Calling on your Strengths Amid Coronavirus Uncertainty

Woman meditating from home

No trait is more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life, than the ability to transform adversity into a challenge- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

There’s no doubt that we’re living through unprecedented times. As coronavirus spreads and we’re urged to keep our distance from friends and family, it’s natural to feel some fear and anxiety. However, according to Sport and Performance Psychologist Anne-Marie Kennedy, finding balance between stress and challenge can often create space for us to evolve, grow and adapt. Here, she outlines strategies we can borrow from the world of elite sport to help cope with our changing circumstances.

Navigating Times of Crisis

“To stay composed, develop optimism and thrive can be a shift in mindset. It’s our ability to reframe our thoughts; to approach the challenge that the situation poses. The inner narrative becomes ‘where is the opportunity to learn here?’ And ‘how can I show up as my best self despite these stressful times?’ In Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, he writes: ‘When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.’We have the freedom to choose how we respond, depending on whether we decide to focus on what may be lost or what can be gained. We can choose our response to the situation. Our focus and mindset will help us navigate during the critical times that lie ahead.

Slow Down

When we experience pressure, our bodies go into a stress response. Pressure moments prompt emotional reactions and these powerful instincts can sabotage our intentions. Everything begins to speed up, often resulting in a rush and feelings of panic. We think, move, breathe and even talk more quickly. These physical changes occur in response to stress, but they’re not conducive to helping you when you feel under pressure. An important strategy to help deal with the current situation is to slow down. This past week has been a transition period for everyone. We are trying to find our feet and adapt to our new reality. Think, move, breathe, talk more slowly. Take your time figuring all this out. Deep conscious breathing is a very powerful tool to help calm us down and allow us to think and behave more effectively in times of intense stress.

Father and child at home

Leveraging Our Strengths

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. As humans we’re susceptible to confirmation bias, whereby we’re more likely to notice things that support our point of view. When we have a negativity bias meanwhile, we focus more on negative information. In order to maintain perspective, keep optimistic and be confident, we need to counter these instincts. Leveraging our strengths is about bringing our best self to challenging situations. It’s about knowing how to capitalise on our strengths more consistently so we can adjust to the environment we’re in, whether that’s at work, at home or in sport. It also helps us handle adversity more effectively. 

What’s Your Super-Strength?

The stress that athletes encounter in high performance environments can at times resemble some of our current experiences. When the heat is on in a sporting event, how we think, feel, behave and perform will have a significant influence on the consequences. What ‘Super-Strength’ do you have that will help you cope better in the current situation? Keep a copy of your strength audit nearby or on your phone and remember to access it at times when need it. This will be very effective in helping you to develop the mental skills necessary to think and feel well in this period of uncertainty.

If you’re feeling anxious about coronavirus and its effects, be sure to download our Healthy Minds app. It’s got loads of useful tools to help you look after your mental health.