As we all traverse our realities during this COVID-19 Pandemic, I want you to know something.

We are ALL learning! Each and every one of us. No exceptions. Everyone.

Our situations may be different:
Taking care of older family members.
Working from home for the first time.
Working from home with children.
Managing our financial situations.
Managing our emotional situations.
Cooking for the first time.
Exercising from home.
Disruptions to routines and schedules.

The list is long. Many of us have multiple new situations. But everyone has some situation that is new to them.

Many of us go our whole lives without ever managing through a new situation that causes so much disruption to our lives – and the lives of those around us. Sure, we have all had, and will continue to have, circumstances that come up in our lives that require us to bob, weave, learn and grow.

A new baby.
A new home.
A new job.
The death of a loved one.

Situations of choice. Situations of life’s realities. Situations that impact us and our families.

But when is the last time we all had a situation impact all of us at the same time that no one chose?

We got thrown into this. We were unprepared for the bigness and complexity.

But we are human. We learn. We create resilience. Sure, things may not wind up on the other side of this exactly how we want them to, but we will learn our way through this.

Learning your way through something is hard though! Frustration. Guilt. Second guessing. Risk. Feelings of inferiority, not being good enough, sadness, anxiety, overwhelmed, scared.

How do you move from being in control of your environment to learning your way through a new environment?

There has been a lot of talk about a ‘new normal’. And yes, our situations right now are where we will be for the foreseeable future, but to simply ‘adjust to your new normal’ is a tall order for those of us who are now feeling out of control.

So let’s figure out how we can learn our way through this coronavirus situation. Maybe not to ultimately create a ‘new normal’, but instead to just get ourselves from one point to another.

And in the process, create an awareness of how to better deal with learning situations in the future.

Give Yourself a Break!

Literally and figuratively – give yourself a freakin break!

I’m a Type A personality. I love being in control. I enjoy knowing what will happen next so that I can plan, schedule and prepare. I have perfectionist tendencies.

And while all of those qualities have supported me during past life situations, when you are in the middle of a learning moment – or an AFGO (Another F*ing Growth Opportunity) as I like to call them – those qualities are not the best sources for comfort or support.

Because I can’t control what’s going on. I don’t know what will happen next. All of my planning, scheduling and preparing is good, until something happens I didn’t expect.

And nothing is perfect right now. Nothing.

And the sooner you and I realize that we just have to roll with things, the better prepared we will all be for the foreseeable future.

So I have to give myself a break. I have to be OK with just being OK. I have to know and trust that things will get better (because they will eventually).

It’s called Self-Compassion people.

We may not make as much money as we usually do.
Our kids may have more screen time that we want them too, and not school related.
We may eat more than usual (maybe drink more than usual).
We may not exercise at the level we are used to.
We may get into fights with our partners because we are thrown into each other’s world more than usual.

Yup. All of that might happen.

But every minute of every day, we will remind ourselves that we don’t have ultimate control of this situation and let go of things not being as good as you hope them to be.

Have you ever heard the saying “Saturday morning hair, don’t care?” You know the situation – you wake up on Saturday morning and your hair is a mess. You slept on your head wrong somehow during the night and there are things sticking up all over the place. Brushing only makes your hair look worse. You look in the mirror for a moment to consider that a shower and blow dry is the only thing that will fix this hideous display.

Then you remember it is Saturday. And the sooner you get going, the sooner those pancakes will appear on your plate. So you throw a hat on and move on with your day.

Please do that during these crazy pandemic stay at home times! The kids will get back to school. The money will flow again. You will lose those extra pounds. You and your partner will figure things out.

In the meantime, put your cap on and let things just be what they are.

AND, literally give yourself a break. Take some deep breaths. Get an extra few minutes of sleep. Get outside for a walk. Enjoy mealtimes with the family (because they may not happen again when we are ‘back to normal’). Watch those movies / read those books. Play family games. Talk to each other!

What we learn during the times we allow ourselves to step off the gas are some of the most profound lessons of our lives.

Find Community

There has been a lot of “We’re In This Together” messaging, which is positive, great, helpful, and supportive.

But another way of looking at this is: “Misery Loves Company”.

At risk of contributing to a negative bias mindset, I want to make the point that during times when we wonder if we are doing enough, being enough, feeling out of control and otherwise feeling stressed and anxious, comfort comes from knowing we are not the only ones struggling with all of this! 

While it is comforting to know that movie stars are living ‘normal’ lives just like us right now, I find it more supportive and real to know that yes, others just like you and me, are experiencing the exact same feelings because we are living similar lives.

Community can come in so many forms. Extroverts, introverts, receivers, givers, very socially oriented, not so socially oriented – we all may define our community support structure differently. Good news for all of us is that technology can provide pretty much any community environment we may need.

There is Zoom/Facetime/other technology that allows you to get on a video with your loved ones. Or your book club. Or your gym buddies. Or your interest group at work. Or good friends. Get on a video and catch up! Share stories. Share concerns. Have a virtual happy hour. Play a game. Just bitch and moan for a few minutes. Whatever your jam…do it with someone(s) you enjoy being with!

Podcasts/online learning/blogs give those of us to need expert/inspirational support during periods of learning a wonderful outlet. From the educational to the inspirational to the funny – you can find just about anything out there right now! One of my favorites at the moment is Brene Brown’s Blog (and podcast). In fact, this one in particular is a good one on the topic of not knowing.

I would also list social media here, but with caution. During time of learning and feeling out of control, I find that you can easily spin further out of control by reading social media. So, if you need to find community in these places, maybe look to join a Facebook Group focused on a topic you want to engage in creatively. These forums will be filled with people looking for the same support you are, and will be much more constructive than just combing your feeds.

Learning our way through something new is HARD. Engaging with others who are also learning their way through similar newness makes you realize that your feelings are valid.

Celebrate Your Wins!

Our brains are rigged to lean toward negative thinking and believing before we believe anything good. It’s called negative bias.

For example, most of us, when we look in the mirror, see only what’s wrong with ourselves that day. Too fat. A pimple. My hair looks awful.

Or think of the last time you got feedback (from work, from your partner, from anyone). If they give you a compliment, we tend to think they are just being nice. If they give us negative feedback, we tend to ruminate on it for hours and figure out all the ways we could possible fix ourselves.

Although in the case of negative feedback from our partners, we may just punch them in the arm or give them the silent treatment all day.

It’s easier for us to believe and focus on the negative stuff. So, at the end of a really hard learning day, what do we do?

We focus on all the things we did wrong. All the things we need to fix. All the areas we screwed up. How angry we are at ourselves for not being better.

But in every hard learning day, I promise you, we’ve all done at least one thing right! Even if that one thing was to have made it though the day alive!

So celebrate your small wins. Get your brain out of that negative bias mode by throwing it a few positive bones.

My suggestion is to write down 3 small wins every day. These could be about the day overall, or about the area of learning you are dealing with – at work, at home, working from home, supporting your kids, supporting your partner, starting a new job, new health routine. Whatever hard learning situation you may be facing, find 3 things you did well that day and remind yourself of them.

I showed up for those calls today.
I reminded my kid that I will always be there for him/her.
I took 2 minutes to hug to my partner.
I survived the day!
I helped one person see things differently.
I got outside for a 10 minute walk.
I drank a glass of water.

These can be really small wins, but frankly, most of our negative thoughts are really small too – we just make them bigger by thinking about them over and over again.

The other benefit you get from writing down a few small wins every day? A feeling of CONTROL!

When we are focused on all that’s wrong we can easily start digging a pit of despair. Things just keep spinning further from us. We can’t get our arms around them. We struggle and wallow.

Positivity is quite the opposite. When you focus on what YOU did RIGHT, you realize how much control you have on your daily situations.

And over time, this feeling of control will give you the fuel to continue learning your way through a hard situation. Because you know you can.

We ALL have times in our lives when we have to manage through a situation that is scary, hard, out of our control or that we feel unprepared to handle. When that time arrives for you, I hope you do at least one of the three suggestions above.

Because learning is how we grow.


  • Gayle Hilgendorff

    Executive Health and Leadership Coach, Thrive Global Facilitator, Author and Aspiring Blogger

    Gayle Hilgendorff Executive Health and Leadership Coach / Thrive Global Facilitator / Aspiring Blogger (corporate2carny) / Author of Live More, Work Better: A Practical Guide to a Balanced Life (Bascom Hill Publishing Group, 2015) Gayle Hilgendorff is a certified executive health and leadership coach who left her Managing Director of Human Resources position at Accenture in 2011 to found her own business focused on helping corporate executives achieve their best, professionally and personally, through better health. While at Accenture, Gayle was responsible for executive career coaching and leadership development programs for a global organization of 30,000 people. After a turning point in her own career, she realized that true leadership and professional success were founded on being a healthy person – mentally, physically and emotionally – not just working harder. Gayle’s health passion became a platform for her consulting work with corporate executives. Working with participants across the globe, she incorporates holistic health concepts into her leadership coaching. Gayle integrates basic knowledge about how eating better, moving more, and finding ways to manage stress are the true foundations for a successful personal and professional life. With science backed concepts, and easy to integrate actions, Gayle’s programs have received high praise and tangible results. Gayle’s background in the corporate world combined with her likable, easy style make her a believable, relatable coach/presenter/author who has proven success in helping people make big change.