Increasing Stress Capacity

Each of us has the capability to handle stress and, in fact, stress when perceived in positive ways promotes growth. Dr. L and Coach Johnny tackle the concept of stress capacity and what is dispositional and what is socialized. They also discuss different ways to perceive stress to begin to use it as a way to be resilient and thrive, versus struggle with stress overload.


Stephen: Hi, I'm Stephen Huss, Women's National Coach for USTA PD, and you are listening to Compete Like a Champion.

Johnny: Welcome to Compete Like a Champion. You're here with Dr. Larry Lauer, Mental Skills Specialist and coach Johnny Parkes with USTA Player Development. Today we're going to be diving into stress capacity - thriving in stressful situations. Dr. Larry -

Larry: Coach Johnny, I'm great man. How are you doing?

J: Doing great today; we're doing a good topic here because we're well into this at-home situation. One month into this, this COVID-19 situation, the at-home scenario and I think this is a good topic to start discussing, you know; what is stress capacity, how to thrive in stressful situations, and you know, I think a lot of people are probably getting a little, maybe a little anxious at home, a little stir-crazy with this new setup and, you know, so maybe, you know, that's a good starting point is let's understand what stress capacity is so maybe give us a little intro here as to your thoughts on this.

L: Yeah, thanks, Johnny while I was thinking about this because we're going to see some people deal with this situation at home, and people losing their jobs, the economy, obviously being in a bad place, in a much better way than others. And I was thinking about why is that the case? Now, certainly, some people are dealing with adversity much greater than others. But if you're fortunate, you're still working, like we're fortunate to be working, and others are not as fortunate. So we know a lot of the tennis coaches in the industry, you know, out to you, all you folks, we feel for you. It's tough right now. It's gonna change, it's gonna come back in some level, some way, but right now it's tough. And then I was thinking about, well, how do people deal with that stress? And why do we see some people thrive in stressful situations? And why do we see some people really struggle, and maybe even break, not bend. And first, you've got to realize that there's a dispositional part to this that, you know, in reality, some people's buckets are just bigger than others that for whatever reasons, their genes, their makeup, they can handle stress immediately better. They're not as affected by stress. But that's only a part of it. And then there's a part of this that you can learn and you can develop, and that's really important. So to understand this, I came up with this, again, this bucket analogy that this has been used in talent development as well but we have different dispositional buckets or things that we're born with. And then it's how you sort of use that bucket or interact with that, with the environment - to create that bucket to be deeper or shallow. And so when you expose yourself to stress, you have a chance to make that bucket deeper. Okay? And that's really what we're doing right now. But there are some better ways to go about deepening that bucket, and there are some ways of dealing with things that are going to make that bucket more shallow. So really, the key in understanding here is how we look at stress is a way to either make that bucket deeper so you can take on more stress, or make it more shallow, so your threshold is lower and it takes less stress for it to overflow the bucket and for you to be overwhelmed, to freeze, to go into fight or flight syndrome. So that's the idea. It also brings to bear the idea that everyone can be overwhelmed with stress. It's not something where people are impervious; even the toughest, most resilient people in the world can be overcome by stress that's unmitigated. So now just some thoughts about that. And maybe you know what that gets you thinking about JP you know, as you've been home for a month, and you know, the stress of doing, now you look pretty, pretty calm, cool and collected this morning. At 8:00AM. 

J: Yeah, this is an early one I've been up for a couple hours already just sort of working on some things before the kiddos wake up, but now as you think, would you say the overriding goal there then is to just keep creating a deeper bucket? You know, I know you talked about higher threshold for stress when it's likely to overwhelm you, like well, what is the overriding goal here to improve that stress capacity?

L: That's just it is to create that deeper bucket so when stress comes, you're prepared for it. No one could prepare completely for a pandemic like this, even though we were warned that it could happen, you just, you know, not prepared completely for such a thing, but then it's how you're going to respond to it right? Because the first issue is a matter of control, that we don't control what happens in this world necessarily, what we control is how we respond to it. I can't control what's happening with the economy, only thing I can do is to respond in effective ways. And that's key, and that's what everybody's trying to focus on now is how do you cope with this situation, which gets to the heart of stress. If stress is going to be a positive factor in our lives, then we have to understand it that you know, Johnny, it's a psycho-physiological process that occurs and it has impacts on our body and our minds. We're going to feel more stress when the demands of the situation are greater than our coping ability, or at least our perceived ability to cope with a situation or to be successful, if that makes sense. So the greater the demands, and there are great demands on people right now, you have a greater opportunity for people to become overwhelmed with stress, to freeze, to go into fight or flight, and stress over time unmanaged, really is unhealthy. It's not good for your heart, for your body, for your mind, you know, higher blood pressure, heart disease, there's a lot of things that stress comes with, you know, reducing the immune system. So, you know, there's a number of things and that's really not my job to try and educate everybody on that. But I think the stress response and how you respond to it. If your threshold, if you haven't prepared your coping skills, or you don't believe you can handle it, then you're going to experience a lot of stress and potentially, you know, anxiety which is more challenging because now that's sort of high energy, which stress is high energy, with a lot of doubt which is a very negative feeling.

J: Yeah, that's great information. So what do you do when you feel like the demands outweigh I guess your ability to deal with that stress? Like, what's maybe an example of that, and how to overcome that low? What kind of responses come from that? So, you know, because I think there's going to be people out there right now that feel that this stress is starting, maybe stress has started to get to them a little bit and that, you know, the demands of being in this situation we are all in, you know, which can be maybe similar to fear, that over, the anxious feeling of stress when they're on the court in certain situations, or in matches and you start to feel that it's kind of piling on top of you a little bit. You know, what's maybe an example of that on the court, and maybe we can dive into some strategies to overcome.

L: Yeah, so an example I was thinking of, you know, just sharing this idea with some of the players is that knowing when you're on a losing streak, you lost a couple first rounds in a row, which everybody has. And you go into a match and you get down in the match. There's a tendency to think, "here we go again." And so here's, at the heart of the issue, it's not that you're down, because that can happen in any match. It's how you look at it. And it's perception of it. And this is exactly what Kelly McGonigal, who is a researcher and she did a TEDTalk on stress and Stress As Our Friend. This is the heart of where the response is going to be. And if you look at that, you know, deficit on the scoreboard as, "here we go again, I'm going to lose again, I'm losing often now or all the time," then the stress of that situation is probably going to overwhelm you. If you're able to look at that and say, "okay, it's 1-3, just one break, I can find a way, I see something in their game that I can expose, I'm hitting my shots well, I'm executing," whatever is reality, then you can start to have a good response. I think one of the things we must do in stressful situations is check reality. And the second thing we need to do is de-catastrophize, or take the large consequences out of decisions. If I get broken, it's not the end of the match. You know, things are not done. And certainly we can apply that to life as well. But I think that's a good example of that. We have to look at stress differently, we have to look at stress as this thing that "okay, I don't control it necessarily completely, but I control how I respond to it. And if I look at it in a good way that this is a challenge for me, I'm excited to take on this challenge." And you know, if you're down, you know, 1-3 in the match and you're able to say like, "okay, this is a good challenge. It's not the start I wanted, but I can do this, and here's how I'm going to do it." You can have the response you want to have. So I think it's all about how you you look at things. And so stress doesn't have to be this negative factor all the time.

J: That's a great point. I think it's important to know all this before maybe looking at the strategies around how to manage it, and then also how to create strategies to improve it. So there's a lot of information for us and that's really important to know as we tee up this next part. So what I really like here, Doc, is that you refer to five main things when talking about the ability to improve your stress capacity, and maybe as I read out the - we can go in order, but I'll read them out and maybe you can just expand on those and for the listeners here on what exactly that means. So first, the first understanding of strategy here is first: stress is a perception.

L: Yeah, so just what we were talking about JP, that stress hits you, you know, you feel like you're not capable of taking on everything that comes at you on that day. And so what do you do? You know, when you're in training and you're not performing well and you're tired and you're distracted, and you think like just, you know, coach is throwing tough drills and me, what do I do? Well, that's a perception, right? And if you're able to rally yourself and think about, maybe in the past, I was able to deal with this way and I got through it or to go to your resources, you know, problem solve, you know, we - under stress, we want people to problem solve, not to panic, go away, and just be anxious. We want them to problem solve, figure things out. And really, when you're coping, you have two options: either to deal with the problem or the demand and change it or just to cope with it. And those are your two options. But if you start with stress as a perception, then I think you have a chance to understand that, you know, this is a challenge that I can overcome. And if you can look at it that way, then I think you have a chance to begin to respond in a way that your stress doesn't overflow your bucket.

J: Well, then that leads in there, it leads in really nicely to the second one, which is stress creates growth. And we obviously, not obviously, but we often mention the ability to have a growth mindset in order to improve and embrace failure by whatever your definition of that is and let the process lead to the outcome. But talk about how stress creates growth here.

L: Yes, and this is a very important point because if you believe in this, then you can accept the existence of stress. And let me be a little bit more practical with that. If I'm in a match, and I'm not serving well, that's very stressful for a tennis player. But if I can look at it and say, "okay, I can deal with this. This is a chance for me to get better in times when I'm not serving well. How do I use the rest of my game to hang in here in perform? How can I slowly get my serve back? What are the cues that I go to?" It's an opportunity to learn, to grow. And then the parallel I always give players is that when you go to the gym, what do you do? You stress your body, right? You stress your body, you move weight, you move your body, the muscles are stressed, they break down, those microfibers break down, right, they tear very small, very small ways. And then you recover, they heal, and they become stronger. This adaptation that we talk about, and the same thing happen mentally and emotionally, that you're put into these stressful situations and when you can figure them out and get through them, you develop this understanding of how to deal with stress, and it can deepen your bucket or increase your threshold. But anything we do in life that really is important to us, is gonna be stressful: getting married, asking someone out on a date, taking a big test, doing a job interview, you know, all these kinds of things, as well as a tennis match, are going to be stressful, because it's important to you. And that's one of the defining things of whether or not we know that someone's going to experience stress is 'is it important to you?' and understanding that stress creates growth and it's necessary for us to move forward allows us to accept it when it shows up.

J: And that's a that's a great point, like the mind is a muscle right, and but you can't, with the mind, you can't always see or feel the growth like you can with the physical changes to your body, or you've obviously got a win/loss record or win streak or whatever, like, you can see that and you can feel it or, like physically, you can look in a mirror and see if you are getting stronger or looking bigger or looking more in shape or, you know, you get a sense of that and you get to see it and you get to feel it, but you don't necessarily see or feel the growth in the mind, especially with stress creating growth. But that's where I think you have to look in the mirror and take that test and go, "well, I am developing in this area that's increasing my confidence and I can cope with stressful situations." That's where reflection to me is a huge part of all of this is yes, so this is the stressful situation and this is how I'm going to cope with it. And then, you know, when I get to a certain point where I feel like I'm dealing with it either in a good or a bad way, then I can look in the mirror and try and reflect back on how I'm dealing with the situation or if I'd like to deal with it better, or if I'm dealing with it in an optimal way. And if I'm dealing with it an optimal way, then I can reflect back and go, okay, well, I can't see it and I can't feel it.

J: [Pause it there. We'll tell Mick about that. Alarm was about to go off. Mick be ready. Yeah, I'll go about it.] So you can't always see it or feel it, but by looking in the mirror, you can actually be honest with yourself and go, you know what, I've dealt with that and I'm happy that I am improving in my ability to deal with stressful situations.

L: So now you're talking about an intentional process of reflection, right JP? Where at the end of the day, you look back and say how did I deal with things and often, we love to look back at the things that we can really feel. You know, when I do those dumbbell presses, I can feel how it's setting my shoulders back and the chest is coming. I feel good. Like I did those yesterday like yeah, that feels good.

{That is not funny. By the way, J.]

[I'm just joking.]

L: [Yeah, go man. That'd be great. I'm gonna break social distancing by coming to your house and bench pressing you anyway. Anyway, now that I lost my train of thought,] but I think that this idea that you know that we can't tell how we're growing mentally and emotionally. I think we just have to look a little deeper and if we're taking that intentional time to reflect. One of the exercises I have players do is to journal stressful situations, what they're thinking and feeling in that situation, and then how they respond. And it's really important because it shows them a record of how they can deal with stress and they can start to change their perception of it. But I think if you can do the first two things we're talking about, you can immediately change your response to stress. By understanding it's a perception and if it's something that's useful as a challenge, as something excites me, then stress can be a good thing. And secondly, understanding that stress creates growth. And if I can believe in that, which we should believe in that, then again, when stress shows up, it's not a negative, it's an opportunity.

J: Yeah, and then so now you're building into this third part, which is training your coping and mental skills so that they're ready when you need it. So first of all, you need stress that creates growth because stress provides them the opportunities to then perform skills that you might need in order to deal with the stress. Now you start talking about some of the strategies that we've talked about in previous episodes, so maybe just give us an overview here of what training, sort of of coping or mental skills so that they are ready when we need them.

L: Yeah. So you're going to prepare for the moments that are not there at the moment. You know, when you do your mental practice, and you're doing mindfulness, you're doing breathing. You're doing that, not only for that moment, but you're also doing that for later moments when you're under stress and you need these coping skills to help you. You know, things like breathing and mindfulness and being able to focus on one thing even though you have a thought and thousand thoughts in your mind, or you have one thought in your mind that's really undermining you, is challenging you so the ability to engage your coping skills is extremely important for being resilient and thriving in stressful situations. And so we have to, we have to train those things. We have to create a discipline about it. Now some people think with these coping skills, well, if I, you know, work on it some I've got it, then I don't need to work on it anymore. And that's not true. It's like your communication skills you always have to work on because, or like going in the gym, you go in a gym, and you keep training your body because if you stop, you lose that training effect. And it's the same with your mind. If you stop preparing for stress, then you lose that effect; your mind - maybe not as great as on the physical side, but you do lose a lot of that, and you become less intentional about your self talk, you are more stressed because you're not taking time, that quiet time to be at ease, and you're less aware you're being unintentional. So it's truly a discipline. It's a practice and you're preparing for future stressful events. And if your mind is in a good place when you hit that stressful event, like playing in your first final, then you can be prepared to use those coping skills. But if you're starting from a negative, you're extremely stressed because you have a lot of homework, and you've never beaten this person before, and it's your first final, and all your family is going to be there, and everything you've ever wanted is right in front of you, and you're gonna feel devastated if you don't win. Wow. Like that's a lot. And so, starting from a positive where you're at ease, you're focused, you know that it's more about the long term and the process, all these things are easier to engage with in the stressful moment, if you've been training your coping skills and creating that mindset on a daily basis.

J: Yeah, and ultimately like you mentioned there is you're being proactive in your training so that when you are preparing for the extremely stressful situations, I mean, no one could, I guess could have already prepared for the life situation that most of us are in, but coming back to the court, we're trying to be as proactive as possible so that when we are playing in let's say that biggest - the perceived biggest match of our life, whether it's a final of a of a tournament or Grand Slam, ATP 250, WTA, you know, series event,


J: If we're training the stress and training the coping skills and we're using those routines that we sort of detail, then we can effectively prepare for that stress. So, moving then into the last point here is how by practicing managing your response to stress in life can you consistently improve your stress capacity, thus going back to the original point that you made, which is trying to make that bucket deeper?

L: Yeah, so, you you train under stress in your sport. So in your daily training you expose yourself to stress that can be fatigue, that can be, you know, just having physically exhausted yourself, that can be with the, the complexity or the the challenge of the drill that you're in, playing people who are better than you, who play in ways that you don't like. This exposes you to stress and helps you prepare when you engage your coping skills, your routines. And then, you know, we don't want these coping skills just to be tricks that you use on a tennis court. They should be lifestyle things, they should be a part of who you are, because if you create this habit of responding well to stress, then it doesn't require you to come up with some magical effort to step up when the moment comes. You rely on your habits, you rely on what you do every day. So one of the ways to increase your bucket is to look for stress on a daily basis and learn to manage it. Manage it by accepting the stress, manage it by changing your perception of it, seeing it as a challenge as an opportunity to grow, manage it by engaging your coping skills, your self talk of being optimistic, "hey, I'll find a way, I can deal with this. I have the capabilities to do this." Manage it by using your imagery, imagining how you're going to be successful even though the situation is adverse. Manage it by staying focused in the present, using your breathing, using your cognitive skills. So you look for those opportunities throughout the day where the stress response happens, and you look forward to like an old friend, you're like, "okay, now it's here." Here's an opportunity to work on that and deepen that bucket. And just again, changing the way you're looking at it, like McGonigal said, changes the whole formula because now, it's not something to dread, it's something to look forward to that challenges you and you embrace it, then you can grow from the stress.

J: I'm going back there, I've often thought, Larry, that obviously,

J: stresses that you incur outside of a sporting environment can then help you in the sporting environment, then also the stresses that you incur in the sporting environment can or not help you with the life situation. So it's a cycle that's going on here. And obviously, at the younger age, you're probably doing a lot more life skill learning than you are with the sports skill learning because there's a lot of things going on. So if you're able to tackle areas like this with stress management, stress capacity, and improving that with a lot of life situations, then surely that's going to better equip us for when we do take to the courts and we put ourselves in stressful situations. I understand that's maybe a little bit of a generalization, but we've got to understand that there's a cycle going on where life events can help improve our tennis events or sporting events, but then vice versa, our tennis and sporting events can help improve how we deal with life situations when they pop up.

J: the

L: Yes, it can, JP, but there's something very important here. And that is this idea that, you know, it's not just caught, that you actually have to - you were talking about reflection before, and this is where adults, coaches, parents, leaders come in in a big way. But helping young people see that okay, the stress you're experiencing in tennis, and you're dealing with a good way, you can use some of those same skills and ideas with your schoolwork, with your homework, taking a test, in any any part of your life, but I think what has to happen for that to happen is that you have to access those things and start looking and finding ways to use them, right? So if I learn in my life that okay, when I get in an argument, if I step back, take two deep breaths, listen clearly what the person's saying not to the emotion, but to their message, and then instead of having an immediate visceral reaction of can't be me, I'm never wrong, but more or less, let me hear them and let me be objective about what's actually happening and then respond. You can work through arguments in a very good way that takes a lot of the extra stress and anxiety out of them. So you can get to a solution. And then when you look at your tennis, huh, well, how can that apply? Well, guess what? Aren't your arguments on the tennis court? And how are you going to deal with them? That's probably an easier transfer, a harder transfer, but certainly one that can be done is 'huh, okay. So if I can deal with that stress there, and I'm pretty good at dealing with people maybe cheating or suggesting that I am or getting arguments on the court, are those skills applicable also in other places, maybe when I'm up a set and 4-2, but I feel my body tightening up and I start getting really nervous.' Yeah. Again, taking the deep breaths, calming your mind, focusing on the task, and really coming up with a good solution. There's a very similar process. But it takes some mental work to make that adaptation, right? to make that transfer and that's where coaches, parents can really help young people. I think, by the you know, by the time we get to like 25, our brain matures, and we're better capable of doing these things. We have a greater capacity, but we can certainly, up that curve, that learning curve and accelerate it, by the way we learn and the way we look to transfer these things, always looking for the transfer. And again, like I can't say enough parents and coaches help a lot with that.

J: Yeah, the one example that comes to mind for me when I was younger was

J: you know, you take a test at school and you sit in a big you sit in maybe at the gym, gymnasium or something, you've got tables and chairs laid out and then you've got one or two teachers that are there moderating and, you know, and then you obviously, you've got the tennis court where you're preparing to go on and play a match and you're on the tennis court and you're playing in front of people, whatever. And the two situations that come to mind the feelings, thoughts, behaviors that I went through was I've gone into tests where I felt I was very prepared, but I was still very nervous and you're still nervous, but you're like 'excited' anxious. And then I've gone into tennis matches where I feel the exact same like, I feel like my training's gone well, and I'm confident and you know, your test is like your opponent, you don't know what you're going to get on that day. So you can never really 100% know, I mean, you could be you could be as prepared as possible with knowing the types of topics no different than you know the type of game style that your opponent might be playing, but you don't know how, you don't know when you turn that page over or when that player shows up on that day, what's actually going to come out. And then you've had days where I've shown up for a test, I'm nervous and I'm anxious, but I'm like, worried anxious because I maybe haven't prepared that well, and no different than going on to a match where I maybe feel that my training could have gone better or I could have done more. I could have, I've left something on the table and therefore I've gone into my match even if I'm playing an opponent that I feel that I could, you know, beat fairly handedly I'm still going into that situation nervous but more stressful, more anxious and a little bit more worried. And, you know, I just kind of remember thinking at some point as I got a little older, maybe 16/17, how I could correlate those two really well, because you start coming up with those butterflies in your stomach. And the more matches you play, the more you experience those different types of emotions prior to stepping on the court, all of those feelings. And same with taking tests; the more tests you take, the more you're put into that situation where you get to feel those butterflies but you get to feel that you're nervous in a good way or nervous in a more anxious, worried way. And ultimately, that all comes down to the preparation and recognizing, yeah, there's going to be a stressful situation regardless of whether I feel I'm really prepared or underprepared. So ultimately, it's doing everything you can to prevent the under preparation. Because if you go back to your psycho-physiological response, that mind-body, if I've got a feeling going into it that I'm underprepared, then physiologically that's where I'm going to start feeling a little bit more shorter of breath whether I'm going playing a physical game or taking a test. I'm going to feel like a little bit more panicky with my breathing, my mind isn't going to be very clear, I'm, you know, in a test trying to dig deeper to as much information you think you know, and on the tennis court, you're just you're unclear on what your strategy is - your game plan is -  and then the reverse happens when you are prepared. You seem to think clearer, you your breathing seems to slow down, and you're able to draw on all the information that you have to answer any question that comes your way. Like on the court, you are, you're clear in your thinking, you're probably better adapting to your opponent's game style or their changes in their game, and your breathing seems to slow down and all that goes hand in hand. So that's an example that really came to my mind as you're walking us through this, Doc, was life can help in the sporting environment, sporting environment can help in the life environment.

You know, so, but let's move on here. So maybe you could give us - L: Sorry, just a couple thoughts because you you give great points and it got me thinking here. I'm sorry. But the one is that J: Oh good, we like that, we like you thinking,

L: Good. But yeah, early in the morning, especially. Having a plan or being prepared, creates certainty and certainty creates calm and composure. And being unprepared or having uncertainty about what's going to happen, creates fear and anxiety. So we always need to remember those formulas. And you were spelling that out very nicely. A couple other points number one is we need to expose ourselves to stress, that's one of the pillars of developing resilience and thriving. But it's not enough, like athletes will say, well, I just need to be in that situation more often. You know, be in a final more often. Yeah, but if you keep using the same ineffective coping strategies, you're going to get similar results. So it's not just being exposed, but it's actually using effective coping skills and learning to more effectively deploy these things. That's important. So it's not just a one, it has to be both. So it's the way you use your skills and it's using them effectively. Now, I wanted to also kind of respond, you were talking about the reality of the situation. If you feel prepared, you just need to remember you did the training, you're ready and that has a great way of helping you minimize the nerves, the stress that you feel and let you focus on the present. What do you do? What do you do if you're unprepared? Like the reality is, you had a bad week of practice, you didn't study enough, what do you do? Tough one. I'm not gonna sit here like, 'hey, I got the magic formula, you're gonna feel amazing after I tell you what to do.' No, you're gonna be stressed because you should be. And you didn't do everything you could to prepare, but it doesn't mean you can't perform. You might not perform at A+ level, so you're going have to have acceptance that certain things you do are going to be limited. You're maybe not going to play as well. The other thing you have to remember is you don't always play the way you practice. I know people say well, you play the way you practice. Yes and no. Overall in general, yes. But there are days where you just play better. And you have to have that optimism. Yeah, I'm not prepared completely, but if I can get myself into this match, I can find a way and that optimism is huge. And that should not be a license to be unprepared, that's just when you're in that situation, you're going to have to be as optimistic as possible and focus on your weapons, your strengths, focus on what you can control is the best thing you can do.

J: Yeah, that's a great point. And just to take this a little step further here, Larry, to maybe talk about the social elements in all of this. One thing that really used to bug me when I was a kid was if I got a bad grade, or if I lost a match, I reflected internally first and just was like, 'you know what, I just didn't put the work in. I left stuff on the table this week, or you know, I just didn't study hard enough, and I didn't study well enough in order to get a good grade.' Like, nobody wants a bad grade and nobody wants to lose a match. Everyone has the same goal, well, or drive. They obviously they do things because they want to win a tennis match and they do things because they want to get a good grade on the test, right? No one wants to fail, but it's after something has happened. So after you've lost the match or after you've received back your test score and you got a bad grade, it's the social aspect of hearing people almost glorify their failure in order to mask their feelings is something that always bugged me because if I did something bad I always owned up to it. So I just didn't put the work in, I got to do better. I got to look in the mirror and go that's just not good enough. That's not what I want to achieve. But those that come off and they sort of glorify failure in order to protect their feelings to their friends is going "well, you know, oh, yeah, I got a D Ha, ha ha. I mean, that's, yeah, who needs to study, it's like, who cares," type stuff and they do care and you know they care, but having those conversations of glorifying - you do that enough over time, I guess you start to believe it like oh, you lose a tennis match. It's like 'yeah, well, you know, he, he gave me a couple bad line calls here and there and you know, I just, you know, not bothered about this tournament, I'm looking forward to the next one, like who you know who's really that bothered?' And hearing those types of conversations used to bug the hell out of me, Larry and I know I'm going off on a bit of a rant here, but as you're talking through this, there is this social element, especially for younger players or younger people. That not to fall into that. Not to fall into that, that mode, where you start to think that it's cool or glorifying the lack of preparation, I guess. Like look in the mirror first and you know, own up to it, and you know, that's the thing that we should be glorifying is ownership. You didn't do something well enough, own up to it, and be completely truthful and honest about it. And you know, and if you did something well, then yeah, then reflect back you know what, l did a good job with this. And sometimes as well, you can reflect to me, you know, I thought I did a good job with this and maybe didn't do quite as well as I wanted to, but I'm proud of the effort that I put in here, I've just got to keep working and finding ways to keep getting better. So anyway, I just wanted to talk about that social element. Because I think that's important here when you're talking about stress is you don't want to relieve that stress by saying you don't really care. You've got to make sure that you're completely truthful and honest with yourself and don't fall into those social holes, I guess, where you feel like you need to protect yourself and glorify things in order to mask what's really going on, anyway.

L: Yeah, a few thoughts. So one is you know, what's going on and we all do this is we we do impression management, what we want people to think of us. And it probably feels a lot easier to let people know that 'yeah, I didn't really care, I didn't really try' than to say 'yeah, I tried really hard and I didn't get it done.' That hurts. But this you know, whether is like we always say like this extreme ownership responsibility. You know, I think champions take responsibility. But they also understand that, you know, I'm not gonna beat myself up about this. I'm going to learn from it, I'm going to take responsibility, I'm gonna let that inspire my practice, I'm going to learn and let go. And so there's kind of two sides of this coin. One is don't use that ineffective coping strategy of hiding from mistakes and failure and losing because the person who gets hurt is yourself. And it just never leads to a good outcome for you in the long term if you're using that coping strategy. You've got to take responsibility. And on the other hand, you have to be able to accept the things you don't control and let go after you learn from it. Find the positives, find the ways to improve, let it inspire your practice, learn and let go, move forward, so that you can then begin to stay motivated because if you just focus on the failure, well, then that's not going to be good either, you know that I didn't get it done. So I think it's all about this mental flexibility, and being able to do different things at the same time. If you're a person who's very black and white, like I failed, or I succeeded, you're gonna struggle with this concept, because you're probably most time somewhere in between - you did some things well, some other things could have been better, but overall, you got the job done. So be it. But when we put these extreme labels on things, it makes it hard to be flexible. And I think what you have to do when we talk about these attributions: was I successful and why or why not? Being able to look at it in different ways. Say 'yeah, you know what? The things I could control I did, I still didn't execute, that happens. I need to get better in my training, I just do - I have to execute better. Or I'm executing in practive, so I need to execute better in matches. How am I going to work on that?' So don't hide from the truth and at the same time, don't beat yourself up - I'm not good enough, I can't do this. Or don't hide, you know hide from it. Like, you know, it didn't matter anyway, that person wasn't good. I didn't care. It wasn't an important tournament. You know, I got another one. That never ends up being a good coping response.

J: That's right. And Larry, we're running a little short on time here, but I'm wondering whether we can just summarize all of this and in a conclusion here for the listeners. And there's really six main things that strike out here. So maybe we could go back and forwards, take it in turns here with that conclusion. So if I start off this first one, big thing that stuck out from what you mentioned was that stress equals growth, and is absolutely necessary to achieve great things. So that would be the first one that stuck out to me.

L: Yeah, that's extremely important - this idea that stress equals growth, we've got to remember that. I think the other thing is, it doesn't just mean that we let stress rule our lives, we still need to check it, we need to manage it. So it doesn't overwhelm us, doesn't overflow the bucket. And we try to avoid the stressors that are unnecessary right? You know, the things that are unhelpful. You know, you can categorize stress into things that are necessary and needed for growth and other things that are just too much or are unnecessary, and how do we sort of deal with those things. But stress over time, certainly is not good for the body, so you've got to make sure you're managing it.

J: Yeah, now that would be one that stuck out there is stress over time, is not necessarily healthy. So the recovery aspect and under-recovery, I guess we could use the word reflection as well, is obviously important. As you mentioned, for the physical side, the mental side, and then adding in the emotional side. So recovery and reflection will be the next point that you can conclude on.

L: Well, I think recovery and reflection are huge. If you're stressing, you've got to recover just like you would in physical exercise. When you manage the stress, you need to be aware of what's going on and this opportunity to grow and take it head on. You know that there's no usually good reason for just letting things fester and hang around because it just usually raises the level of anxiety and stress. So if you've got something that's stressing you, one of the best things you can do is problem-solve and begin to take it head on if you can.

J: Yeah, that's approaching it head on. And then I think if we come back to the preparation piece, it's how we minimize or eliminate unnecessary stresses, right. So I think under preparation is, obviously unless it was something really external that forced you to under-prepare, but if you under prepared, it's usually down to you. So an unnecessary stressor to me is the stress that's caused from a lack of preparation. And obviously, there's other stressors that might be involved in that, but eliminate the unnecessary stressors.

L: Yeah. And then finally, what we want to end on here JP is that you can thrive under stress if you prepare for it, if you look at in a good way, as a challenge, as something exciting to overcome, and you can learn from it. So, again, I think the big message here for everyone is, let's look at our stress differently. Stress is not easy. It's not meant to be. Growth is not easy. Change is not easy. But these are all part of the human experience and being able to go through that in a good way is absolutely essential for all of us right now.

J: That's awesome, Larry, well, we've run out of time here, but I've enjoyed really listening to this. And there's definitely some things I think I can practice to improve my stress capacity for sure. And so appreciate you walking us through that, Doc. And, you know, thanks for you know, you're great at being able to give us some great resources and information. But then also, the most important aspect of all of this information, it's given us some real practical exercises to take home. And so I think we can use all these these ideas that you've given us to improve our stress capacity and you know, not right now again, going back to sort of what Jose Higueras always says, when we're dealt with situations of adversity, it presents an opportunity and the opportunity here is how we grow and how we improve. And here there's an opportunity to improve our stress capacity. And so we can take this opportunity right now to work on these strategies to figure out how we're going to deal with these stressors in a more optimal way that that make us feel either prepared or make us feel better about the situation we're in and how we're going to get through it. So thanks so much, Doc. Appreciate it.

L: You're welcome. And that was good. That was fun and definitely good to talk with you about JP. So awesome.

J: Well, thanks, Doc. And just like Larry mentioned there, we're going to have in the show notes, the TEDTalk on McGonigal on Stress As Your Friend, so be sure to check that out. It is a really great TEDTalk right there. So spend some time to watch through that. And then for more information, you can always go to our website, - got great resources on there. Be sure to sign up and tune in for the Monday webinars. We're doing a weekly Player Development Learning Series webinar that you can sign up for and we've had some incredible guests and incredible presentations. We're covering tennis side of it, the on-court piece, the mental skills, the strength and conditioning and athletic development, as well as sports science topics, anything related from nutrition, hydration to recovery to Generation Z and just everything in between. So be sure to check that out. It's a great resource and until next time, we are checking out.