Oftentimes in life, we can be so overwhelmed with duties, tasks, and even expectations, letting them control our attitudes and add stress into our lives. Whether other people have high expectations of us or we put extra pressure on ourselves, it can be difficult to deal with these thoughts and find a moment of peace. It’s important for everyone to sometimes take a step back and give ourselves a period of rest, a time to recollect where we are, who we are, and what we are aiming for.
But this is easier said than done. Convincing ourselves to let go of any weight on our shoulders, or to momentarily forget about tasks like the multiple assignments we still have to submit by the end of the day, is a great challenge. I used to think and sometimes still think, why am I spending time to do nothing and just relax when I could be getting so much more work done? The fact is, taking this time to calm our minds will not only improve the quality of our work, it will make us much more likely to want to do the task in the long run. Otherwise, after constantly bombarding ourselves with assignment after assignment, we may start to lose interest in the task and be unable to maintain an open mind.
Fortunately, clearing our minds is possible, and once we go back to our tasks, we will have more clarity, certainty, and patience when it comes to accomplishing our work. Different people may find that doing different activities help them relax. This can largely depend on what the person is trying to relax from. For instance, if I’m struggling to write a musical arrangement, I likely would not play more music to help forget about it. Maybe I would go for a run. However, if I had a big race the next day and was worried about it, I would not go running since I need to rest, and could try to take my mind off of it by doing something else I enjoyed, like playing an instrument.
In general, there are certain activities that are specialized for calming our minds and making us more aware of ourselves. Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, I have begun to do these therapeutic activities to make myself a calmer, healthier person overall, and I’ve liked the changes I’ve seen. So, I’d like to share them with everyone.
Yoga is Not Easy
I used to think that Yoga was just stretching and meditation, and that it wasn’t even a form of exercise. I believed it to be extremely easy to perform, that is, until I actually tried it.
During my first few yoga practices, I tried to mimic the instructors’ positions as much as possible, following every instruction they gave; tucking the tailbone slightly, placing the elbow on the knee, etc. Doing this along with controlling my deep breathing throughout the trickiest poses proved to be quite a challenge. The routines not only tested my body awareness, they tested my muscle endurance, body control, flexibility, balance, and so much more.
When I finished my practice, I found a great difference in the depth of my breath, the straightness of my posture, and the simplicity of my mental state. Each yoga workout made me more confident that all of my current and future problems and struggles, will be solved, and that I have the strength to face them. Furthermore, it heightened the control on my breathing, which is crucial in a sport like tennis, where players need to reset quickly between points. I’m confident that anyone who takes this practice seriously, and disciplines themselves to hold the correct positions and follow the breathing patterns will start to see great benefits.
To practice yoga, I go to a quiet place and use videos on YouTube (I prefer videos by Yoga With Adriene or SarahBethYoga). Regardless of which video I use, I feel proud of my efforts and much stronger afterwards.
Bring Out Your Artistic Side
The arts may not be the most pleasant thing for everyone. We may be overwhelmed trying to draw every little detail a certain way, or trying to play a song over and over until we get every note absolutely correct. But the thing is, who’s watching? There’s no one there to judge what we are drawing or what we are playing. And even if there is, it’s important to remember the reason why we’re doing what we’re doing– to let go, and to have fun. Art is not perfect, as anything can be a painting and anything can be a song.
When I create art, I do it to express what I’m feeling or what I’m thinking as accurately as possible. It needs to convey a message to the viewer or listener. Yet again, it is another form of communicating our stresses and releasing the burdens we may have been carrying.
Even if we are not experienced with the arts or don’t have a certain message we want to portray, simply letting ourselves loose in creativity and following our instincts can be satisfying. If you have never played the piano but have one in your house, look up some tutorials on the internet. YouTube provides videos that teach you to play millions of songs, even for those who may not know how to read sheet music.
You can gain confidence hearing yourself playing the very song that has been listened by millions on the radio. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find passion in an area you never thought to be possible.
I know it can be uncomfortable dancing in front of people. I understand that it can be even more awkward dancing alone. But it’s important to think about why we may feel this way. Whatever the reason may be, overcoming it and facing this fear can help us become stronger and more confident.
If it doesn’t seem right to move in the way dancing requires, once we try to do so and push ourselves to, think about how much more confident we will be in ourselves. That confidence that we gain from dancing can help us when we’re in a nerve wracking situation, like a job interview, a school presentation, or a business meeting.
Dancing helps increase self awareness and puts a purpose in our actions, from punching our fists in anger to grabbing at something in thin air that seems to be nagging at us. It provides a pathway for us to express our emotions in a healthy way, whether we’re elated, angry, sad, or can’t explain what we’re feeling. Once we’re confident enough to dance and put all of our energy into it, we will feel like we’ve opened a new door and we’ve discovered something in ourselves that we never knew we had. On top of that, we will feel so much more confident in ourselves, which is useful not only in tennis but in life in general.
Talk About It
It’s often said that more intelligent people are the ones who tend to talk to themselves more. There is some truth and logic behind it, because talking about anything helps us organize our thoughts behind it and is a way to spit something out that’s been nagging us for so long.
By hearing our thoughts, we’re activating a whole different part of our brains, which can make it easier to find a solution to our problems or peace within our thoughts. Sometimes (and I’m not embarrassed to admit it) I pretend I’m on a ‘talk show’, except I talk about myself and try to express my problems in a way that everyone can relate to. This way, I can listen to my own problems and maybe even ‘share’ some of the burden that I’ve been feeling, without being judged about it.
I understand that sometimes the thoughts we have may seem too crazy to tell other people. Talking to ourselves takes this factor away, and lets us be more honest and less worried about what we’re saying. It can feel a lot more relieving getting the words out rather than having them stuck in our heads.
Jot It Down
For many years, I’ve written down almost every significant event that happened to me, sometimes even journaling what I did every day. I would include my emotions, like things I may have felt angry or confused about, and special words people said to me that made my day. Writing down these experiences has been beneficial in making me understand my thought processes, and provided memories for me to look back on over the years. Once again, it is a method of communicating our thoughts and releasing some weight from our shoulders.
Sometimes, I have not been able to find solutions to my problems or the rationale to my feelings immediately after jotting them down. However, there have been various instances where I have read my past entries and have been able to find some reason behind my feelings and understand where they came from. Other times, I’ve chuckled at how much more immature I was before.
Reading what I used to think and feel helps my confidence in my path and my growth. It reminds me that while it can be hard to see progress in myself, who I spend every single moment of my entire life with, I am indeed changing constantly. It’s just like when you see your Aunt after years and she comments at how much you’ve grown, and you think, what is she talking about? By looking at the progress of anything at two completely different steps, you will see a big difference, helping you realize how much work is really being done in the small steps you take.
Mental clarity is so important for life, and especially sports. Being able to think quickly and clearly in a split second, or even having the ability to calm ourselves down during a high-pressure situation can be possible through a calm head. By performing the activities I suggested, or any activity that makes you smile, we can improve our self-confidence and return to our work with a much wider, different perspective. In time, we may even start to consider these activities as a part of our practice to improve at whatever skill we are working to improve.
So with all of the extra time many of us may have, and the countless activities we are trying to fit in each day, we should leave time for ourselves and our minds as well. As Blaise Pascal once said, “Clarity of mind means clarity of passion, too; this is why a great and clear mind loves ardently and sees distinctly what it loves” (“Clear Minds Quotes”).