Coronavirus: a lesson in personal improvement

An article by Jason S. Sullivan, 03-24-20


  • Make sure staples are in stock — at home
  • Embrace alternatives
  • Be prepared
  • Don’t ignore mental health
  • Focus on what matters

I never thought I would write about coronavirus. The word “coronavirus” wasn’t even in my vocabulary a few weeks ago. And it surely wasn’t dominating the news and daily conversation either. Call me optimistic, but some good will come out of all this. I aim to make improvements in my life based on what I’ve learned in the past few weeks.

When an emergency or pandemic strikes, it changes your thoughts, behaviors, and actions. Rather than fret about things outside of your control, look at what you can change. It starts with each of us on a personal level. With what we’re going through, personal improvement should be imminent for everyone.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned over the past few weeks. These lessons will serve me well to get through this period and beyond.

Make sure staples are in stock — at home

Look at the shortages of grocery staples — bread, milk, meat, toilet paper, and cleaning products. A few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have dreamt that any of these things would be hard to find. Today? It’s a different world out there. It’s temporary, but unsettling nonetheless.

In the future, I’ll be more inclined to buy things in bulk. I used to buy what I needed for the short-term, thinking there wasn’t space for extra quantities. After the recent turn of events, I’ll make room for it. Buying in bulk is different from hoarding, though. There’s a difference between preparation and panic. Take what you need and leave the rest. And, “waste not, want not” will be my new norm.

Embrace alternatives

I’ve also learned to embrace alternatives. Scarcity forces decisions. Flexibility and change are necessary — embrace it. It’s crucial to separate wants and needs. Learn to use what’s available and make do with what you have. Very few items don’t have substitutes that you can use. Sometimes it takes creativity or learning something new. Trial and error also helps.

Alternatives aren’t only for products, though. Leisure, shopping, and entertainment options will feel different in the future. A simple walk in the park or a spontaneous micro-adventure suddenly feels special. Rather than a large, pre-planned event, I may consider something low-key. It feels more intimate — which is a refreshing change.

Be prepared

As the crisis continues, one thing is clear — the world, and especially the U.S. — isn’t prepared for a pandemic. Closer to home, I’m not too prepared for something like this either. I need to brush up on critical skills that I’ve either taken for granted or never learned in the first place. 

How to cook and clean better would be an excellent place to start. Then, personal finance skills such as budgeting and how to better manage my 401K. And then, more holistic things like how to better manage my life and household. I admit, I’m not as self-reliant and prepared for daily life as I need to be. Not only that, but I’m woefully unprepared for emergencies. I need to change that ASAP.

Don’t ignore mental health

These last few weeks have felt like months. On top of that, I haven’t felt 100% lately. I’ve had feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, worry, and dread. I’m not sleeping very well, and finding it hard to stay motivated. It’s likely a mild bout of depression. It’s also a much-needed reminder of how important mental health is to your outlook. I need to make time to take care of myself mentally. It’s vital to recognize when things start to slide so I can make small adjustments to get back on track.

Now is a perfect time to self-reflect or revisit hobbies. I want to make it a habit to start and end each day with a clear mind. I aim to harness negative energy or feelings into more productive ones. Seek happiness and serenity; offer kindness. Pause and take deep breaths. Exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep — all helpful tips to stay healthy.

Focus on what matters

The pandemic hasn’t displaced me too much. I’ve had a few minor inconveniences, but nothing serious. (My 401K took a hit, but I’m learning.) My family and I have been very fortunate, and I hope it stays that way. Many others have it much worse than I do. I feel compassion for them.

From today onward, I plan to focus more on what matters. Use my time wisely. Strive to be the best version of myself that I can be. It’s an important reminder that life can change — or end — in an instant. Make the most of opportunities and don’t take anything for granted. 


Reality is often the best classroom. We learn more from our mistakes than we do our success. During times of distress, focus on learning something new and looking for ways to improve.

Personal improvement isn’t a straight line with a beginning and end. It’s a cycle and meant to be continuous. The more comfortable you are with the cycle, the better equipped you may be to weather life’s ups and downs. It’s worth the investment.

2 thoughts on “Coronavirus: a lesson in personal improvement

  1. Good thoughts, Jason. I unpacked a bunch of framed photos after 2 years in a moving box, and hung them on the wall. Also cooking and eating more. So much so that we’re renaming the virus COVID-19 Pounds. Luckily there are lots of exercise videos on YouTube…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I know what you mean! I’m not as active now that I’m working from home. I try to walk around the neighborhood a couple times a day to get some exercise.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s