Across two studies (N = 803), we explored how meaning-making systems (i.e., mindsets and narrative identity) are related to each other as well as to coping in the wake of challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Study 1, we find that struggle-is-enhancing, relative to struggle-is-debilitating, mindsets predicted stories defined by elements of personal control with opportunities for growth (agency) and an emphasis on the positive, rather than on the suffering (redemptive). Stronger enhancing mindsets and agentic as well as redemptive narratives predicted more adaptive coping, including less negative affect, less avoidance, and positive expectations for future success. In Study 2, we replicated these fundamental findings and explored relations with wellbeing. Struggle-is-enhancing, relative to debilitating, mindsets related to greater wellbeing as did agency and redemptive stories. Overall, creating meaning from struggle, crafting tales with more positive themes, and using active coping show promise for future work focused on enhancing social, emotional, and psychological wellbeing.

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The definitive version is available at: Journal of Applied Social Psychology.