Choosing resilience in adversity

Fearless Tennis

by Jeff Greenwald, M.A., MFT; sports psychologist

Every successful athlete knows there are defining moments in any game or season that make or break you.

Covid is certainly a defining moment for most of us.

Will you be depleted and burned out when you re-emerge? Or, will you have a new appreciation for the little things in life, including your relationships with friends and family, and, of course, the game of tennis?

One crucial trait that will help you not only to survive, but even thrive, is resiliency, which is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

But, it’s easy to think that people are either resilient or not. But, in reality, every day, in any moment, you can actually choose to BE resilient.

And, amazingly, this will even begin to re-wire your brain so you can manage stress more effectively in the future.

In an interview with 12 Olympic champions, Fletcher and Sarkar (2012) found that athletes who encountered a wide variety of stressors possessed five main psychological protective factors (optimism, motivation, confidence, focus, and perceived social support) that underpin the resilience-stress-performance relationship.

In fact, most successful athletes have experienced at least one major crisis in their lives that they’ve had to overcome, which they claim was the differentiator in their career.

It’s important to know that stress resides neither in each of us nor in the environment but in the relationship between the two.

Hence, it appears that resilience is one important characteristic that will help you decrease your experience of stress. In other words, when you perceive stress as temporary, believe that you will ultimately grow from this shutdown and choose to approach new activities and relationships, rather than avoiding them (take walks, exercise, communicate with friends), you will not burn out, but grow instead.

Three Takeaways Highlights

1.) View this time as an opportunity to strengthen your resiliency. If and when you hit a “pothole” each day and you feel discouraged, frustrated, anxious or bored, use this moment as a pivot point to rewire your brain.

Just like on the tennis court, ask yourself a productive question, “What can I do now that will be a positive for me?”

Even if your first thought is negative, don’t listen to it and do it anyway. Momentum often can carry the day. The brain is designed to answer questions. Feed it ones that will move the needle in a positive direction.

2.) Remind yourself that this situation is temporary. You are here because you have survived many difficult moments in life in the past. If you can get through this without too many scars, maybe even become better for it, you will have won this battle.

Remember, “This too shall pass.”

3.) Make a list of important people in your life who you would like to connect with during this unprecedented pause. Perhaps you can reach out to one person per day, two per week, or whatever you’d like.

It’s easy to drift into complacency after a while and lose the zest as the days can tend to bleed into one another. Don’t let inertia stop you. Take control of what you can control–the secret sauce of strong minds and becoming more resilient.

How you decide to view this experience, choosing to actively engage in your life and remembering that it is, in fact, the most difficult moments where the door opens for your greatest growth of all. One point/day at a time. Enjoy your day!

I’d like to invite you to check out my new online course that I put together with Craig O’Shannessy, the world’s leading strategy analyst who has worked with Novak Djokovic for the past three years!

This is the first time any course has combined BOTH strategy and the mental game together in the context of a real match that I played against former No. 17 in the world, Francisco Clavet, last December.

Click here: Watch the Video for Getting Tight.