“When you’re stressed out, blow bubbles. Why? Because it reminds you to breathe!”
For me, that little trick was the greatest takeaway from a mental health summit I attended this year at the VA hospital in La Jolla. I was manning our informational table, when a woman strode by passing out these tiny, yellow cartons. I asked her, “What’s this?” And she responded with the sage advice above. ^^^
That brought a smile to my face then, and it relaxes me as I reflect on it now. Once in a while, I have to give myself that reminder to take that deep breath. Whether that’s when I’m playing tennis and I keep double-faulting or my day takes a detour in an unexpected direction. Or, you could be trying to capture a photo of bubbles outside, but it’s a breezy day and you keep failing to get a good shot.
It’s the unexpected encounters with people like the lady with the bubbles that enrich my quality of life. What does it for you? Whatever it is, cling to it.
At our tennis program, we cultivate community.
Community is at the heart and center of what we do. And it’s inherent — meaning we don’t strive for it. But rather, community is a deep-rooted characteristic of our mission.
We take the court every week at our clinic and play. As adults, “play” isn’t a word we hear very often, but that shouldn’t diminish it’s importance. And one of the best features of play is that it’s most enjoyed as a group activity or with a team.
Being a part of the tennis program brings back the fondest memories of recess during grade school. Surrounded by all of your classmates and no social order. You could describe it as organized chaos. But what’s important to note about this activity is that it is so group-oriented. Everyone is out there to boost their own performance while lifting each other’s spirits. That’s true of recess and tennis.
It’s important in this day and age — to foster genuine human interaction. With the boost in technology, the way we communicate with each other has changed. But we can’t disregard the power and necessity of contact with other people, especially when we’re going through difficult or vulnerable times.
In the New York Times article, “Researchers Confront an Epidemic of Loneliness”, the study finds that loneliness is “a serious pubic health issue deserving of public funds and national attention.”
Researchers have linked loneliness to physical illness and to functional and cognitive decline. In response, programs that reach out to the socially isolated are growing. Our tennis program works to reach veterans and active service members. We pair the need for human interaction with an opportunity to be active and creative on the court.
I love the journalistic value of this piece in the New York Times. It is very solutions driven, which is my philosophy of news and my vision for the way we write stories about our world. These programs are examples of what’s going right in our communities, instead of stories of destruction and despair.