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Expert Advice

Expert Advice

Emotions are your superpower: Use them to excel during COVID-19

By Dr. Adrienne Toogood, Registered Sport Psychologist

“An emotional fitness check, that is, paying attention to our emotions, is as important as physical fitness. It’s not one or the other – it’s committing to both. Athletes know and apply this. You should, too.”

During this time of slowing down, the world is realizing that regardless of the level in which we compete, there is a human behind the performance. And you are no different. As you work to stay healthy and well at this time, remember to embrace your humanity in order to thrive.

Be Kind

Things are different now, and people are struggling to learn many new things at once, including how to weave fitness and healthy eating into their lives.  We are going to make mistakes, and as we establish the habits that keep us emotionally and physically well, it is important we are patient with ourselves. Kristin Neff has several free resources on her website that help us to take a step back and ask ourselves “what do I need right now?”

Be Honest

An important aspect of being human is emotion—and in times like this, we tend to activate stronger emotions, which is expected.  Emotions are what make us unique. If we are not comfortable with them, we will find ourselves in a difficult place. Due to the pandemic, athletes have had competitions cancelled, kids may no longer be at school, and for those who are, it may look a little different. And for all of us, we may have lost time doing things we love to do, and spending time with the people we love.  If we want to stay well and thrive, it is important that we start to unpack our emotions. This can be done through a tool that Marc Brackett has created called RULER.  He provided us with this tool to help us recognize, understand, label, express and regulate the emotions we experience.  Let’s learn from him and add pockets of time into our day where we breathe and check-in. If we notice what emotions we are experiencing and let ourselves feel them, we will stay well.

Be Agile

Susan David developed a concept called emotional agility.  She reminds us that no emotions are bad.  She encourages us to use the phrase “I am feeling,” rather than “I am,” in order to provide us with space between ourselves and our emotions.  She asks us to be curious and compassionate when we experience emotion, and to recognize that when we experience stronger ones, perhaps it is because it is something important for us and an area that is connected to our core values. So, during COVID-19, as we experience emotion on the path to staying well; let’s take time to be curious and compassionate about what we are feeling.

Be Open

Kelly McGonigal talks to us about stress and the impact it has on our physical and emotional well-being.  She has us re-considering our relationship with stress.  What if we recognize that when we feel stress and anxiety, it is our body’s way of helping us to perform and excel.  What if our perspective changes?  How will that help us stay well during this time? 

Be Empathic

Bréné Brown talks about empathy, and reminds us that “empathy is not rushing to turn the lights on, but having the courage to sit in the dark with someone.”  As we figure out how to navigate and stay well during this time, imagine if we had the courage to sit in those moments with not only each other, but also ourselves.


Select podcasts Dr. Toogood recommends to stay well and thrive during this time:

Take time to view her new podcast series Heroes in Our Midst which is a podcast about the power inside the heart, the human behind the story, and the collection of idiosyncrasies that both make us unique and bond us together through a common humanity.

  • Dr. Adrienne Leslie-Toogood

    Dr. Adrienne Toogood

    Dr. Adrienne Leslie-Toogood has spent the last three decades competing and consulting at the highest levels of sport. Adrienne is a licensed psychologist and adjunct faculty at the University of Manitoba.  She has extensive experience working with athletes in both Canada and the United States at all levels of performance.  Dr. Toogood’s clients have ranged from individual Olympic athletes, teams and coaches, to PGA Tour winners, Grey Cup Champions, and World Champions.  She is currently the Director of Sport Psychology at the Canadian Sport Centre Manitoba and has extensive experience with other performers including air traffic controllers, RCMP emergency response team members, corporate executives, firefighters, and emergency medical doctors.  She believes in empowering people to embrace their humanity so they are able to elevate their performance.  Her personal mission statement is “passion, commitment and intensity unleash a new freedom of an energetic, balanced and holistic person who is healthy for life”.

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