6 ways to manage anxiety while working in sports

by Brittany Kucia - Fmr. sports industry exec. with the milwaukee brewers and dallas mavericks | November 13, 2019

Within the last few months, there have been several people messaging me online or telling me in person, “Wow, your resume is extremely impressive at your age.”

Many would feel honored, say thank you, or some may be cocky about it... but not me. I truly feel like I'm not anywhere close to where I want to be in life, nor have I accomplished what I want to do. I want to write a book, start a side business for athletes with anxiety, be a public speaker and most importantly, help those with mental issues so they do not take their lives, but instead, live happily.

About three years ago, I was diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder. I was always afraid to take any kind of prescription pills because my family has a history of addiction. I gave in and started to take medicine to help with my anxiety. There are many people in the world that will never understand what exactly anxiety is and that's okay. The thoughts, the fears and the emotions that run through our mind and body are unbelievable. I had many people call me crazy, dramatic, an over-reactor, an attention-seeker or say that I was not strong enough because I could not hold my emotions in.

With my anxiety, I have a constant migraine, my body is weak, I have a stiff neck, my heart pounds, I'm sick to my stomach and to top that off, I feel like there are 400 pounds sitting on my shoulders/neck constantly. Now take all this into consideration and imagine making 100 calls a day, getting rejected constantly, dealing with negative calls and comments and knowing you are not selling or hitting your sales goals. Then there were times I would feel so left out in an office environment, I thought everyone hated me. I thought I was such a horrible person and no one wanted to be around me. My anxiety and emotions would get the best of me. I even went into severe depression where suicide crossed my mind.

Thankfully, I was working for a company at the time that truly cared about me as a human. I was more than just a regular employee; I was their friend. Sometimes it truly felt like family. I got the courage to open up to my manager and told him everything. I could tell that he cared and he offered to help me in any way that he could. He got me in touch with the EAP and let me have a few days off. About six therapists later, I found my girl that I could open to and feel comfortable with. I would take extended lunches or come late into work because of therapy, but my manager had my back. If it was not for him, I don't know where I'd be. He knows who he is and I truly want to thank him from the bottom of my heart.

After medication and therapy, I was becoming the best version of myself. Now I sit here years later, I'm off my medication and I’m standing up for what I believe in, healthy living. Here are my 6 recommendations of how to deal with anxiety working in a sports front office:

1) Exercise

In my opinion, everyone should do some sort of working out. There are so many options for you, such as: running stadium stairs, yoga, running, walking, cycling, going for hikes, riding bikes, boxing, kick boxing, tennis, pick-up basketball, swimming, HIIT workouts, lifting weights and hundreds more. The best thing I did was get a personal trainer. I paid for him because I am so competitive with myself, I didn't want to join the gym and not know what I was doing, and also, I wanted to be held accountable.

Truth is, at the gym, no one cares what you are doing. The most important thing is that you're there. However, it took me a while to gain the courage to join because my anxiety was so high that I never felt like I wanted to go. I was lazy and all I wanted to do is sleep. But one day it will kick in for you to stop making excuses and kick anxiety in the booty.

I loved working out during lunch. It broke up my day, and dealing with clients is tough. Sitting at a desk for 8 hours is rough physically and mentally. Working out during work hours was the best for me. Many people work out in the morning and others work out after work! Whenever you decide to go, it does not matter, as long as you are there. Some type of workout is better than no work out at all.

The best thing about working out is no matter what you do, you can tailor it to you. Personally, I played sand volleyball, I jumped rope, did HIIT workouts, worked out with bands and did some type of cardio every day. I would highly recommend you use your stadium/venue as your jungle gym. You will learn to love it more. Find your fit. It will help you a lot.

2) Have fun

In sports, one of the most well-known names is Mike Veeck. His book “Fun is Good” changed my perspective on life and the more I work in sports or any job, I could not agree more with it. If you wake up every day not wanting to go to work, you need to quit your job now. You should LOVE your job and love the people you work with. You should feel special and feel like your opinion matters. Most importantly, work should be fun! Sure, you should be held accountable for your goals, but you need to be able to joke around with your coworkers and managers. You should be able to be yourself!

How you have fun is up to you. I love watching Michael Jordan videos and getting the staff riled up on how he is the best basketball player ever. It is always so fun! You can also have small competitions in the office such as: best creative voicemail, go to an adult jungle gym, longest talk time, yoga, do sprint competitions, create fun videos, visit clients and surprise them, eating contest, chili cook off, play with shaving cream, softball/volleyball games (warning this can get too competitive, especially if you're like me), dance offs and so much more. If you need some help on how to have fun in the office, feel free to ask me. But please, have fun and smile. It will go a long way!

3) Be brave

Be brave means to speak about it. Open up to your manager or your team. You will be surprised by how many co-workers can relate to you. I believe I read that 1 in 3 people have anxiety. You are not alone. It is extremely healthy to speak with a therapist. They will help you out too! I did end up speaking with a therapist, but the person who helped me the most early on was my direct manager and mentor. Whomever it is, open up to someone, be brave because we need to stick together and continue to battle the negative connotation surrounding mental health.

4) Have gratitude

Being thankful for what you have is so important, especially in sports. it's one of the coolest jobs out there! With my previous experience, I was pulling up at Solder Field, Miller Park and the American Airlines Center for WORK! Go out to the stadium, keep a dairy and write what you are thankful for. Take a walk every day for 10-15 minutes with other coworkers. Ask different coworkers to go with you each time.

Another suggestion is to do something for someone else at least once a week. It’s okay to spend some money if it brings a smile to someone's face. It could be just grabbing coffee, buying donuts, or opening doors for others. But whatever it is, you will be shocked by how it makes you feel.

Just be thankful that you have anxiety and you don’t feel broken because of it. Anxiety is the same thing as having freckles. It makes you who you are and it's okay to have it!

5) LIVE!

At work, you can feel like you are hiding from yourself. You can feel embarrassed, left out, lonely, overwhelmed, or worse, but the truth is you are great and you deserve to live. One of my best friends has this tattoo, along with one of the most famous female artists who has a song named “Live Your Life”. It may sound silly, but it could not be more true! Yes, eating healthier will help you tremendously, but you need to live. Go to those happy hours, eat cake, eat those flaming hot Cheetos (shout out to my old coworkers), drink that IPA and live in the moment.

I used to be so scared to go to the employee events held by the company because employees would stick together with their friends and I felt like no one wanted me there. Truth is, I was inside my own head, and for that, I missed out on so many fun opportunities. I missed networking and building relationships with my coworkers, to do what? To go home and sit there because my anxiety was so high? Life is too short. Go and live! Try new things because sitting at home will lead to overthinking, which will be even worse for you.

6) Believe

This is the most important one to me personally. I even have a tattoo of this powerful word! Believe in yourself. Believe that you deserve to have fun, exercise, to be brave, to be thankful and believe you deserve to live. If you do not believe in yourself, then everything I said does not matter. BELIEVE you can inspire and be a mentor to others.

Mental health is a growing subject and it’s okay to speak out about it. By speaking out about it, others will open up too. When you speak out and management sincerely cares, that's when you know you work for a GREAT organization. Some people will not agree with me on this and to be honest, it is tough to speak out about it, but I am brave and believe in mental health. The healthier you are physically and mentally; your productivity will increase, and your smile will be contagious.

I hope you enjoyed my first published article in theClubhouse. I am extremely humbled to have the opportunity. Thank you for the read and hopefully there will be more to come!

Sincerely,

Brittany Kucia

Brittany spent nearly five years as a Senior Account Executive for the Milwaukee Brewers and before that was with the Dallas Mavericks. She’s currently in Milwaukee looking for the next step in her career. You can connect with Brittany on LinkedIN by visiting her profile here.