Pittsburgh athletes help with coping strategies during COVID-19 pandemic

PITTSBURGH — Sports provide a distraction, both in everyday life and through times of tragedy. During the coronavirus pandemic, however, sports fans in Pittsburgh around the world don’t have sports to turn to. Here in Pittsburgh, teams are uniting to help everyone through these hard times.

The loss of sports takes away a little part of who we all are as fans. Earlier this week, our partners DK Pittsburgh Sports expressed on social media something a lot of people have been feeling internally.

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"It's scary, its intimidating," said founder Dejan Kovacevic. "It makes you feel unsettled and a lot of us have never seen something like that in our lives here there or anywhere. I worry a lot about the collective psyche of our city, of the people who have never experienced anything like this. It's uneasy."

Some local organizations are hoping to help with that uneasiness. EMBRACE Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation launched “Team Up To Cope With COVID,” an awareness program which will try to shine a light on mental health and well-being during the Coronavirus pandemic.

“We want to be able to support each other in making sure we’re taking time to recognize and focus on how we’re coping with our emotions,” said EMBRACE Pittsburgh founder Cindy Citrone.

The program aims to teach Pittsburghers lifelong coping skills through a series of videos called “mind hacks.” The videos are hosted by a lot of faces Pittsburghers may recognize, including Troy Polamalu, Colby Armstrong, Bryan Rust and others.

"One of my mind hacks is gardening fresh raspberries," said Polamalu.

“I like to doodle,” said Armstrong. “Here’s my buddy, Sid,” he said as he held up a picture of Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. “Never looked better.”

“I like to wrap myself in a fuzzy blanket,” Rust added when describing one of his coping mechanisms.

Channel 11's own Jerome Bettis also contributed some mindfulness skills. of his own.

“S stands for stop. Halt. Cease and assist,” said Bettis in one of the videos. "T stands for take. Take a big step back. O stands for observe. Let’s take a look at the bigger picture. P stands for proceed mindfully and wise-minded.”

Citrone knows now more than ever, it's important to help people cope during this pandemic.

“Feeling stressed and not always knowing how to cope is normal,” the founder of EMBRACE Pittsburgh added. “We’re adjusting to a new normal. It’s an important moment to team up to cope with COVID.”

During these times, the athletes have a collective message for the city.

“Just remember, it’s OK to ask for help,” said Armstrong.

Click here to learn more on the EMBRACE Pittsburgh website and don’t forget to follow EMBRACE Pittsburgh on Facebook.