Fearless Tennis: Cultivating Gratitude and Coping with Change

Fearless Tennis

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

One day we are living our lives—not without its challenges—but likely relatively predictable, at least compared to our plight at this very moment.

Humans, by nature, hate uncertainty, which makes this situation particularly stressful. Without question, we are all going to be tested in the coming weeks and months. No one of us will be able to avoid significant hardship in some form.

But, like past crises, we, as a society, will eventually get past this one as well. And like all challenges, we have a choice on how we approach it and what we learn from it. And, before you even begin to apply my suggestions below, please acknowledge and understand that anything you’re feeling right now is completely normal.

What I would like to share with you is a mental and emotional guide, which I have been using personally, drawn from my experience in competitive tennis and work with clients in sport and clinical psychology over the past two decades.

Because if mindset has ever mattered, it is now.

Here are a few suggestions to consider as you adjust to this new “normal.”

  1. Set intentions for yourself each morning. Decide how you want to approach this quarantine—this forced exit from everyday life, work and your routines. Do you want to use this time to connect with family? Possibly start that project you’ve been putting off or explore a new business idea that you never had time for. How can you engage with this unexpected time in a productive way that will keep you safe and be a source of inspiration for yourself, your friends and family?

  2. Focus on what you have control over. You want you and your family to be healthy and get through this crisis. It would be easy to be frustrated and angry, or perhaps shocked, that this happened at all. I get it. It’s likely that you’re having a range of emotions right now, as I am, which is completely understandable, to say the least.But, eventually, just like the last point or game in a match that didn’t go your way, we have to find a way to move forward. This may take what is called “radical acceptance.” This is the process of accepting something that we cannot change, even if we have power over the intensity of the spread.

  3. Practice being more mindful and grateful for what you have. What does this mean? This involves shining an “inner flashlight” on your thoughts and feelings. Focus on what positives are in your life at this very moment and reflect on this frequently. See if you can tune into your emotional state by asking yourself what you might be thinking or feeling and what you might need in difficult moments. Do you need to go for a walk, a hike, connect with a friend, do something creative? This is likely going to evolve over the next few weeks. Being more aware of your emotional state will help you manage your stress through this challenging time.

  4. Establish some routines. Routines provide a sense of security. I often stretch, meditate and write in the morning. These activities help me feel calmer and I’m more prepared to start my day. If you’re not doing anything to calm your mind you might want to try meditating (I recommend the Headspace app or feel free to visit my free resource page: www.fearlesstennis.com/resources.) Doing a structured meditation or breathing session, even for just a few minutes, can shift your perspective and calm your mind.

Establishing a resilient mindset during this difficult time could make all the difference. Be kind to yourself, reach out to others who may need some connection and compassion and please do follow the social distancing guidelines as this may be our greatest weapon against this virus. We can win this match if we work together.

Wishing you and your families health and safety during this challenging time.