Coping with COVID-19

Lockdown languidness? Turn obstacles into opportunities

By Barbara Pierce

sewingIn May, top professional basketball player LeBron James put together an all-star event to honor and celebrate the high school class of 2020, which has had its graduation season upended by the novel coronavirus pandemic. The special aired on all major networks.

“I wanted to create a show that looked and felt different from traditional specials. These kids worked so hard to graduate and what is happening to them is truly unfair,” James said in a statement to The Associated Press.

James is all too aware of painful disappointments and tough losses. He knows that in order to win at the highest level, you need to overcome serious failures and adopt world-class mental frameworks to succeed after difficult losses.

What can we learn from LeBron’s journey to becoming the most powerful athlete in the world?

Ten years ago, he made the decision to leave his Cleveland team and move to Miami. With that decision, he became the most hated athlete in America. Fans were outraged and even burned his jersey on national television.

This decision could have been a huge obstacle for him.

So how does he feel about that decision now?

According to his recent interview in GQ magazine, “It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I needed it. It helped me grow …

“I spent my whole life in Ohio … Everything was comfortable. I knew everything, everybody knew me —everything was comfortable. I needed to become uncomfortable. Now I’ve seen everything on and off the floor this league has to offer.”

When he was so disliked after leaving Cleveland, he transformed this obstacle into a challenge. As a result, he stopped caring about what people thought of him, and just carried on being himself. People admired him more.

He turned a huge obstacle into a complete success.

What we can learn from this? Where there is an obstacle, there is a solution.

Obstacles, negative things — like being forced to work from home during the novel COVID-19 crisis, getting laid off, not getting the raise we expected, or being locked down at home can be used to create new opportunities. We can use them to our benefit. We just need to create the right mental framework to take advantage of the opportunities.

Like Olympic gold medal swimmer Sharon van Rouwendaal. With gyms and pools closed to curb the spread of COVID-19, she came up with a creative way to work out.

Instead of admitting defeat and giving up on her training regime in lockdown, she set up a small pool in her back yard. So that she could get in her laps, she used a bungee cord to add resistance and lock her in place in the middle of the water while she swims.

“Whenever there’s an obstacle, there’s always a solution. You just have to be creative!” the Olympian wrote on Instagram.

Let creativity loose

She’s right: You do have to be creative. Think outside the box, as they say. Spend some time thinking about it: How can you get to your goal another way? You can’t get there the way you want to get there, so what might be another thing to try?

Consider your options as experiments. Try one experiment; experiments sometimes fail, so try another.

The way you perceive the obstacle makes a difference. If you see it as permanent barrier, a wall that you can never get over, it will be just that.

If you see it as a challenge, a puzzle to solve, an experiment, you will come up with a way to solve it. Your view of the obstacle affects how you react.

If you have faith in yourself and your ability to find a way, you will find a way.

Consider this: If a friend was having the same problem you have and asked you for your advice, what would you tell that person?

Also, do ask for input from others. Sometimes all it takes is another pair of eyes looking at the problem to come up with a solution.

Global catastrophes change the world, and this pandemic is a global catastrophe. Our lives are changing.

There will be a day when this is over. We will hug our friends and family members we haven’t seen for a while. We will get back to work. We will return to our classrooms and coffee shops. We will get our haircut by a professional and mingle with others freely in large gatherings. Our economy will recover.

You are doing your part by staying home, and you may be facing some huge obstacles because of what’s going on.

What obstacles have you overcome as we’ve gone through this lockdown?

I’d love to hear how you solved the obstacles that you have faced. Send me an email at and tell me about it.

You can, and you will, come out on the other side — growing, learning and becoming a better person because of this experience and the obstacles you have conquered.

• Barbara Pierce is a retired licensed clinical social worker with many years of experience helping people. If you would like to purchase a copy of her book, “When You Come to the Edge: Aging” or if you have questions for her, contact her at