Coronavirus has caused hundreds of sporting events across the UK to be cancelled and postponed. Rapid change expert Howard Cooper, also a regular columnist for Outdoor Fitness & Adventure magazine, reveals how to cope.

Horse racing meets, football matches, marathons and much more have all been put on hold and if you’re a runner, cyclist or cross-country trailer, your event will also have been cancelled, so you’ll be feeling pretty gutted right now.

Plenty of other people, perhaps with a predisposition to feeling anxious about their health, are now increasingly seeking mental health support and in my work as a rapid-change expert, I’ve been very busy – through my daily online and video consultations on Skype – helping people manage their worries over Coronavirus. Please see details at the end of this article and, if you feel I might help you, please get in touch.

So, if you’re philosophical but still very disappointed about your outdoor event being cancelled, how do you keep your spirits up and maintain positive thinking, especially, some might ask, with all the doom and gloom coming from the media?

To regain your spirit of adventure, there’s plenty you can do. Here are my Top 5 Mental Tips on ‘How To cope more effectively with Coronavirus Worries’.

Tip #1: STAY PRESENT

What are you actually experiencing right now? Sitting at a computer, tablet or phone reading an article in your home? This is something that you have done many times before, right? Realise that If you stop adding ‘narrative’ and ‘thinking’ to this current situation there is actually nothing different for you going on than before the virus or lockdown. Take time regularly to bring your attention back to ‘being present’ and your direct experience in the moment.

Tip #2: REALISE THE TRUTH ABOUT FEELINGS

Most people think that the feelings they have tell them something about the ‘outside world’. e.g. ‘If I’m feeling good, then it reality must be good’, or ‘If I’m feeling anxious, then there must be a serious threat to me going on in reality’. BUT what if the feelings you have ONLY told you how absorbed you were in your thinking, and didn’t reflect anything about the outside world? Consider this: Back in January 2020 my guess is you were feeling pretty positive about sport in springtime 2020? How accurate did those feelings turn out to be? Not very! So, the worry and concern you have currently about Corona really doesn’t tell you how bad things will be at all! Realising this can be a great comfort.

Tip #3: FOCUS ON YOUR BODY’S NATURAL CENTRE

When people get overwhelmed or anxious, they often start running all sorts of rapid internal catastrophic thinking. In other words, they are very focused on ‘stuff in their head’. They think: ‘What if it lasts forever?’, ‘When will I be able to train again?’, ‘Will my fitness suffer?’, ‘How will I earn money?, and this list goes on. If you were to catch yourself running these patterns, do the following: Stop and bring your awareness to your body’s natural centre (this is the area around 1 inch below your navel). Strangely placing your focus here tends to calm the mind, and create a feeling of being stronger, stable and more centred.

Tip #4: REMOVE PRESSURE

Many people are putting pressure on themselves to be productive during lockdown, maintain perfect eating habits or exercise plans. While it’s all well and good to have a desire to do these things, remember to go easy on yourself, too. These are unprecedented times and unchartered territory, so be kind to yourself if you aren’t as productive as you’d normally be. If you tell yourself, you HAVE TO or MUST be perfect at all times, then you are more likely to beat yourself up if you don’t manage this. But if you tell yourself that you’d like to get stuff done, but understand you don’t HAVE to, that can often help alleviate the psychological pressure. Ironically, when you do this, you are likely to get more done because there is less stress in the system around doing it.

Tip #5: FOCUS ON POSITIVES & GRATITUDE

It’s easy to get swept up in all the fear and anxiety coming from the internet and then incorrectly coming to the conclusion that everything is beyond despair. However, there are also lots of positive things to be focusing on. Around 96% of people are surviving, the world carries on turning, pollution levels are down, we are all getting a gift of some time to reflect on where we are at and the choices we are making. Taking time regularly to focus on ‘what’s good’ and ‘what we are grateful for’ literally begins to wire the brain for more positivity in the future. And guess what? People who are more positive, calm and clear-headed deal best in times of uncertainty.

My hope for people during this time of challenge is to learn about mental resilience so that they do not just help themselves now but that this will help them become better-armed and more resilient in the future when this thing is over (and by the way, it will be over at some point).

Just imagine how great your training and fitness can be in the future when you develop these mental skills and apply them to your lives even after lockdown.

  • If you’re struggling with Corona anxiety or lockdown overwhelm and you want help putting these tips into action, help is available through a new 12-week Corona anxiety support programme. It’s free for health / social care key workers: https://rapidchange.works/coronaanxiety
  • Howard Cooper is one of Britain’s leading ‘Rapid Change’ experts. A qualified hypnotherapist and Master Practitioner in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), he specialises in helping people create rapid shifts in their thinking. For more details of his work, visit www.rapidchange.works.