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Beat Stress, Win or Lose

Don’t let Chicago sports, or anything else, stress you out

Chicago sports fans have a lot of reasons to be anxious this October.

By Kevin McKeough

These are stressful days for Chicago sports fans.

Cubs fans are scrambling for tickets for the team's playoff games and eagerly awaiting the Cubs' second consecutive trip to the postseason. While expectations are running high for the team, which has the best record in Major League Baseball, the Cubs still have to prevail in three rounds of playoff series to achieve the World Series championship that fans have been waiting for since 1908.

White Sox fans, meanwhile, are worrying about just how much they’ll have to hear about the North Side team. Bears fans — if any are left after the team’s 0-3 start — are worrying about how bad the team will be.

Bulls fans may just be wondering who's even on the team, which after last seaon saw longtime stars Derrick Rose and Joachim Noah depart along with much of their supporting cast. (Yes, we know: this season's Bulls have Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler. And who else?) Blackhawks fans are waiting to see if the team can return to being a Stanley Cup contender after they didn't make it past the first round of the National Hockey League playoffs last year. 

You’ve got stress. We’ve got suggestions for it.

That’s a lot of stress and uncertainty to put on people, especially when there are no actual threats to their well being. While a little stress can be a motivator, too much of it can cause an array of health problems, including sleep difficulties, digestive issues, depression, back and joint pain and more.

The good news is that most of the stress of modern life in the developed world isn’t life-threatening. "In the old days, humans used to live with these very immediate threats," says Patricia Normand, MD, a psychiatrist at Rush. "If a saber-toothed tiger was coming at you, you needed to react automatically to get away in time. So our bodies developed a chemical response to help us do that."

In the face of more mundane causes of stress — such as traffic, work pressure, and the alleged Curse of the Billy Goat — we can learn to control some of the reflexes we’ve evolved to have, and to avoid the situations that cause them.

"Many people don't realize the extent to which they can manage and even prevent stress," Normand says.

Normand also is program director of Rush’s mindfulness-based stress reduction program, which cultivates the ability to pay attention to what is happening in your life in a nonreactive way. The program uses guided instruction and group dialogue to develop a variety of mindfulness meditation practices. You can attend a free orientation session to learn more.

Adopting some basic stress management techniques can help with the everyday stress in life as well as the tension of being a Chicago sports fan. And when all else fails, remember, it’s only a game.

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