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Paddle Tennis- A Story About Neuroplasticity and the Anxious Brain

Updated: Dec 13, 2020

So today I did something new. I took a Paddle Tennis lesson- it's like a small tennis court, and some of the tennis rules apply, and some don't. Lucky for me, I have never played tennis, so I was a blank slate! I had signed up for this last week because a friend told me they would be going. They ended canceling because something was going on in their life. It happens, right? On one of my anxious days, I probably would have let my anxiety take over, and I would have just made an excuse to stay home.

I could have done that; I've made excuses before when my anxiety was so over the top, I couldn't face it. I've been that person who cancels last minute because I felt too uncomfortable. There were a couple of things that would have stopped me right in my tracks... first of all, my friend decided not to come, second, I've never played the game, third, I didn't know anyone who would be there. Lucky for me, I've learned to manage my anxiety. Of course, I felt a little uneasy at the beginning. I was tempted to go back home and sit in my PJ's and watch Netflix for the rest of the morning. But I decided I wanted to try this game, and my silly anxiety wasn't going to stop me.

While I was there, I started thinking about neuroplasticity. I hope you know what that word means, but if you don't, it means that we can change our brain connections because of new experiences. Our brain is continuously evolving to fit into what we want out of our life. So, as I was sitting there listening to the instructor, I learned a couple of new words, stances, and things we are supposed to do when playing paddle tennis. I realize that everything wouldn't automatically come to me. But I knew that I would need to continue learning and coming to lessons so that eventually, it would click.

I think this is the same thing with anxiety. Every time it comes up, we need to learn how to navigate this part of us. We need to know how it feels and what it does. We need to be more in tune with ourselves and learn how to engage with it. How to be on offense, so when it strikes, we know what to do. Eventually, after many times of trying, our brain will change, and when something scary comes up, it'll just click! Instead of saying, "I want to stay home," you'll say... this is a little different, and anxiety is only part of life sometimes, but I'm not going to let it stop me. You'll get a little bit of adrenaline, but you'll know what to do with it.

Train your anxious brain.

Listen, anxiety is part of our life sometimes. We need to learn how to embrace it instead of running from it because we won't get anywhere. I promise you. I'm glad I went today. I met some lovely people, I learned some new things, and I plan on going back again next weekend because Paddle Tennis was incredibly fun.

Does anxiety stop you? Seek a therapist trained in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps with changing unhelpful thought patterns to help with our uncomfortable feelings.

Monica Wells, LMHC is a psychotherapist in Huntington, NY trained to work with individuals with neurodevelopmental differences. She is certified in treating Anxiety and Depression.

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