July 9, 2020

From Surviving to Thriving: Building Health during COVID-19

by Dr. Brian Hollett

In a recent post by global management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company  an illustration of Brazil’s World Cup journey from failure to triumph was used to provide food for thought as businesses consider how they can return from the damages inflicted by COVID-19.

“The 1966 World Cup marked a low point for Brazilian soccer. Although the winner of the previous two tournaments, the team was eliminated in the first round, and its star player, Pelé, failed to perform. Fouled frequently and flagrantly, he threatened never to return to the World Cup. Many wondered if Brazil’s glory days were over. Four years later, however, Brazil won again, with such grace and style that the 1970 team is not only widely regarded as the best team ever to take the pitch but also as the most beautiful. And Pelé was named the player of the tournament.

Making this turnaround required innovation, in particular, the creation of a unique attacking style of soccer. It required building a cohesive team, even as most of the roster changed. And it required leadership, both in management and on the field. The result: by reimagining everything, Brazil came back stronger.”

Many of us have struggled amid the pandemic to find a new normal, to continue to move forward when it seems like so many things have been put on hold, and to reinvent the way we take care of our health.  We may need help re-establishing our health-focused missions so that we can come back stronger just as Brazil did in the World Cup all those years ago.

In line with the strategies to return to work outlined by McKinsey and Company, we suggest that you focus on the following strategic areas in order to rebuild your health during this time:

  1. Recovering Loss

For most of us, there have been one or more dimensions of our health that have suffered during the current pandemic. For some, it has been their strength, which diminished while gyms remained closed; for others, it has been cardiovascular fitness or mobility, as their routines of life rapidly shifted and sedentary time skyrocketed. Still others saw changes in diet, sleep, and hydration, or spent dramatically less time on mental and physical recovery.

Regardless of the dimension of health affected, now is the time to begin taking action to recover the health losses triggered by the pandemic. Prioritize your biggest health concerns and take a small step in a positive direction. To quote legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler, “Every day you either get better or you get worse. You never stay the same.”

Take the first step. Recover what was lost.

  1. Rebuilding Routines

Living amid this pandemic continues to reshape our routines fundamentally.  There are very few aspects of our routines that have not been at least partially affected. As a result, many of the daily activities that nourish our bodies, minds, and souls have fallen by the wayside. Rather than continue to think in terms of one week or one month increments, now is the time to build a long-term mindset to thrive through this pandemic and beyond. COVID-19 is likely to be a part of our lives through 2021,* so we must begin the restoration of these daily routines that are so important for our wellbeing.

In forcing ourselves to think long-term, we are fundamentally changing our mindsets and the way we communicate with ourselves. Rather than rationalizing behaviors and choices based on current challenges (“I should be fine skipping date night again this week”), our minds focus on what is necessary and possible (“I must find a way to re-establish a new version of date night, because 18 more months without this nourishing activity is an unacceptable amount of time for my relationship”).

Rebuilding routine is difficult.  However, with a growth mindset, that of a winner as described by Vince Lombardi below, great things are possible.

The Winner is always part of the answer.

The Loser is always part of the problem.

The Winner always has a program.

The Loser always has an excuse.

The Winner says, “Let me do it for you.”

The Loser says, “That’s not my job.”

The Winner sees an answer for every problem.

The Loser sees a problem for every answer.

The Winner sees a green near every sand trap

The Loser sees two or three sand traps near every green.

The Winner says, “It may be difficult but it’s possible.”

The Loser says, “It might be possible but it’s too difficult.”

Rebuild your routines and change your focus.

  1. Rethinking Constraints

Countless new constraints have emerged in life due to the threat of exposure, Many of these restraints directly protect us, but also feel like they intrude on the operations of our everyday life. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by these constraints, use them to guide you, drive your innovation and direct your focus. See it as an opportunity to try something new, adapt and overcome challenges. In the process, you might even inspire others to do the same.

Rethink constraint; it is not a barrier, but an opportunity.

  1. Accelerating our Adoption of New Habits

A day of inaction in our health is a day lost. A good but imperfect plan executed tenaciously today far outperforms a perfect plan that requires months of planning. Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. In the same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them (either positively or negatively). Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally; bad habits make time your enemy.

Make haste! Your life depends on it.  

The qualities that brought Brazilian soccer to new heights in 1970—imagination, initiative, and execution—will be paramount as we consider how to navigate the post-COVID-19 environment. By reimagining how we each recover, rebuild, rethink, and adopt, even as the pandemic continues to evolve, we set the foundations for enduring success in our health.

Please reach out to our SHIFT Team for help on your health journey during the pandemic. We are here to support you as you seek to establish new, positive routines in this new normal.

*Dr. Hollett’s personal estimate of the most realistic timeline for a vaccine to be developed and deployed.


coronavirus, covid-19, habits

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