|Content series|||||By Charlie Unwin||May 2020|
Ready for part 2 of The Thrive Project? Charlie Unwin is back with some valuable tips on how we can all build resilience to cope mentally and physically through the pandemic.
To truly thrive, we need to train ourselves in three areas:
Part 1 gave us a clear plan and routine to help establish positive doing. Part 2 focuses on positive thinking. We hope the exercises in this blog help boost your resilience and enable you to make the best of this socially distant situation in which we've found ourselves!
We've put all of Charlie's thoughts and insight into an easy step-by-step infographic. A PDF one. One you can download and keep going back to. Not as much detail as the articles, but it'll get you thriving!
Click the link to download the PDF of The Thrive Project by Charlie Unwin.
When you feel your strength waning, your courage must be firmer, your heart must be bolder, and your spirit must be greater.
These are the words of an Anglo-Saxon warrior, found on a fragment of poetry from over 1000 years ago. It was thought to be written on the eve of defending against an invading Viking force. They are words that echo out of the centuries and remind us that bad things show up.
Like many of us, I'm trying to make sense of where we are and where we're heading, yet one mantra offers a powerful mental route-map through these uncertain times – Win the Day. When you have an unknown situation, and you have very little or no control, then anxiety and fear can flourish. By reminding yourself of the mantra, Win the Day, it reminds us that no matter what happens in the outside world, our inside world will be nurtured and strengthened through staying positive, proactive, and purposeful in everything we do. From here, we can be best placed to notice new opportunities and move forward when the time arises.
Reinforce this mantra by reflecting on the day and recalling your mini-successes, no matter how small. Amazingly, we can learn from our children who do this naturally as they fall asleep. You may sometimes hear them talking through their day out loud – something which really seems to benefit our brains.
Our ability to focus on what we can control while letting go of what we can't is a fundamental skill for staying happy and resilient. Following the devastating earthquake in New Zealand in 2010, a study at Christchurch University discovered a significant increase in the stress hormone cortisol across the population there. Despite this, they noticed that the same levels of stress and anxiety made different people behave in different ways. While some really struggled to conduct even the simplest daily tasks, others seemed to thrive, being more productive and purposeful in their daily activities.
So what was the difference between those who struggled and those who thrived under stress? The answer: Their ability to maintain their attention on small everyday goals.
Importantly, this isn't about the goals themselves - we all have different daily goals depending on our circumstances. It was how these goals focus our attention positively on the things we can control. Athletes use this principle to deal with extreme pressure. They simply focus on the quality of their routine one step at a time. This stops them from thinking beyond the things they can control by using small goals as a mental handrail to keep moving forward.
Current events may force people to focus more on what they may lose rather than what they may gain. History tells us that situations like this are often an important catalyst for positive change in people's lives, but we don't realise it until afterwards! Our brains are hard-wired to focus far more on things that threaten us compared to the things that reward us – this is called Negative Bias. This goes back to the days when we needed to protect ourselves from predators. The thought of losing something we currently have seems to affects us much more than the thought of gaining something we don't yet have.
When we're anxious, our mind becomes like a zebra in the savanna on the look-out for threats. And it usually finds one, no matter how tiny. There's so much uncertainty out there, so much news every day. And the sensitivity of the system is turned up high. Unchecked, this makes it harder and harder to turn to positive thoughts. But this is exactly what we need to practice in order to reverse the cycle.
Take some time to write down two columns of thoughts. On the left-hand side, write down all the things that worry you about your current situation. On the right, note down all the things that are potential positives from your current situation.
On your 90th birthday, you look back on your life, which of these columns would have been most important to you?
To continue to remind yourself of this, write down one thing daily. Something that you appreciate most from your day. Don't worry about repeating the same one. There's value in reminding yourself that it's still important.
Charlie Unwin is a specialist in human performance and psychology. His clients include multiple Olympic Champions, England Football, elite Special Forces and The Royal Household. A former Army officer and GB athlete, Charlie is passionate about transferring the tools and techniques used by athletes and elite performers into everyday life, allowing more people to live well and achieve their potential.
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