By Greg Asimakoupoulos
Summer is that time of year when most of us are reminded how stressful our lives really are. Vacation breaks and more relaxed routines are such a contrast to the work-related schedules that fuel our frenzy most the year. The lives of most people in the community in which I live are defined by stressful lifestyles. Teachers, small business owners, traveling salespersons, physicians and even other clergy.
Head coaches in the National Football League are perhaps even more beset by stress. Their lives are lived on the line of scrimmage both during the season and beyond. Prior to the start of the pre-season schedule, I sat down with Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren, to ask him about how he deals with the pressures that threaten to sack his health, attitude and energy. Since first meeting Mike 16 years ago at a church conference center in Northern California, I’ve been impressed with how this successful husband, father and coach has maintained balance in his life.
Holmgren identified five activities to which he is religiously committed that serve as stressbusters in his life. To the degree that he embraces these five “musts,” he is able to tackle the pressures that would otherwise steal his peace of mind.
1. Daily exercise. Mike and his wife Kathy begin their day at 6:30 in a workout room they had built to the side of their garage. Through a regimen of weights and aerobic exercise, they take physical fitness seriously and have discovered its benefit when it comes to battling burnout. For Kathy, physical fitness is a must since her treatment for breast cancer several years ago. By exercising together they are able to keep their bodies in shape while keeping their marriage in tune.
2. Daily Time with God. Following their workout, they towel off and retreat to the kitchen. After pouring a cup of coffee, they read a passage of Scripture and a page from a devotional book before offering their concerns and daily schedules to the Lord in prayer. According to Mike, daily exercise and daily devotions are maintained year round—even on vacation. The discipline of a daily quiet time is a means by which the two maintain intimacy in their marriage and a sense of intimacy with the Lord.
3. Maintaining Family Traditions. Every June Mike and Kathy retreat with the entire Holmgren clan to their family cottage at a Christian conference center in the Santa Cruz Mountains. These rustic church campgrounds hold special memories. It was here Mike and Kathy first met as middle school campers four decades ago. But the retreat center has become all the more memorable because of traditions created and sustained year after year as the kids (and now grandkids) came along. For Mike, having uninterrupted time with his “home team” gives him an advantage as he prepares to enter the most stressful months of his year. Proverbs 3:6 instructs us: “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
4. Reading for fun. For Mike, reading a spy thriller or a mystery allows him to relax following a long day at the Seahawks facility. He insists that he always has at least one book going. Even during the season he is losing himself in the plot of one of his favorite novelists. They include John Grisham, Michael Connelly or John Sanford.
5. Having a hobby. Admittedly, Mike doesn’t get to ride his Harley-Davidson as much as he’d like. His schedule doesn’t permit that. But, when he can break away from the office, he loves to bike through the beautiful tree-lined back roads of the Pacific Northwest. For Mike, having a hobby is another key to undermining the pressure that builds in a high-profile profession.