perfect at this practice.  But what becomes apparent to me on this particular Monday morning is that FF is another opportunity for me to deepen my relaxation practices.  I’ve been a long-term daily meditator.  But I also have a practice of integrating relaxation into my every day life.  And I’ve been sharing this with clients, friends, and family for years.  Not everyone has the inclination or time to meditate – but don’t get me started on the time issue; people who cannot find 10 minutes a day to quiet their minds need it the most.  Some folks don’t like sitting still in meditation.  There are many moving meditation practices, such as yoga, tai chi, mindful walking or running, etc.  But I am referring to not just the 10 or 20 minutes of any type of meditation a person may practice—moving or not—but the small things we can all do to inject relaxation into our day, throughout our days.  This way rather than continually pouring out stress hormones into our bodies—which is so easy to do in the frazzled, disjointed, sometimes terrifying world we live in—we activate the relaxation part of the nervous system, over and over, throughout the day.  Soon, you can retrain your body to live more fully in a relaxed state, rather than an exhausting, depleting, blood pressure elevating, potentially illness-inducing stressed state.  Don’t marinate in stress hormones.  Sink into relaxation, just for a few minutes here and there throughout the day, and watch how your body responds with a big exhalation of relief. 

This is what Fantasy Football did for me.  It reminded me to pull out my list of “how to incorporate relaxation into my daily life” and use it on game day Sunday and beyond.   Life is always talking to us, guiding us, nudging us along our way.  It’s our responsibility to listen.  Easier said than done.  What are your triggers?  When are you activated and in total stress mode?  What revs you up, and gets you going?  Your body is talking to you.  And it won’t steer you wrong.

Below is my list of ways to incorporate relaxation into your every day life.  Pick a few.  Give them a try.  Share them with friends and family.  Sometimes it’s easier to adapt new practices or habits with a friend or partner.  Find what works for you in your life.  Training the body to be in a relaxed mode, even if you lead an incredibly stressful life, is possible.  And here’s the secret sauce, you will find more joy and contentment than imaginable when you do so. 

Lastly, if you happen to come across a “Zen Fantasy Football Podcast,” please give me a shout.  That’s the one I am looking for. 

green squigly line

Incorporating Relaxation into Everyday Life

Practice “abdominal breathing”– 3 to 5 minutes once or twice a day.

Download a free app, such as Insight Timer, to explore meditations, or to track your progress of daily relaxations. 

Take 10 deep breaths when you wake up in the morning before you get out of bed. Spend a few minutes in that luxurious state in between being fully awake and in a sleep state. In this relaxed space, focus on what brings you joy, and imagine filling yourself up with brilliant, loving, radiant light.

Take 3 deep breaths before eating meals. Focus on having gratitude for the food you are about to eat: where it came from, for those who grew it and brought it to you; for the sun for giving it sustenance and life; and for yourself or whomever prepared the food. Remember to eat mindfully, and chew well (digestion starts in the mouth).

When needing to go inward or to find an answer: Place one hand on your belly and one hand over your heart, breathe deeply, invite the mind to soften, listen for inner wisdom. Often our soul speaks to us from this space, sometimes in a quiet whisper, sometimes with an image, sometimes later as we go about our day. The key is to soften the “monkey mind” and drop into the heart, your intuition, your inner GPS system.

Journal- put pen to paper and do a “brain dump” of what needs to be sorted or let out of your conscious (or subconscious) mind. Journal your wishes, intentions, and desires. Just start writing, and whatever comes, comes.

Be kind to yourself, always. Treat yourself as you would a child, a cherished friend, or a beloved pet. (Sometimes we treat our 4-leggeds better than ourselves). Life is a journey, not a race. Remember the tenet: progress over perfection.

Slow down. We are a culture of multi-tasking, fast-paced humans. Even when you are moving at a quick pace, try to focus on the task at hand.  Remember to breathe. One thing at a time…

Do at least one thing, even if it is small, for yourself, each and every day.

Take a nature break. Walk outside, breathe the fresh air, look up at the sky, buy a few plants for indoor spaces. Nature has a unique way of inducing relaxation, when we tune into her.

Move your body, turn on some music, dance! This sends feel-good endorphins coursing throughout your body, and filling you with bubbly joy.

Conversely, if meditative or slow moving music, of any kind, is your thing, listen to your favorites and sink into the calm.

Unhook from technology. I know this is a hard one. But begin to notice how often you turn to your phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. Can you decrease the amount, even just a bit, throughout your day and evening? Try a social media fast, or putting away screens for an hour before bed and for 20 minutes after first awakening in the morning. The news and blaring world of technology can wait, as you set your nervous system into a relaxed state.

Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.

– Sonia Ricotti

2 thoughts on “How Fantasy Football Deepened My Relaxation Practice”

  1. A wonderful and beautifully written post, Gretchen and filled with valuable insight … I hope it spreads on out to football fans … it’s a great group to share your beautiful light with.

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