I love playing tennis for fun, but these effective stress management strategies I learned have been a bonus I didn’t expect. Being away from tennis for awhile, returning to the courts was an odyssey of sorts. It had been several years, but as an empty nester, I found I have more time, and I missed the opportunity for exercise and sharing the sporting drama with others. I play doubles so I have a partner, and with any sport that involves women, there is always drama!
Yet what I found with a refreshed outlook was that there are some life lessons to be learned from playing on these tennis courts. For many, life is crammed too full with commitments; we feel we can’t accommodate everyone’s demands, and there are times we just feel down-right inadequate.
So as I began my foray back to the courts and started hitting that yellow ball back and forth over the net, working with my partner to string some winning games together, it came to me! This game, while fun and exciting, could also bring on stress. And I found that the same effective stress management strategies I was applying on these white lined courts could easily and effectively be applied to my daily life. Here are two for you to consider.
One of the requirements about playing tennis is that you have to return a serve. Several times, I might add. Well as I started sending my returns of serve into the net, I started to become more anxious and doubting why I even took up this game in the first place. The stress increased and I felt I was letting my partner down. What could I do?
Stop that thinking pattern. Find a way to shift focus and concentrate on something besides hitting the ball. And I did. I focused on footwork—taking steps before rotating my hips, then letting the arm swing to hit the ball. The emphasis on feet first gave me something else to divert my attention from my doubting, self-criticizing thoughts.
It’s a great tactic to stop negative thoughts and find something else upon which to focus attention. Such a refocus can calm frazzled nerves, and for me it was an effective stress management strategy. It takes some mental discipline, but it works! When you notice your brain is offering nothing but negative thoughts, shift your focus to something else.
When playing doubles tennis, communication is an important asset for developing game-winning strategies. Instead of one set of eyes, you have two sets. This helps because as one person is going to make a shot the other can be aware of what the opposing team is doing. Talking together allows the team members to plan and implement more effectively.
With two people working as a team, you can be more aware of what is happening on the court. For example, I was stretching to hit a ball that was high over my head, but my partner called me off of the shot because she was more able to make a better play. She could see the court better since she was slightly behind me and had a better view of where the other players were. She played to ball with more strength and angled the ball where the opponents could not reach it.
Knowing how to read a situation is important in knowing how to react. Sometimes we react without taking the time to talk with others or looking at how things are developing. This can get us into a difficulty and cause undo stress. I love playing tennis with a partner because it can provide some handy stress management strategies and help us enjoy a fun and exciting sport.