Strung too tight?

I love playing tennis. An hour on the court can tire me out completely and yet leave me feeling ready to take on the world. Winning helps off course, but even a really close match where I played my best and lost, is still energising. It motivates me to practice harder. Get fitter. Get back out there the next day, to play the game and win.

Last week however was somehow different. My game just was not coming together. My shots lacked power. My serve was not kicking up the way it used to. At first I thought it was an off day, or two, but when all five days were crap, I decided to take a break. My wrist was paining. My elbow was starting to complain. So, I took a day off. That did not help either. Day seven was just as lousy. Mid way through my set, I went for a massive cross court forehand and my guts broke. End of the day’s game.

Day 1 of the next week was brilliant. I was my awesome self again. Serve and volley flawless. Ground strokes effortless. I was crushing it. That’s when it dawned on me. I had just had my racquet restrung. Everything else being constant, that one change had completely thrown my game. The tension was way too high and that’s why the strings broke. The strings normally last for 6 months at least, this time they did not make it to 6 days. The next day, racquet restrung (at the right tension this time) I was back in the zone. 

When I am strung too tight, like my tennis racquet, my game is off. I still have the skill and the will but something just does not come together in the way that makes the game enjoyable and energising.

I wish that I had been paying attention to what was really going on. If my strings had not broken, I would have soldiered on for weeks, game off, but with my game face on, trying to make it work. If I had picked up on the real problem immediately, it could have been such an easy fix. Instead I spent the week struggling.

So, do a mental check in with yourself. Find out if the tension level is just right. Too loose and the shots go all over the place, you lose control. Too tight you lose your power. Just right and its game on baby!

Each one of us need to understand the optimum level of tension that helps us play our best game and find a way to get tuned in to that frequency. More importantly, we need to find a way to stay tuned into that frequency.

Here are some of the things I do to keep my mind tuned just right and stay mentally fit, alert and focused.

  1. Exercise daily – a walk for sure, mornings mostly, tennis if I’m lucky
  2. Meditate daily – even 10 minutes is magical
  3. Find small things that give me joy – today for instance speaking to an old friend, just to say “I miss you”
  4. Writing and sharing – I find that putting my thoughts down, helps me see myself better, sharing them helps me feel like I am a drop in the ocean, making a difference, connected…
  5. Gratitude for an ordinary day – Reminding myself how lucky I am to have the ordinary and what an extraordinary gift that is

So, do yourself a favour, find what works for you and write yourself that #MentalCheque. Invest your time in a set of rituals that help you stay in the zone of mental wellness. Pay attention to how you are feeling. Stay alert to the need for self-care, if by chance you are not in the zone, restring your racquet and get back out there on the court. It’s an investment in yourself and the best way that I know, to enjoy the game called life.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Nikhil Dey
Nikhil Dey is Executive Director, Adfactors PR.

A trusted coaching and communications professional, Nikhil Dey is a certified life and leadership coach (International Coach Federation - ICF). Nurturing talent and helping clients achieve their goals is what makes him happy. He loves learning from students of communication, teaching courses and guest lecturing at various educational institutions. When he is not working you will find him on the tennis court or out for long walks with his family and four legged friends.

Previously he has held senior leadership positions at Weber Shandwick and Genesis BCW.

He can be reached on twitter @deydreaming

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