Picture Credit: Lawn Tennis Association
Picture Credit: Lawn Tennis Association

Christmas is almost here; advent calendars are being opened and presents are being bought – however it also means that nights are getting longer and the days getting colder which can impact our mood.

The Lawn Tennis Association’s expert psychosocial team thinks a conscious effort needs to be made to look after our mental health over the winter.

Experts James Bell, Rachel Newnham, Dominic O’Hara, Matt Thompson and Lena Kessler* who work closely with Britain’s top tennis players on their mental wellbeing have given their advice on how to mentally adjust to the cold season.

What are your top three tips that you give to players to help them look after their mental wellbeing?

1. Reflect on challenges which you have experienced, focusing on the positives about what you have learnt. Record these experiences through journaling which helps the mind to logically work through the process.

2. Stay connected however possible – support groups help to build resilience.

3. Create small goals which you can tick off every day to help give you feel accomplished and build a consistent sense of purpose.

Do you think exercise and playing tennis generally helps to boost mental health?

This is a definite yes, exercise boosts serotonin levels and playing tennis provides the pursuit of achieving something which helps mental health considerably. We see that players who maintain a healthy level of training and exercise report an uplift in their wellbeing. Exercise in conjunction with good sleep, nutrition and hydration all help to boost mental wellbeing.

Tennis at a recreational level is a very social support, for example the LTA Local Tennis Leagues present a great opportunity for getting involved in the community and meeting new people through healthy competition.

Aside from tennis, what else do you advise players to do to help them look after their mental health?

We advise players to develop their hobbies and studies outside of tennis to help give variety and perspective. To find something completely different and unrelated to screen time is beneficial – this can be as simple as taking half an hour for yourself to read or play a game or spend time with a pet.

Picture Credit: Lawn Tennis Association
Picture Credit: Lawn Tennis Association

How do you think playing tennis and being active helps players be mentally strong in other aspects of their life?

Tennis requires a certain level of commitment, dedication and perseverance. A key importance for a tennis player is not only their ability to play but their ability to recover and persevere when they encounter a set-back such as losing a game or not playing to the best of their ability. To be resilient is a skill, the more we practice it the better we become.

We work with players to develop their resilience through reflecting on when things didn’t go to plan. We examine the experience, unpick it and look for the positives in it to see what we can learn from it. A network of support is crucial for players to be resilient, reaching out to their support group helps them to overcome challenges. We actively encourage players to reach out to other and help them feel confident to ask for help when it is needed.

  • *Rachel Newnham – Performance Lifestyle National Lead
  • Dominic O’Hara – Performance Lifestyle Advisor
  • James Bell – Lead for Performance Services at Changing Minds UK (support the LTA on Sports Psychology)
  • Matt Thompson – Performance Psychologist at Changing Minds UK
  • Lena Kessler – Performance Psychologist at Changing Minds UK

Interview by Lucy Roberts for Female First, who you can follow on Twitter, @Lucy_Roberts_72.

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