Sports Doc: Positive thinking makes difference during pandemic
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has kept us from engaging in our normal activities, and the longer the pandemic endures, the more challenges we will face keeping our spirits high and mental energy positive.
Where is the light at the end of the tunnel? When can we begin spending time with friends again, or attending events?
The answers to these questions seem to vary day by day, leaving us confused, frustrated and, at times, pessimistic. In an attempt to find ideas to help, I will explore the "A-B-C's" to (pandemic) recovery, borrowing from the work of famous psychologist Albert Ellis.
Thoughts impact actions
How we perceive the world around us is a unique individual experience that directly impacts our behaviors. For example, if you think you can successfully complete a task, it is likely that you will give it everything you have in order to get the job done. Conversely, if you perceive a task to be impossible, then you will likely not even try.
Interestingly, how we perceive the world is a very subjective experience that is influenced by countless variables, including level of past success, confidence level, interest and many more factors. Delving deeper, what this means is that we can control how we view and interpret the world, and by doing so we can change our thinking for the better so that rather than be intimidated by tasks, we are challenged by them.
Using another example, let's say your child is interested in playing on one of the school sports teams, but it's a team that is selective and will inevitably cut some of the kids who try out. Your daughter could immediately perceive the situation as: "Why even try, I'll never make the team." Should she take this position, she will either give poor effort during tryouts (since she doesn't expect anything good to happen), or she may not go out for the team at all.
But what could happen if she had been more realistic and recognized that while many talented kids were trying out that she was talented, too? In this example, it's quite probable she would have worked hard, given a lot of effort, bounced back from tough plays and remained engaged in the process with the hopes of being selected. With this kind of mindset, it's obvious that while she still may not make the team the odds for her success have risen dramatically.
A-B-C's of success
Getting back to Ellis for a moment, his famous Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy is built on the premise that while we don't always control the tasks and situations we face each day, we do 100 percent control how we perceive and respond to situations. The Ellis model breaks down as follows:
A) The triggering event (i.e. a traffic jam, angry coach, flat tire).
B) Our belief about the triggering event (i.e. anger, frustration, excitement).
C) The actions that follow congruent to how we appraised the situation in step B. For example, if we think a brief traffic jam is going to wreck the day, it likely will; but if you instead frame the traffic jam as a minor inconvenience, you are far more likely to have a better day.
While it is a waste of energy to try and control all the things that will occur in your life (it is impossible to do this), it is very worth your while to examine the ways in which you evaluate tasks and situations that you face.
What is your first reaction to things? Do you have a tendency to be negative and pessimistic, or do you find that you more often roll up your sleeves and accept the challenge? This model is a good one for all of us, but especially for kids as they can master this way of thinking early in their lives and enjoy the positive benefits and outcomes forever.
Your wellness, and chances for future success, rely heavily on how you perceive the world around you. Kids are especially encouraged to practice responding to events in their life (like the current pandemic) in ways that are accurate, inspiring and optimistic. While it is true that they are currently limited, there are still countless ways to find value in each day -- and inspire others to do the same. Develop the mindset of a problem-solver rather than a pessimist, and continue to shape the ways in which you respond to situations and events so that you can give your best effort.
Dr. Chris Stankovich is the founder of Advanced Human Performance Systems, an athletic counseling and human performance enhancement center. Sports parents, please check out The Parents Video Playbook and sports counseling services at drstankovich.com.