What Nick Saban Can Teach You About Anxiety

Since you clicked on this blog post, I’m assuming one of two things:
  1. You are a big fan of Nick Saban and were wondering what he can teach you about anxiety.


  1. You are wondering who the heck Nick Saban is and what the heck he can do to help you with your anxiety.


So, I’ll start with the latter.

Nick Saban is the head coach of the University of Alabama.  By many, he is considered the greatest coach of all time.  

I’ll be real honest, I know nothing- NOTHING– about football.


I don’t even know the difference between defense and offense (for realz).  


However, I came across an article about Nick Saban’s coaching style and I was captivated by something he said…


which applies to not only winning games but also overcoming anxiety.  


He stated:  

“Don’t be relieved when you are successful and don’t get frustrated when you are failing to have success. Stay focused on the next play to dominate.’’

Nick Saban made the point that you shouldn’t be worrying about the scoreboard when in pursuit of your goal.


It’s a counterintuitive thing to say when a game is won by the final score on the board.  


He doubles down on this counterintuitive assertion by stating that worrying about the score also limits the team’s overall potential.  


I take Saban’s word to mean that…

when you worship winning, you lose focus on doing the next right action.

Doing the next right action over-and-over again will be what wins the game.


Focusing on winning the game will keep you from playing a winning game.    


Do you see how this relates to handling your anxiety?  

If not, let me explain:  

If you become laser-focused on overcoming anxiety and you don’t focus on the tools and skills you learn to overcome anxiety, anxiety will likely overcome you.

If you have anxiety, you already know this:

Anxiety is a formidable opponent.

The key to effectively handling anxiety is exactly the same concept that Nick Saban laid out for winning a football:

Here's what Nick Saban can teach you about anxiety...

Stay focused on the next play to dominate.

Or in therapist-speak:

Use the skills and tools and stay with it… no matter what.

Don’t make the same mistake I often see people make:


Allowing the anxiety to win.


Obviously, no one desires their anxiety to win.  


However, as I stated before:

Anxiety is a formidable opponent… and it knows how to play the game really well.

What do I mean by this?

Anxiety- the emotion- tells you that things are terrible, that they aren’t going to improve and there’s something terribly flawed with you.

And anxiety- the emotion- is incredibly believable.  It knows just what “say” to you to make you believe it.  


Where is anxiety’s weakness?  


It’s completely generic, boring, and predictable.  (That’s a big weakness!)


Let’s go back to my previous statement:  


Anxiety- the emotion- tells you that things are terrible, that they aren’t going to improve and there’s something terribly flawed with you.  


How do I know what Anxiety is telling you?  

Because anxiety is generic, boring, and predictable. 


If you don’t believe me, here’s what I suggest:  


Search out a couple of people that suffer from anxiety.  Ask them to do the following:

  1. Close their eyes
  2. Try to imagine if their anxiety were an image, what would it look like?
    1. What color would it be?
    2. What size would it be?
    3. What shape would it be?
  3. Ask them to open their eyes and draw (with colors) their vision of anxiety.


What you will find is that the people’s anxiety drawings will be…

generic, boring, and predictable!

Their pictures will contain images that are fast-moving with a sense of alarm and strong colors.

Here's what Nick Saban can teach you about anxiety...

So, a quick recap of the game plan:

Recognize that anxiety is generic, boring, and predictable!


Why is this important?  


Because it can remind you that when you feel anxiety, you can predict what’s going to happen.  


Your mind will start spinning.  

You are looking for danger and finding it left, right, and center.


This is Anxiety’s playbook- you can expect it.  


So what is the next right action in your playbook?



There are actually several to choose from.  


That stated, which action you choose is less important than…

Taking the action and staying with it no matter what happens.

Why am I so focused on the game plan?  


Because as I said previously, I see people make the same mistake over and over again.  

They listen and believe their anxiety…

And the anxiety tells you that things will never get better.  

So, going into this game, be prepared… 


anxiety will tell you this lie… 


You need to be prepared that even with your skills and tools, your anxiety may not go away immediately or quickly…


Here's what Nick Saban can teach you about anxiety...

Most people fall prey to believing that the skills and tools won’t ever work if they don’t work the first (or second or third) time. 

(have I mentioned that anxiety is a formidable opponent?)

When you encounter anxiety, you must remember to stay focused on the tools and skills and use them no matter what happens.


If you have faith that the skills will- over time- decrease your anxiety, you set yourself up for success.  When you have this mindset, you can be content with knowing that you are doing the next right step.  


In the next blog post, I’ll share tools and skills you can do to engage in the game and become a formidable opponent. 

 Are you ready to give therapy a go?

Free free to contact me directly if you have questions or to schedule a brief call to see if I might be able to support you as you journey forward.


Looking for mental health services in Indy?

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