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From Frustration to Joy – Learning to Thrive in the Time of COVID-19

"Some things in life are out of your control. You can make it a party or a tragedy." - Nora Roberts

As the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and the reality of the disruptions to daily life began to settle in, like most of you I experienced a range of emotions, mostly negative:

  • Frustration – I had planned to devote my year to following my joy compass, but a bunch of the things I had planned for March and April were canceled.
  • Fear – The financial forecasts don’t look good for anyone right now (well, except for the makers of toilet paper and hand sanitizer). Coaching is a discretionary expense, one of the easiest items to eliminate when times get tough. And while my medical writing business is somewhat more stable, some of my clients depend heavily on live meetings, either directly or indirectly, and those are being canceled.
  • Anxiety – So many questions, so few answers. How long will extreme social distancing and self-isolation last? Will I or someone I know get sick? Will I be able to find toilet paper before it runs out? (The lady at my local 7-11 assures me, the toilet paper is coming!) What will the world look like when this crisis finally ends?
  • Anger – At the way this crisis has been handled, and at the callous attitudes I still see from some.

These mental musings along with the constant barrage of increasingly bad news being broadcast 24/7 created a recipe for serious depression. All I wanted to do was curl up under the covers, binge-watch Netflix for the foreseeable future, and eat my quarantine snacks.

Luckily, after a few days of this, my overactive amygdala (the fear center of our brains) began to get tired and bored, and the more sensible side of my brain kicked in. Instead of thinking about everything that sucks right now, I began asking the question “What is this a GREAT time for?”

And my brain, being the curious and creative organ that it is, came up with answers! This is a FANTASTIC time to:

  • Focus on my writing, get back to blogging regularly, and invest some serious time and effort into writing the books I’ve been planning for so long.
  • Spend time networking with other writers online and develop new relationships.
  • Get some projects around my home done.
  • Take some long walks by the lake, cook some healthy recipes, and get back into shape.
  • Learn how to use Photoshop or some other photo-manipulation software and create some fun visual stories on my kitten’s Facebook page.
  • Do some serious business planning and strategizing, spend some time polishing my coaching skills, and continuing my own education.
  • With stacks of books I’ve already bought, and hundreds more on my Kindle wish list, there’s plenty to choose from.

We have no control over what’s going on in the world right now, but we do have a choice in how we respond. Time is going to pass. We can sink into despair and fritter this time away, or we can see this break in our regular routine as an opportunity.

How Will You Put This Time to Use?

Here are a few ideas and questions to get you thinking about how you can make the most of this opportunity:

  • Create memories. If you have kids at home, what can you do to make this a time they’ll look back on in future years and cherish the memories? Normally I see so many parents and their children running from one structured activity or event to the next, a rush of practices and homework and competitions that seems to put so much pressure on everyone. What an amazing opportunity this pause is to slow down and really get to know each other, to just be with each other. Have some family game or movie nights, cook together, play together, take virtual tours of museums or zoos, talk, dream, create.
  • Advance your career or business. What new skills could you learn, or polish, during this space? Maybe you could master a computer program or technological tool, or perhaps learn how to better use social media for marketing purposes. Maybe you could read up in your field or take an online class. Maybe you could learn how to be a more effective manager. Or maybe now’s the time to re-evaluate your career/business overall, and start making plans for a change.
  • Improve your health. Spring has not and will not be cancelled. Get outside – walk, run, bike, hop, skip, jump, whatever, just move more. Enjoy this beautiful season. Find exercise or dance videos on the internet. Experiment with healthier eating, try out some new recipes.
  • Invest in relationships. Reconnect with people you’ve lost touch with. Pick up the phone, or Facetime, or whatever the latest tech fad is. Who have you been meaning to reach out to, but just haven’t had the time? Now, you have time.
  • Learn something new. Read, or listen to podcasts on a topic that interests you. Take up a new hobby or practice one you already have. Learn a new language.
  • Tackle a project. What’s been on that to-do list forever that you just haven’t had time to get around to? Clean out those closets and garages. Write that book. Paint that painting. Create that financial plan.

Remember Kaizen – Start Small

When you start thinking about all the things you could possibly do during this break from your normal routine, the list can quickly become long and overwhelming.

We don’t need more overwhelm right now.

Make your list, but then pick just one thing to focus on right now. Which one would bring you the most satisfaction? What would improve your quality of life or state of mind the most? What sounds like the most fun?

Start there. Keep it simple. Just get out of the doom and gloom rut.


At some point, eventually, this pandemic will come to an end and the world will turn right-side up again. The real question is, who will we be on the other side? I’m planning to be a better version of myself. How about you?

I’d love to hear your plans in the comments below!

10 thoughts on “From Frustration to Joy – Learning to Thrive in the Time of COVID-19”

  1. I love all your suggestions!! I couldn’t agree more as to the opportunity we all have to be present with the people we love and some of things we like (and can do)! Keep the writing coming I really enjoy reading your article.

  2. Great post. This pandemic is bringing up a lot for so many and you give both understanding as well as a clear way forward.

    You’ve given some great ideas, and I for one can definitely see the potential of what this time could bring, creatively.

    Turtle steps is all it takes. 😊

    1. Thanks Yvon! I hope this post is helpful and gets people thinking about opportunities. I think for creatives, this could be a really productive time 🙂 One small step at a time!

  3. These are great tips Susan! It’s great that you have clarity on the things you want to do during these challenging times. I love the question, “Who will we be on the other side?” I’m planning to be a version of myself too, and focus on my health and freelance business. Thanks for sharing your insights. It helps me put things into perspective.

    1. Thanks Jessica! I’m so glad you found this post helpful, and I can’t wait to see what you do with this time! I see you making great progress with your different businesses!

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