How to practise a growth mindset during the COVID-19 crisis

Post 3 in this series is written by Dr Talita Calitz, Student Engagement and Support Office (SESO), University of Pretoria.

Owing to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the challenges that you face as a student are overwhelming. During a crisis like COVID-19 and the lockdown, it is normal to have anxious thoughts that could go into overdrive: Will I be okay? Will my family get sick? Will there be enough food in the shops? Although you cannot fully control your external circumstances, you do have some control over this anxious inner voice. There are many skills that you can practise to help you cope with anxiety during times of crisis, one of which is the growth mindset.


A growth mindset is a way of seeing the world that focuses on potential, change and possibility. Someone with a growth mindset might think:

  • I enjoy a challenge because it helps me to develop into a better person.
  • I just made a mistake, but I am eager to learn from this and to improve. 
  • I feel scared and worried, but that does not define who I am.

A growth mindset is a habit that you could practise daily by stepping away from the constant stream of anxiety in the media, by taking a deep breath and by giving yourself the space to develop this mindset despite extreme stress and uncertainty. 

Here are some examples to illustrate the difference between a fixed and growth mindset:

  • Fixed: I am so stressed: without Wi-Fi, I am never going to finish my assignments!
  • Growth: I am stressed about my assignments, but I am confident that I can get through this by using the resources available to me.
  • Fixed: I know that the second semester is going to be a disaster!
  • Growth: Even though the situation is uncertain, I have the skills that I need to succeed and adapt to change.
  • Fixed: Bad things like this always happen to me. Why can’t I get a break?
  • Growth: I have been through so many challenges, but they make me strong and resilient.

The growth mindset challenge

During this time of uncertainty, you could challenge yourself to develop a growth mindset, using the following steps:

  • Allow space for negative, anxious thoughts – this is normal.
  • Now pause and adapt the negative thoughts to become more positive.
  • Do this by focusing on what you are able to change about your current situation.
  • Focus on your potential and your strengths and the positive role that you can play during this crisis.

For more information on how to develop a growth mindset:  How to build a growth mindset

Published by Hlengiwe Mnguni

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