The Effect of COVID-19 on high achievers by one of our Health and Well Being Professional Partners

Whilst people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds; from the single parent trying to home school their children and keep them occupied in lockdown, through to the multi-millionaire business owner with interests around the world – COVID brought to an end life as we knew it.

Everyone has had to learn to adapt, not only to a change of lifestyle, i.e. being confined to home for work and pleasure, lack of social life and connection, a reduction in income, job loss, business shut down etc. Plus, the very real risk of catching the virus and becoming ill, people having to consider their mortality; whether or not they are at high risk; as by now, everyone knows someone who has either had the virus, died from the virus or is in the high risk category.

Although people appear to be heading outdoors for exercise more than ever, sales of bicycles are soaring with many manufacturers and outlets completely running out of adult bike stock – the truth of the matter is a great number of people have indulged in more food, more fast food; out of boredom, lack of motivation, not having the need to get dressed for work or any other event etc … any number of reasons really. But the average weight gain in lockdown is around 10 lbs. So our physical health is also being seriously compromised in that way. Weight gain for many, brings lack of self-esteem. Add that to anxiety about where life is heading and you’ve got yourself a melting pot of indicators leading to depression.

The stress levied on all parts of a person’s mind, health and wellbeing during COVID is possibly immeasurable.

Whilst you may at first imagine that elite athletes and sportsmen and women are the lucky ones in that they are at the peak of physical fitness and therefore less at risk of the virus; and with a ‘winning’ mentality, energy and ‘can do’ attitude they are well prepared to weather the storm as it were and self-manage and self-motivate … in fact, their physical bodies may have had to endure physical stresses and the demands of keeping up their fitness and endurance levels; past any exertion level reached by others.

And mentally, they are potentially at a higher risk than everyone else (according to The British Medical Journal*) which proposes ‘crisis management’ as part of any mental health care package organised for individuals affected.

Mentally, coping with no longer being able to fulfil their purpose or ambition in life; and for some, no longer being able to compete or play, as sporting events are cancelled; and sports venues shut down; can simply be too much to endure. Sports people don’t have all the time in the world. They reach a peak in their mental and physical ability to perform at their best and then it passes; so for some, they may have just missed their last chance. Or they may ‘feel’ that they have. They may have been working towards this moment since their teens, their whole life dedicated to their sport.

Catching COVID may not be fatal; but there is speculation about heart and lung health in future for anyone who has had it; which may substantially impact performance or in a worst case scenario; end a career.

So on a physical and emotional level – this pandemic has the potential to hit high achieving athletes and sports people very hard indeed.

A similar story perhaps for executives and high achievers in business who may have studied and worked tirelessly for years; towards a career goal or business success only to have it brought to a halt or at the very least hugely compromised. It’s not a case of high achievers having more to lose – it’s a case of their whole focus in life was probably around their careers to the point that it has become a part of who they are – it’s what they are comfortable doing.

So whilst we are all taking a financial hit in some way or other, all suffering lapses in energy and will – those used to a fast-paced, deadline-driven environment may find themselves having to completely ‘re-invent’ themselves or risk anxiety, stress and even depression.

Having said that – some people have ‘thrived’ in lockdown. With the pressure off, with extra time, they’ve managed to really get themselves together and launch an online business or move their business online or get creative such as re-organising their services and creating new products. It is possible to make some of this situation work to our advantage; but we’ve got to invest some willing, some time and some energy.

Tips for improving mental health during COVID

  • Very important: don’t be afraid to ask for help. See a counsellor, engage in complimentary therapy – there’s strength in seeking help from others.

  • Create a virtual bubble of friends and family, those you trust most and can be yourself with. Keep in touch, call, video-chat. Keep connection going.

  • This may seem trivial but it really isn’t – keep a journal; start writing down thoughts, emotions, feelings, ideas, plans – writing things down is scientifically proven to lessen anxiety and stress.

  • Be in nature daily. Whether that’s a walk in the park, woods or anywhere near water such as by a lake, the ocean, a canal etc. What’s important is that you get out, get fresh air, vitamin D and connect with nature. Believe it or not, this is part of the recovery plan used by psychologists working with trauma sufferers. Return to nature.

  • Create a gratitude list – either mentally every morning or evening or written down … a list of what you’re grateful for. Again, science shows us that gratitude reduces anxiety.

  • Find relaxation that works for you – such as daily meditation, yoga etc.

  • Take regular exercise which is not only beneficial for physical fitness but also well known to reduce anxiety through the release of endorphins.

In terms of career prospects and feeling powerless or demotivated:

  • Learn self-talk; a technique to self-regulate and self-manage, so when that negative internal voice starts – you know exactly how to counter and retrain it to be more positive. (Self-talk and how to do it correctly is explained in a free download from

  • Learn to ‘re-frame’ the situation. Turn things to your advantage by choosing to look at things from a different perspective i.e. that this is a time to build strength and resilience. This is a time to think, reflect and plan. All positive uses of this lull in our normal lives.

  • Make new plans – if your original ideas and plans are compromised … make new ones. How can you turn the situation around to your advantage?

  • Use the time wisely. Write that book, create that website, put yourself forward perhaps for a new way of working i.e. consultancy, freelance, public speaking etc. Learn new skills, take a course – work on yourself in order to rebuild.

*British Medical Journal reference