In the modern age, people constantly experience stress, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to former professional tennis player Pancho Campo, who delivered a motivational talk followed by a wine tasting on March 22 at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort.
“Stress is good — in fact, it’s absolutely necessary,” said Campo. “How you deal with stress is the important thing.”
Wineschool3, which organised the event, combined Campo’s talk with a “happy hour” tasting of Spanish wines. In addition to having been a professional tennis player, Campo was also a tennis coach and served as the coach of the Chilean Olympic tennis team at the summer Olympics in Barcelona in 1992. He later produced conferences, concerts and sports events that featured well-known people like former United States Vice President Al Gore, former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, musicians Sting and Enrique Iglesias and tennis players Andre Agassi, Stefan Edberg and Pat Cash.
Campo called his presentation “Three Stories” because in it he discussed three real-life stories of people who had gone through extreme stress for various reasons, but were able to deal with it.
“Stress is a part of life,” he said. “It’s also the main cause of problems in the modern society.”
Campo said that getting rid of stress would be the ideal response, but that it isn’t always possible. Therefore, people need to learn how to deal with it.
The “flight or fight” response to stress is well known, but Campo said there are actually four “Fs” because “freeze” and “face” are two more responses to stress.
Speaking about the “freeze” response, Campo said it is similar to “choking” in tennis, where an athlete facing enormous stress can’t perform properly. The “fight” response to stress on the tennis court often manifests itself in anger and losing control. Campo said that was often his way of responding to stress on the court.
“I used to get extremely angry,” he said. “John McEnroe was nothing compared to me.”
“Flight” on the tennis court is when the player gives up and is no longer trying to win.
“Facing” stress in tennis is something that players like Roger Federer do very well. When the game looks lost and they’re under tremendous stress, they dig deep within themselves and face the stress while staying under control.
In his dealings over the years with many celebrities, Campo said he noticed they all had one trait in common.
“They all have something or someone who inspires them,” he said. “Every world leader, every sports person finds inspiration in something. Think about who inspired you and use it as a source of energy. Inspiration is the first ingredient in learning how to handle stress.”
Having goals and ambition is also important in managing stress, Campo said, as is finding physical, emotional and spiritual balance.
“The lack of balance results in wasting a lot of energy,” he said. Campo said people should think of the four elements of balance — physical, emotional, mental and spiritual — as the four legs of table. When one leg is out of balance, the whole table wobbles.
However, Campo acknowledged that attaining perfect balance is very difficult.
“Very rarely will we have perfect balance in our lives,” he said. “They key is to be aware. As soon as one leg starts wobbling, you have to act on it.”
There is also a physiological response to stress through the release of endorphins, natural pain killers released by the brain. Campo said the things that make the brain release endorphins include pain, exercise, food, success, charity, love, sex and laughter.
One other thing that helps people face stress is having rituals. He showed a video of Roger Federer going through his pre-serve ritual of bouncing the ball at the baseline with his hand and wiping various areas of his head and shoulders with one of his hands. When he’s facing a difficult situation in a tennis match, Federer will even exaggerate the rituals, Campo said.
The three stories told by Campo during the talk included one about a 22-year-old student who was just about ready to graduate from medical school, only to have a fire destroy the academic records of his last four years of university in a time when there were no computer back-ups. The fire cost the man his career and his planned marriage.
The second story involved a man whose wife cheated on him and ran off with another man, causing their joint business to be liquidated. His father also died during this time.
The third story was about a man who, while on a business trip, learned that he was subject to an Interpol Red Notice that severely injured his reputation and his ability to move freely around the world. Only after 14 years was the erroneously applied Red Notice taken off.
He said that all three men were fine now because they had faced the stress and had not stayed down when times got tough.
“In life, it is a given that you will fall, that you will fail, many times,” he said. “But you have to stand up. How many times you get up will define what you will be in life.”
There is a reason Campo said he knew the stories of the three men so well.
“All three guys are the same person,” he said, showing a photo of himself on screen. “It’s the story of my life.”