Game Day Tips To Manage Stress

Today is a big day here in Chiefs kingdom. The Chiefs are playing in the AFC title game against the Tennessee Titans. A win not only earns our team the Lamar Hunt trophy, but also a coveted spot in Super Bowl LIV.

Last week’s game was a tension-inducing nail biter—to say the least. But ask yourself this—if your team is close to a play that could change the score of the game, what likely happens? Your breath quickens. Your heart races. Your muscles tense. As your anxiety builds, you might even feel like you’re on the verge of having a heart attack.

“What you’re experiencing is the phenomenon termed the ‘fight-or-flight’ response,” says Paramdeep Baweja, an interventional cardiologist and medical director of Truman Medical Center’s cardiac catheterization lab. “In a stressful situation, your body releases a flood of chemicals such as adrenaline, which prepares your body for action. Your blood pressure goes up and your heart rate increases. This puts extra strain in your heart. Underlying heart problems can get unmasked in situations like this raising the risk for a heart attack or other heart problems like stress cardiomyopathy,” Baweja says.

Regardless if you’re cheering at home or in the stands, consider some of these tips from Baweja and the American Heart Association (AHA) to have a healthier game-time experience.

Minimize Your Caffeine Intake
A cup of joe in the morning is a great way to kick-start the day, but too much caffeine can make you jittery and can increase anxiety in some people. Come Sunday morning, you’ll probably already be hyped, so you might rethink that usual second (or third) cup.

“Deep Breath In, Deep Breath Out”
Things can get so exciting during a game that you find yourself holding your breath or breathing a little more rapidly than usual. Remind yourself to get a couple of deep breaths in throughout those four quarters. The time outs and commercials are perfect for a quick breather.

A Smoke-Free Zone? Yes, Please.
It’s easier said than done since smoking is usually connected to being a stress reliever for those who smoke, but if you can, try not to light up, or at least light up less, while watching. Studies have shown smoking can increase the risk of heart disease. When you’re ready to quit, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some great tips and resources.

Make Healthy Drink Choices the Rest of the Day Too!
Staying hydrated is never a bad thing. It can help if you’re feeling hungry (sometimes hunger cues may really be a symptom of dehydration). Drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, can carry a high calorie count too, so you’ll want to keep that in mind when quenching your thirst. If you do indulge, always remember—when in doubt, Uber!

Munch Mindfully

Getting caught up in the game might lead to less focus on what’s on your plate. Our advice? Just make an effort to eat mindfully. The AHA suggests picking healthier meats to throw on the grill and adding some fruits and veggies when you’re loading up on sides.

Try to Take It Easy
Whether you’re prepping for a watch party or trying to make it inside Arrowhead in time for the B-2 stealth bomber flyover, you might feel a little rushed, and stressed before the game even starts. Help alleviate stress by giving yourself plenty of time to get where you need to go or get ready for your guests.

Following these simple steps will help you—and your heart—have a much more enjoyable game experience, no matter who wins. (Okay, let’s be honest—a Chiefs win will make a lot of hearts happy here in Chiefs kingdom!) #goChiefs

Eryn Realmuto is External Communications Manager at Truman Medical Centers and editor of TMC’s patient newsletter, Vital KC.