Even as many states begin to transition out of quarantine, there is still a “new normal” we are faced with, as life may never go back to exactly as it was before. At least not yet, anyway. The entirety of COVID-19 up until this point has felt like a marathon, and for those of us who have never run 26.2 miles, there can be a lot of stress surrounding how to keep moving forward. No amount of training could have prepared us for this. So how do we stay the course and keep moving forward? Here are a few highly effective mental skills that can help us get one percent better each day, and keep us moving toward the finish line:
Segmenting – No marathon runner steps up to the starting line and says to themselves, “Okay, I got 26.2 miles to go.” Doing that would be extremely daunting and makes the entire race feel impossible. Instead, experienced marathon runners break their race up into smaller, more tangible pieces and create a race strategy. So, for us, instead of looking at the rest of the summer with the uncertainty of when we will go back to work, what are we going to do in July and August, etc., it can be helpful to just think about what the rest of this week looks like. The next ten weeks is too hard for our brains to really wrap itself around. We are better off starting to add little things we want to do such as mindfulness each day before bed, learning a new recipe, getting in better physical shape, etc. From there we can create a better race plan. The most important mile you are running in the entire race is the one you are running right now.
Labeling – Just labeling the good and not so good thoughts and emotions that we have can help us be present with them and ground us in the moment. For example, in moments of worry, labeling the thought as “Oh that’s worrying” or, “That’s self-judgment.” In moments of warmth and happiness saying, “That’s gratitude.” Doing so helps us grow the muscle of self-awareness.
Intentional Time Planning – One thing that we know about stress, whether in sports or elsewhere, is that our executive functioning declines when we experience stress in high levels. This greatly impacts the part of our brain that is in charge of managing our time effectively and making good decisions. Putting aside time for yourself in your day, or taking 20 minutes to plan your week can hugely impact your productivity and manage your stress levels. Your plan does not have to be rigid to the point that it isn’t flexible, but rather, identify what things are most important this week and putting time aside to do them right.