Stressed Out?

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Historically, when people feel like they are in over their head with work or that the going has gotten too tough to bear, they often feel the need to escape their ordinary life and reside on a sunny beach somewhere. It is no secret that vacations often provide a break from daily life, however, what if it were possible to achieve this “mental checkout” without having to travel a great distance just to get some peace of mind?

In my experiences as a competitive athlete, all I would have to do to de-stress was show up for soccer practice and the rest would take care of itself. As I stepped out on to that field, all the trials and tribulations of the day would fade away and I would enter into a different mind space- a world of sports. Here, it didn’t matter if you forgot to send that e-mail or run it by your boss. All that mattered was the game. The more immersed I was in it, the more the day’s occurrences drifted further and further away. Consequently, the mental “break” that I experienced from playing sports has proved to me to be an effective way to deal with and eliminate daily stress.

A broad spectrum of literature supports the positive psychological benefits that are experienced from participating in sports and engaging in exercise. This often includes improved mood, self-esteem, body-image, increased energy, all round self-satisfaction and, most applicable here, the ability to cope with stress. According to Scully, Kremer, Meade, Graham and Dudgeon (1998), a regimen of exercise may significantly enhance stress responsiveness and, in particular, stress that is related to lifestyle or work. Moreover, it may be the component of playing sports which requires “directed thinking” which allows an individual to focus on the task at hand and take their mind off anything other than the present game. Such directed thinking requires strategizing, communicating and coordinating with other players and concentrating on the physical aspects of the game. Due to its psychological and intellectual demands, it comes as no surprise that sports can provide a distraction from life’s daily happenings.

So the next time you are craving a vacation, remember to pack along your shin pads and soccer cleats. It will save you a whole lot of time, money, and hassle and will leave you feeling refreshed and recharged as sports enable the opportunity to “vacate” daily life without ever having to leave town!


Scully, D., Kremer, J., Meade, M. M., Graham, R., & Dudgeon, K. (1998). Physical exercise and psychological well being: a critical review. British journal of sports medicine, 32(2), 111-120.


Zarina Giannone

Zarina recently earned a B.A. in Psychology from U.B.C. and hopes to pursue graduate studies in Counselling Psychology in the future. Her research interests pertain to unconscious automatic mental processing (automaticity), anxiety disorders and perfectionism. Zarina currently works as a Mental Health Worker and enjoys volunteering at the Vancouver Crisis Centre in her spare time. She has an extensive background in Soccer and has represented Canada at the youth level. More recently, Zarina played on athletic scholarship for the U.B.C. Women’s Soccer Team. Without a doubt, she is passionate about both sports and psychology!

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