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Pro tips: Five strengthening steps for challenging times

A small flower sprouts from soil.
Five Strengthening steps for challenging times.

George Windisch knows a lot about teaching others how to cope with stress — for many years, part of his job as a culinary instructor involved coaching SAIT students to prepare for international culinary competitions.

While the students’ culinary skills were strong, Windisch saw a gap in their mental preparedness for the competitions.

“To perform on a consistent level, competitors must be physically prepared, relaxed and ready to react to changing conditions,” says Windisch, now an academic chair with SAIT’s School of Hospitality and Tourism.

“At a culinary competition, the oven might not be the one you’ve been trained on or the tomatoes in front of you might not look the same as what you’re used to.

“If something throws you off, how do you reset and not let it get to you?"

'As part of his tenure as the 2007/08 Cadmus Trades Teaching Chair, which offers SAIT instructors an opportunity to explore new approaches to teaching and the trades, Windisch developed a coaching manual that includes five steps to help students practice resilience. Called the 5Rs, these steps prepare students to regain control when things become dicey in the fast-paced, high-pressure competition environment.

Since the manual and its 5Rs have been put into practice, SAIT students have won multiple provincial culinary competitions and three national competitions. One SAIT student, Victoria Hislop (Professional Cooking ’16), represented Canada at the international level in Abu Dhabi during the WorldSkills 2017 competition.

Although every individual and each situation is unique, strengthening your own resilience can equip you to overcome challenges, focus on your priorities and recognize the positive things in your life when times get tough.

Windisch’s five ingredients for responding with resilience

1️⃣ Release

If something doesn’t go your way, or if you make a mistake, try to let it go. Redirect your energy: instead of dwelling on what happened, start thinking about your next move.

2️⃣ Relax

In difficult or frustrating situations, our bodies often tense up, or we might feel frantic — but we can control how we react. Find what works to calm yourself down, whether it’s taking deep breaths, closing your eyes, or repeating a mantra or affirmation either out loud or in your mind.

3️⃣ Review

No judgement! Instead of seeing the situation as negative, look for the lesson. What you learn from the experience could help solve immediate or future challenges.

4️⃣ Regroup

Get yourself back into a positive frame of mind. In a situation where you have a plan, think or talk through it as a way of moving forward. In situations where you don’t have a plan, think about what you want to achieve — it might help put the challenge you’re facing in context. 

5️⃣ Refocus

Now that you’re feeling calm and you’ve organized your thoughts, it’s time to focus on the task in from of you. Remember, you’ve got this!


This story was originally written for the Fall 2020 issue of LINK magazine — Their stories matter.

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