Many people are facing a common challenge right now.
It’s not that we have no source of normalcy, we all have some aspects of our lives that have been untouched by the current climate.
But, that is itself, is a problem.
Because we are slowly regaining small senses of normalcy, we battle an inner thought.
“How can I enjoy (insert “normal” thing) in this new normal?”
As a tennis and pickleball player, I often have several moments of anxiety and doubt while out on the court.
And for me, I’ve been thinking about all the people through history, those that go through wars, plagues, recessions, disasters, and on and on. And I realize, I’m one of those people now.
And while I’m sure people in London had moments of joy and leisure during the years of both world wars, it can be difficult for me to manage and control my anxiety.
If you’re like me, you’re also concerned with keeping up with the sports we love when everything is so different.
I have three simple practices that I have been returning to during these difficult times and I hope you find them useful, too.
As anxiety creeps in, your breathing begins to change and become shallower and shallower. Even at the very beginning, anxiety has physically changed you, ensuring that you get less oxygen.
We’ve been doing that our whole lives and we’ve made a mental connection between anxiety and shallow breathing.
So, right when anxious thoughts start to pool, take a moment to do a specific breathing exercise.
What’s nice about this is that when I am anxious, I don’t have a lot of capacity for bigger tasks. But taking a few seconds to do a breathing exercise is always doable.
Start by inhaling through the nose and count to four slowly and smoothly. Then exhale through the nose slowly counting to six.
Repeat this three times and then check in with how you’re feeling.
The breathing will calm your nervous system, help build resilience to stress, and even boost your immune system.
So, the next time you’re feeling stressed or anxious, on or off the court, start with this breathing exercise.
3 Minute Breathing Space Exercise
Continue the slow, deep breathing but on your next breath, let yourself notice and acknowledge your thoughts. No emotions. No judgments. Just observe your emotions.
What do you feel?
Give yourself compassion here.
Next, check in and notice your physical sensations.
Finally, take in your body as a whole and notice your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations all as one. And continue your breathing exercises.
Get in the habit of doing this 3 times a day, especially during times of stress. In time, this response will become mechanical and you won’t even know you’re doing it, which will make your matches much less stressful!
Observing your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations without judgment is self-compassion in practice.
By defining it, we can help ourselves actually learn how to develop this as a skill and do it without fail.
Take a deep breath at the end of your breathing exercise and acknowledge that whatever stress you are feeling is a part of life, it is an obstacle you can overcome, and it’s okay that you feel stressed.
You can even add a physical touch to this action by briefly putting your hand over your heart as you practice self-compassion and forgiveness.
While we all want to get back to normal, that doesn’t mean we can just wait for that to happen. We can use good habits, good awareness, and good work to get more normal into our lives.
And when you play and practice tennis and pickleball and have those negative thoughts come back, go through your exercise and remember that you’re not ignoring the state of the world, you’re intentionally taking some time which you absolutely deserve.
“I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.” – Maya Angelou
Kalindi Dinoffer is trained in multiple aspects of mindfulness in life and in sports, sharing on her blog MindfulKalindi.com. She is also certified to teach yoga, fitness, reiki, and MFR. Kalindi also serves as VP marketing at OnCourtOffCourt.com, a leading supplier of tennis, pickleball, fitness and yoga training aids and equipment and has been published in Tennis industry Magazine and Pickleball Magazine, and has conducted workshops at conferences around the world. In her spare time, Kalindi plays tennis, pickleball and table tennis and enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and biking and cross country skiing in the winter.