Debbie Alexander is a Clinical Psychologist with a PhD in neuropsychology in sport. She holds numerous leadership positions in international sport, including as a member of the ITU Executive Board, and her overriding passion is assisting people, in both clinical and sports settings, to be the best versions of themselves.
In light of today’s unprecedented global landscape, Debbie has shared her thoughts on how we can all cope with the challenges imposed on our lives by the COVID-19 pandemic, with advice on how to stay mentally strong in a situation that none of us ever imagined we would be in. This was the first in a series of writings on the subject currently touching everybody’s lives that are all available on the ITU Development Hub page here.
Option 1: We allow it to get us down by choosing to get angry, frustrated and depressed
Option 2: We can accept that the situation for what it is (positive option)
We must always keep in mind that what we think - our thoughts - influences what we feel – our emotions - and how we behave in the world.
By choosing Option 1, our negative thoughts will transition into negative feelings and negative behaviour – these then fuel each other, taking us on a downward spiral. For example, if we think that we can’t cope with a situation, we start feeling more helpless, our confidence goes out of the window and we make mistakes.
By choosing Option 2, we can initiate an upward spiral. Option 2 speaks to the acceptance of a situation, but that does not mean giving up, becoming detached or simply not caring. On the contrary, acceptance means becoming even more attached, taking a tighter hold of something no matter how difficult and embracing the true, deep understanding of how things really are.
In Mindfulness practice, we see acceptance as a pause, a period of allowing things to be just as they are, a period of seeing clearly and turning to face the difficulty rather than trying to avoid it.
When we pause, acknowledge and accept our negative thoughts, feelings and sensations, it breaks the initial link in the chain that leads to a negative downward spiral and prevents the mind’s automatic aversion pathway from kicking in.
Therefore, when we pause, we give ourselves more time and space to respond in the wisest and most creative way to difficult situations. If we choose to accept the situation as it is, we open ourselves up to new possibilities, which can include the view that this crisis, too, shall pass.
Imagine you are a surfer. No wave is ever the same, sometimes the conditions are rough and sometimes calm. Sometimes the waves are small and sometimes enormous. This is much the same in life. We never know what challenges we will face and often circumstances are out of our control. In life as in surfing, we cannot control the waves, but we can learn to ride them.
So rather than fear the wave, harness the power and energy of this force and have the ride of your life.
Enjoy the ride and remember to breathe.
- Debbie Alexander PhD.