As we strive to adapt to our new reality since the arrival of Covid-19, most of us are struggling to stay centered in the midst of complete upheaval in our lives. Feeling unsettled, anxious and fearful is normal but how we respond is where the opportunity lies.
Those of us who have been competitive athletes have learned from our coaches repeatedly in the face of high stress and pressure to focus on what we can control, not on the things we can't control. No question these are trying times but we can help ourselves and others cope in a positive way.
So, what can we control right now? Ourselves...our attitudes, mindsets, efforts, what we do and don't do, how we look after ourselves and how we respond to adversity.
Coping with stress and maintaining a positive affect or mood is key to determining our feelings, thinking behaviours and outcomes. When we are in a positive mood, we can still dig deep and feel joy, discover passion, enthusiasm and motivation, curiosity and contentment even in the most difficult circumstances. We have all heard stories of, have witnessed or have ourselves summoned up amazing human resilience in the face of great challenge.
We have a choice - we can be mindful and choose positive.
Here are some effective, science backed strategies that can help us build resilience and maintain a positive attitude in the face of adversity:
Acceptance that you are feeling stressed. This reduces the emotional charge and calms the amygdala, the subcortical structure in your brain involved in the processing of emotions, especially fear and anxiety. Identify and accept your emotions and then move on - motion changes emotion, actions change attitudes and movement changes mood.
Reappraise or reframe the stress you feel in the situation as helpful. Asking yourself is this really stressful or just annoying, disruptive or uncomfortable. This can make your feelings more manageable. Athletes for example use stress as a skill to optimize performance. It is comforting to know that a history of some adversity is related to greater life satisfaction and strengthens one's ability to cope with stress.
Change your mindset about stress. That stress is a challenge and not a threat. This is not the first time many of us have had to abruptly change course in our lives. making a list of all the other times you pushed through will remind yourself of the skills and strengths you previously called upon in challenging times. Tell yourself those stories of resilience today.
"She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails" -Elizabeth Edwards
Fuel your motivation by breaking down your goals into small daily tasks that you can succeed at. It is all about the dopamine! When we make progress we feel better and that leads to more progress. Establishing a daily routine that starts with small tasks and enjoyable activities we can succeed at will maintain good feelings throughout the day for everyone in our households. It helps to remember that emotions are contagious.
To keep spirits up during our days of self or family isolation with fun activities, here is an immense list of boredom-busting resources from the Chatterpack Blog!
Slow rhythmic breathing will slow down your breathing to deactivate the fight or flight system and activate the rest and digest system. When we are stressed our breathing is shallow which activates a chaotic heart rate and increases our anxiety. We can de-stress our body through short breathing practices during the day. I find this practice really helpful to relax in under 5 minutes, I hope you do too.
Below is a link to a 3-minute Calm Breathe Bubble on YouTube that you can use to guide you. The basic model is: in-breath for 4 seconds, rest for 4 seconds, out-breath for 4 seconds, rest for 4 seconds, repeat for a few minutes to de-stress. Calm Breathe Bubble.
A balanced body budget is also key. To effectively manage stress, we must take care of ourselves: we are a mind body system; to have a healthy mind you need a healthy body. taking care of our physical health should be the first step in managing stress and building resilience. The 3 basics for a balanced body budget are good quality sleep, diet and exercise.
For more on this, read my February blog on Managing Our Body Budgets.
As many of us are spending a lot more time indoors and can't hit the gym, here are some online resources for exercising inside. You can find many other sources on YouTube as well.
For some great moderate to high intensity body weight workouts try these out with
Robfit Mont Tremblant. Rob has uploaded a nice variety of core and HIIT routines under 30 minutes.
For low intensity exercise this is a super 30-minute all-level Yoga class Gentle Yoga Flow.
Mindfulness practice is also recommended as a way to cope with stress. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, and not overly react or overwhelmed by what's going on around us. Whenever you bring awareness to what you're directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you are being mindful.
Meditation and yoga that focuses on your breathing is a wonderful way to become fully present in the moment, relax and de-stress. This is a lovely 30-minute yoga session that focuses on presence through the breath, Slow and Gentle Yoga. There are many apps and online resources available on guided meditation and yoga to explore to find the approach that best suits you.
Journaling also evokes mindfulness, helps writers remain present while keeping perspective and has many benefits: improves your mood and gives you a greater sense of overall emotional well-being and happiness. It can help in the management of personal adversity and change, and emphasize important patterns and growth in life.
To learn more about the power of journaling I invite you to check out Holistic Journaling Ink. Jill Grumbache, the Founder, offers online courses as well as an online Sunday morning mindful meditation sessions to help you stay present and positive.
Some of you will have your favorite practice and teachers. I would love to hear your recommendations.
I truly hope you found some inspiration and helpful strategies here to build your resilience, maintain your positivity and manage your stress just a little better as you work to change the things you can change today as well as tomorrow.
Stay safe and healthy everyone and your families!
If you need a boost, a reassuring chat, I am here for you, please reach out.
With gratitude, warmly,
ps. If you're not already an email subscriber, I invite you to subscribe to my monthly blog on human performance, health and wellness and leadership here at Coach Karen's Blog.
Thank you :).
Neuroscience sourcing: The Neuroscience School
Photo Credit: photochikottawa, Pixabay
Karen Lukanovich, MBA, ACC, Olympian, Personal Leadership and Performance Coach. Helping high achieving women move to a higher level of performance or tackle their next "big thing" with strength, confidence and wellbeing.