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Game, Set, Match: Tennis as a Metaphor for Mental Health Maintenance

Mental Health Maintenance, Tennis as a Metaphor for Mental Health Maintenance

Tennis is an interesting game. 

Mental Health Maintenance, Tennis as a Metaphor for Mental Health Maintenance

In many competitions (like football or basketball, for example), the goal is to get the ball to a specific location (like in the endzone or in the basket). But in tennis, the ball does not have to arrive in any specific place (as long as it is inbounds); it just has to be placed somewhere that makes it hard for the other player to return it to you.

And then, of course, that other player tries to hit back to a spot that will make it hard for you to return it. Back and forth it goes until someone hits the ball out of bounds or into the net or allows it to bounce more than once on their side.

That back and forth rhythm of the game is also different from a lot of other sports. Tennis is one of the few games in which players are simultaneously on offense and defense. Each swing of the racket is both. 

Now, we suspect you did not come to this blog looking for philosophical musings about the nature of tennis. But we would like to make the case that mental health maintenance can sometimes resemble a tennis game. Let us serve that idea to you to see how the ball bounces.

The Search for the Right Medication Can Involve a Lot of Volleying

As we have frequently mentioned in these blog entries, the best approach to improving your mental well-being if you are struggling with a mental health disorder is often a combination of talk therapy and medication. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in combination with an antidepressant can be an effective way to address major depression.

The challenge, however, can be finding the right medication. That’s because each medication can have its positives and negatives. You and your doctor will have to collaborate to find the medication that works the best for you that also has limited side effects and works well in combination with any other medications you might be taking.

This can be a lengthy process not unlike a long volley in tennis. The search for the best medication can make you feel like you are playing offense (addressing your specific mental health needs) and defense (avoiding troublesome side effects) at the same time. 

But if you are dedicated and patient—and working with a physician or psychiatrist who is both of those things as well—the odds are good that you can eventually find the solution that serves you best.

You Do Have to Keep Things Inside the Lines

We mentioned at the outset that one of the things that makes tennis interesting is that you can hit the ball anywhere you want on the court. You don’t have to put it in a hoop or a goal. But you do have to keep it inside (or on) the lines that define the court.

The lines play an important role, of course. Without them, a tennis court would be, in theory, infinite—and that’s a lot of ground to cover!

When it comes to medication intended to treat mental health disorders, the “lines” are the instructions you get from your doctor or your pharmacist. Drifting from those instructions—taking more than you have been prescribed, mixing medicines with other substances, doctor shopping in an effort to increase your supply—is the equivalent of hitting the tennis ball out of bounds. 

A tennis player who hits the ball out of bounds loses the point. And if they keep doing it, they eventually lose the game, the set, and the match. A person who uses medication in out of bounds ways puts themselves at risk of serious consequences. Those consequences might include immediate negative symptoms due to drug interactions, the development of a substance use disorder, or even death.

Think of Us as Coaches Who Can Help You Up Your Mental Health Game

At Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health in Colorado, we are devoted to providing personalized, evidence-based mental health treatment to each person we serve. We will listen intently to what you have to say about your overall wellness, and we will design a treatment plan grounded in our expertise, experience, and empathy. If you are ready to improve your mental health game, we are ready to provide the coaching that can help make that happen.

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