7 Tips for Getting Out of the COVID-19 Alligator Pit

7 Tips for Getting Out of the COVID-19 Alligator Pit

Navigating the Alligator Pit: Shifting to a Growth Mindset in Uncertain Times

As shutdowns and unknowns surrounding COVID-19 drag on, the times feel overwhelming for many business leaders. Or, to use my nomenclature, many of us feel we’re stuck in the proverbial alligator pit.

How do we keep our sanity and stay out of the swamp during this period of uncertainty? Though many of us are facing life-changing circumstances, a good starting point is to consciously shift from a fixed mindset of fear and negativity to one of empowerment, opportunity, and unexpected outcomes. With an energized growth mindset, you can say “bye bye” to those gators when they come a-snapping.

Here are seven tips that will help you shift to that mindset as our world begins to slowly reopen—and get out, stay out, and move on from that dreaded pit.

1. Deepen Connections with Others

We are wired to want to be cared about and connect with others. Write down a list of family members, friends, and business associates with whom you haven’t connected in a while, then reach out and reignite relationships.

One of my coaching clients has committed to making 10 calls a day to check in on business and personal contacts. She says that during this season of uncertainty, she is looking for opportunities to help her connections. In doing so, she knows that she helps herself as well.

For me, I’m offering organizations a free online presentation that elaborates on the tips in this article. I want to help leaders keep their teams connected and ready to move forward as the opening begins, and this is one way I can do that, deepening my connections with my business contacts in the process. I’m also reaching out on the personal side; I recently reconnected with my best friend from my Los Angeles days, and we had a lovely conversation.

2. Support Your Community

When we think of others, we forget about our own issues. Like many of us, you’re probably ordering takeout and gift certificates from your favorite local restaurants, and tipping well for drop-offs. But you can also make the effort to get even more deeply involved.

One business owner I know is volunteering for the Junior Leagues’ Food in Tummies program to safely pack and deliver food to families in need on the weekends. Another friend is helping older folks who are struggling with technology by ordering groceries for them online or giving them some pointers on how to do it themselves. Every city in Texas currently offers opportunities to safely get involved in the community.

If you’re able, donations also go a long way. I donated to a fund for Austin musicians because, as a dyed-in-the-wool dancer, I greatly appreciate their importance to the ambience of Austin and know with venues closed, they are hurting.

3. Revist Past Resilience

Think back on a time you struggled and think about how you stuck it out. What did you learn, and how you can apply it to this situation? Maybe you were stuck at home recovering from surgery, were caring for a family member, or had lost a job. Each situation is different, but the resilience that served you well then is just waiting for you now.

A coaching client of mine has been struggling with running his manufacturing business from home. I remembered he had mentioned that his wife was sick last summer and he had to stay home and take care of her and his young children for a period. I asked him how he had coped then. He said, “I got great at shopping H-E-B in record time and I learned to laser-focus on my work when I did get a spare moment. I actually got to where I accomplished a lot at home.” By thinking back on what worked then, he’s able to put those skills to use during this period.

Another way of visiting past resilience is to focus on the times you’ve felt at the top of your game. Chances are it’s when you are eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep. During these challenging times, it’s important to make a point to take care of yourself—mind, body, and soul.

4. Write It Down

If you’re not journaling already, this is a great time to start. By capturing what is going on with us—our emotions, our fears, our dreams—we channel and organize our thoughts quicker and are better able to see things from a more positive, 360-degree viewpoint rather than getting so caught up in negative energy.

James Pennebaker, a social psychologist in the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas, has done a lot of research in this area and found that expressive writing can actually improve physical health and work performance.

Next time you feel overwhelmed, write it down; or if you know  that a member of your team or a friend or family member is hurting, suggest they write it down. As an added plus, offer to have a conversation with them around what they write.

5. Practice Gratitude

Write down three things—or more!—you are grateful for each day. Gratitude is the game changer because it connects you strongly with your higher intuition and visionary energy. The idea is to get away from the “me, me, me” mindset that is easy to fall into, and transform it into an energized growth mindset that opens up all sorts of opportunities.

I tell my coaching clients and audiences to write three to 10 “gratefuls” each day. One great trick is taking challenges and turning them into gratefuls. If you’ve had a tough day, you might write, “I’m thankful that I reached out to my team for a quick check-in and now feel better about things” (see Tip #1: Deepen Connections with Others); or “I’m thankful that I realized I’m overwhelmed and am making a point to take a walk tomorrow” (see Tip #3: Revisit Past Resilence).

6. Tackle “One of These Days” Projects

If you’re one of the people who has more downtime on their hands right now, it’s a great time to go through your to-do list and get some items checked off—especially the ones you’ve put off for a while. You may find ideas to increase your success in your primary business, or you might be inspired to finally kick-start a new business or personal side project.

When business slowed way down for a client of mine who is the CEO of a social media company, we talked about transforming challenges into opportunities. He mentioned a new venture he’s been itching to pursue. Rather than laying off his employees, he’s now having them help lay the groundwork for the new venture that may have a big payoff in the long run.

Personally, I’ve been getting back to gardening. I forgot how nice it is to be outside and watching our plants grow and blossom. And I have roses to brighten up the house, which a a real bonus since I’m presently here 24/7!

7. Dust Off Your Goals

We so often have goals but get busy and let them fall by the wayside. As the economy begins to open up, it’s a great time to brush off those goals, update them, and move toward your best future. Use any time you have to set business and personal goals for the next three months, one year, and five years. Yes, you will have to make some adjustments, but keep your mind open to new possibilities.

I always tell my coaching clients and audiences, “Review your goals every evening. In addition, take a moment to think about the results and how you will feel once you achieve them.” This further anchors your conscious and unconscious mind around completing those goals.


Yes, that alligator pit can seem overwhelming sometimes, and it’s perfectly understandable during this period of upheaval. But if we consciously choose to shift our core thoughts to the positive, we can transform a negative fixed mindset to a positive, energized growth mindset that offers all sorts of opportunities and unexpected outcomes.

Carrie Vanston

Carrie Vanston is an executive coach, speaker, team builder, and the CEO of Leadership Mindset Success. She helps executives, business owners, and their teams be more effective and impactful through powering up their mindset, supercharging their impact, and living the lives of their dreams through their business. She is coauthor of the award-winning book, Minitrends. Through her coaching programs, presentations, and workshops, she supports leaders to reach their full potential. Reach out to Carrie at carrievanston.com.

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  • Great article and interesting way to look at how to deal with uncomfortable situations — Alligator Pits..

  • Great points Carrie! The key aspect is taking these steps and then making material and substantive changes to how you work in order to make these changes “stick.” Otherwise, they will amount to nothing more than “New Year’s Resolutions.”

  • Awesome article Carrie!

    I really enjoyed the great thoughts on how to get through this pandemic. All of your points are excellent, detailed and applicable. My favorite is your first on deepening connections. I find myself on several zoom meetings per week with family, friends and business associates. Also, focusing on my goals, supporting my communities and more are very helpful.

  • I’m graceful about my dream which it lead. This morning about to read this article. Warm Regards.

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