Keep your ship stable

13 Oct 2023

Jakob Jung loves football. But over the years, the Comparative European History student's relationship with the sport has become quite complicated. For Vox, he is going on the lookout to replace the football-shaped hole in his heart. This week, he talks about stress during his new research master's and what a tennis ball has to do with combatting it.

The tennis ball hits the ground, jumps up to my hand, and hits the ground again. Meanwhile, I am standing on a shaky pedestal fighting for my balance. I must look like a mutineer on the plank trying to avoid the sea. And one might wonder how I became the protagonist of this obscure scene.

Well, like with every good tale, we need to go a little back in time. This semester, I have been sinking into a maelstrom of papers and had to adapt to a new climate. I also have met many new faces and already really widened my horizon. No, I haven’t become a pirate. I have also not set sail for a discovery voyage. But I did start a new master’s degree.

At times, however, my new programme does feel like uncharted territory. I still need to navigate this foreign terrain. Luckily, sport can be of help here. Even better, I joined a well-being and mindset workout for my studies.

This brings us back to my hands flipping the ball on the ground and bouncing it back up again. It’s an exercise that is supposed to help with listening to how our mind and body react to challenges. And it does work. Like a good seaman in a storm, I focus on what my body tells me and instantly act on it without much thinking.

‘We end up being walking brains’

Our studies often turn us into the opposite of a Caribbean zombie: we end up being walking brains rather than brainless walkers. And for me, sport – or related meditative exercises – can work as a perfect anchor, a counterweight, to all this heavy thinking.

Every sailor knows that it’s important to keep your ship stable. Otherwise, your beloved vessel might tip over and you lose all the precious gems, rum, and remaining plunder. I think we need to treat the balance between our physical and mental health with similar caution and care.

Thus, after long battles with papers and assignments, I will try to allow myself more shore leave. I will attempt strolling more through the park and have earlier nights. After all, there needs to be time to meet my mates in the tavern and share the newest rumours. And I hope that, eventually, I might steer through a calmer sea, being able to appreciate the treasures awaiting in my new study.

Read Jakob Jung's blogs here

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