As I write this blog, my family and I are entering our fourth week of isolation here in the UK.

As the coronavirus ravages the globe and changes the way we live and work, there is so much information out there about how we can cope and stay mentally healthy. We may find that we are on our own for long periods of time, or that we are with our families much more than we are used to. For some of us, this means home schooling and a complete change in how we work. For others, this can be a time of uncertainty as we don’t know what is ahead of us professionally.

I feel somewhat prepared for dealing with isolation, however, as I went through an experience that was in some ways similar a couple of years ago. I went through a long period of illness, which meant that I could not work and spent a lot of time on my own at home. This time was very, very difficult in many ways. But I figured out ways to cope and come through that time, and I thought I would share some of the insights I learned during this period in order to help others.

At first, it was hard to come to terms with what I was losing – my health was poor, and I had to put my career on hold for a time. I spent a lot of time in thought. Eventually I decided that I needed to use the time to re-evaluate where I was professionally and personally and to use the time to grow. I listened to a lot of podcasts and I spent a lot of time reflecting. But one of the main things that got me through this time was professional development.

I found that taking an active role in my own learning gave me something to focus on that was productive. The voices of my teachers and mentors became so important to me, as they were a window to growth and to the outside world. Focussing on enhancing my skill set helped me to have a sense of purpose and to feel that I was still somehow contributing to my own career, even if I couldn’t work at the time. Because of the profound impact professional development had on me at a time when I really needed it, I feel passionate about working in the professional development field and making these opportunities available to others.

It is my sincere hope that this reflection provides another perspective on what can help to keep us mentally healthy during the coronavirus crisis. Many of us are in lockdown, having lost our daily routine, our normal way of working, and contact with the outside world. Having a sense of purpose and forward momentum is a way of transforming enforced seclusion into an opportunity for growth.

I wish you all good health.