Developing Coping Skills Through PERMA

posted on: March 25, 2020
author: Brian Lomax

Earth from spaceLiving during a global pandemic certainly presents its share of challenges and stressors.  How are you holding up?  Admittedly, it’s not easy to be plucked out of our normal lives and placed into lockdown.  We are all having to get used to different ways of doing things and taking care of ourselves.  And you may also be dealing with some uncertainty about the future.  I know I am.  It’s in times like these that we need coping skills to help us be more resilient and manage stress better.  That got me thinking about a model I have used in the past to help me manage stress and make good decisions.  It’s called PERMA.

In his book Flourish, Martin Seligman describes the PERMA model as a means of living a meaningful and fulfilling life.  Following this model in your own life can also help build a reservoir of psychological strengths.  Those strengths can be especially beneficial in times of stress.

PERMA stands for:

  • Positive Emotions
  • Engagement
  • Positive Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Achievement

When we focus on the five elements of PERMA, it can help us feel happier, more confident, more fulfilled, more connected, and bring purpose to life.  These five pillars are the path to human flourishing.  They may also be exactly what we need in a pandemic.

In future posts, I will go into greater detail on each of the five pillars, but here is a high-level overview.

Child smiling

Positive Emotions

When it comes to emotions, we are probably better at identifying negative emotions than positive ones.  That’s normal.  Since we’re wired to look for dangers and threats, we are a little more in tune with the negative side of our emotions.  However, positive emotions also have a role to play in our lives.  They help us to be more creative, to expand our thinking, and build necessary skills and resources.  Here are some positive emotions to consider:

It’s not always possible to control how we feel, however, do you think you could try to plan activities during your day to draw out these emotions more?  The basic idea is to be more intentional about experiencing positive emotions, and derive the benefits of that.


Practicing violinWhen you’re engaged with your work or some activity, it’s easy to lose track of time because you’re so immersed in what you are doing.  You’re totally focused and enjoying it.  It’s probably challenging too.

Do you ever feel that way?   If so, you may be experiencing a state of flow.  In sports, this is often referred to as being in the zone.

What are the activities that you find engaging?  Some of them may be related to your work while others may be leisure oriented.  See if you can engage in these activities more often as they are meaningful and enjoyable.

Positive Relationships

As human beings, we are social creatures.  We crave connection.  And in a world of social distancing and staying at home, we are going to have to be creative about how we do this.  However, it’s important that we do so.  Connect with family members, friends, colleagues, clients, coaches, advisors, etc.  It can be via text, phone, or video.

Keep the interactions positive.  Talk about ways to help each other and be there for each other.  Having a social support system in your life has been shown to be tremendously beneficial in dealing with stress.


We all want to leave a positive legacy, but we don’t always actively work on creating one.  When thinking of meaning, it’s about purpose.  It’s about why you do things.

What do you want your legacy to be?  What work do you do that matters to others?  Why do you do what you do?

During this time, do more activities that hold meaning for you.  These should be activities that help you connect with your values as a person – activities that contribute to a greater good.


Achievement is about motivation.  It’s about having goals in life and accomplishing things.  And this is important for us as human beings.  We are ambitious.  We want to have accomplishments.

So what goals can you be accomplishing in the next few weeks?  They don’t have to be big, and perhaps it’s better if they aren’t.  Can you hit some small goals, like exercising 3 or 4 times this week?  Or doing a project around the house?  Even if it’s just tidying up, that will feel good.

If you can achieve a few things over the course of the next week, you’ll start building pride, satisfaction and confidence.  And those are some good positive emotions to experience.


Even though our lives have been upended to varying degrees, we can get through this.  A framework like PERMA can help you be more intentional with your actions and emotions, and help you cope effectively with stress.  Give it a try, and let me know what new things you’re doing based on this model.  I would love to read your stories.

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About the Author

Brian Lomax founded PerformanceXtra™ in 2009 with a mission of helping athletes achieve their goals and their top performances more consistently through a progression of mental skills that enables them to focus on what is truly important.

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