7 insights from the COVID era

At the time of writing this blog, the COVID pandemic is raging worldwide. I belong to the group of people who have to shelter in place and I do so very conscientiously. That of course gives me a lot of time to think and write. This text is an example of that. I'd like to share my story and insights. 

How it all began

Thursday evening, 12 March the Belgian government announced that schools would close from Monday. Oh My God! I hadn't expected that. During the spring break, my 16-year-old stepson asked what the worst thing was that could happen if COVID came to us. I joked then. “That they'll close the schools and you'll have to sit here at home for weeks!” And now the time had come… I could hardly believe it and I don't mean that in a positive sense. Spring break had just ended and within a few weeks it would be the Easter holidays. And now 3 whole weeks were added… weeks of bored teenagers hanging around, moving from one screen to the other, with no way to hang out with friends, go bowling or to an escape room. This actually felt like an escape room but without a clear manual and without a clear end time. What if we have to crack the code here too? The game is over and you can go back outside when you've learned the necessary lessons… Okay, that seemed like a challenge I wanted to take on. 

Shelter in place

A few days after the schools closed, the restrictions were tightened even further and it was clear: #shelterinplace! The first days I scoured a lot of news sites. I wanted to read as much about it as possible so I had a clearer view of it. At the beginning of this year, we were still minimising the entire COVID virus to an ordinary flu and barely a few months later, this entire crisis brought our country to a standstill. I wanted to know if it wasn't all an exaggeration. In my opinion, it was better to isolate the elderly and vulnerable groups, because you can be infected without knowing it. Isolating the sick is then not really effective. But by reading several articles, I understood the principle of #flattenthecurve. What I realised even more was that I couldn't change the whole situation at all. On the contrary, the faster I accepted it, the better I could deal with it. My sense of powerlessness gave way to understanding and respect. Every day my respect for the experts who guide us through this crisis grew. 

Insight 1: accept what is happening

As a life coach and stepparent coach, I cancelled all my appointments, so no more appointments with friends, no physical contact with our parents, other older people or vulnerable groups. We respected the #socialdistancing in the shops where we went to get our fresh products twice a week. 

Normally I'm someone who likes to make rules. It's in my nature. I like structure and regularity, especially when the children are with us. We have agreements about bedtime, screen time, homework and dinner. But since the #lockdown, I've been in my stress profile, where - weird, but true - I no longer need rules. Since then we live according to our own biorhythm. We get up when we wake up (without an alarm clock), we have breakfast together, the kids are busy with schoolwork, while I try to do some work myself. Afterwards, we do chores in the garden together: clearing leaves, cleaning the terrace, removing weeds, cleaning the herb garden, etc. The screens are voluntarily exchanged for the garden! Who could've thought? The beautiful weather also had something to do with it. We'd had wet and dark winter months and since the lockdown it's been bright and sunny every day. What a delight! It's like reading tea leaves as to how long these restrictions will last. The only certainty you have is the here and now. I feel blessed that I don't have to worry about money right away and I can just go with the flow, just like the kids do. We'll see what happens today.

Insight 2: live here and now

My husband or I used to prepare the food and call everyone to come to the table. Now that we're all in the same boat, we call on everyone to start it together. I give everyone an assignment and they even seem to like it. They even want to learn to cook! This way they gain a lot of life experience in a completely different way. 

It reminds me of my own childhood. When I was 14, Mum had surgery for a lumbar hernia. She had to stay in the hospital for a while and then lie flat for a while at home. I remember Dad calling me in to his office and explaining to me that I now had to take over many of Mum's tasks. He gave me the necessary instructions to make spaghetti: “Fill a large pan with water to about 3/4th, find spaghetti in the pantry and take about 300gr. Then take a few carrots that you can peel and then come back for more instructions.” Fantastic! I learned about everything a household needs. When Mum got back home, she taught me how to iron from the sofa. She wasn't allowed to herself and couldn't stand up, so she had to explain everything to me. Of course I'd seen her do it many times before, so that helped. When I look back on that period, I'm very grateful. I learned so much that I quickly became independent and stood on my own two feet. 

Insight 3: delegate household chores to your kids, they can do more than you think

I also want to pass on those life experiences to our kids. And now is the perfect time! The kids have to help cook, hoover and work in the garden. In addition to the things they already did before, of course, such as setting and clearing the table, emptying the dishwasher, making their bed and tidying up their room. Make grateful use of this period to involve your child in the household. Win-win! And believe me, it is much easier to involve a primary school child than an adolescent ;-). 

My youngest son, who is 11 and in year 6, had to clean the toilet as homework and send a funny picture of it to the teacher. I gave him the right products and instructions. I watched and gave instructions when needed. I was very proud of him afterwards. I honestly wonder how many kids have actually done that themselves. All too often we as parents take over because we can do it faster, better and cleaner. Of course! We've done it a 1000 times and those kids have never done it. But if we want to give our kids self-confidence, we have to regularly take them out of their comfort zone and let them do new things on their own. That requires a good amount of time and patience from us as adults, something that was scarce in the pre-COVID era, but it certainly pays off in the long term. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” (Chinese proverb)

Insight 4: invest time and patience in teaching your kids

When I was cleaning the terrace with the kids in the radiant sun, I enjoyed that quality time. It's a cliché, but happiness is in the little things. Going for a walk together, going to the shops together, watching Netflix together ;-). If you ask someone what the most important things are in their life, you almost always hear the partner or kids are number 1. And if you were to look at how much time you spend on this in relation to work, it's often unfortunately very little. The family, the relationship has often become a matter of course in which we no longer invest much time. And by time I mean real attention. We're always busy, busy, busy. We have everything we need and yet we often find ourselves whining about petty details. It's in times like these that we start to realise that. What bothered me last week has become secondary today. 

Insight 5: enjoy the time with your family

The more I enjoy it now, the more I look for ways to continue doing this in the post-COVID era. Soon we'll be in that damn rat race again, looking back with nostalgia to this time when we could enjoy free time without feeling guilty. I plan to do something with the family every Sunday. It doesn't matter what, but we have to do it together: walking, cycling, bowling, an escape room ;-). 

I enjoyed slowing down. All the projects I used to work on have come to a standstill. All trains have come to a stop. Now I get time to think about the essence of life. This period invites stillness and reflection. What do I need to be happy and what do I no longer want to do? What really suits me and what has become superfluous? What gives me energy? What drains my energy? Which trains will I restart after this crisis and which ones not? Maybe some trains need renovation or innovation or some cars need to be disconnected. I see people starting new hobbies. We'll never get this opportunity again. Maybe we'll look back on this later as the best thing that ever happened to us… Calming down and being alone with myself will make it clearer. What if I don't have to take anything or anyone into account? Well, then I know what I'd do. 

Insight 6: take pause and reflect

The desire to tackle certain things naturally bubbles up. And yes, certain relationships are also questioned. 

In autumn, we took the kids to the musical 4045. That's my way of teaching the kids some culture and history because museums aren't my thing. It was an incredible experience, a first for the musical world! I then promised myself to go to Daens as well. That would be in spring. There was still plenty of time and I postponed it. Something that used to be so simple , is now impossible. I do know that this COVID crisis will one day pass and I hope we'll still get our chance, but I realised that I mustn't postpone anything. This crisis also causes a lot of suffering. People are dying of COVID every day. It won't be long before someone close to me dies. Will I have done and said all the necessary things then? I feel the sadness of 7 years ago resurfacing, when Dad suddenly died of heart failure. “Don't postpone anything and enjoy” were my words at his funeral. This insight is worth repeating. 

Insight 7: don't postpone anything

Nature as a model

Nature also enjoys tranquillity. You see photos posted here and there of dolphins in a harbour and clear water in Venice. The air in the cities is much less polluted than pre-COVID. Nature is breathing again. But for how long? Only if this crisis lasts long enough will we start looking for a different way of life. I saw a report on TV where it became clear that the animal markets in Asia are still going on. The most exotic animal species are all crammed together, not immune to each other's viruses. They're being abused and/or slaughtered, all for superstitious tourists who pay for this. It made me angry and sad. I felt powerless. I can't change any of this. I solemnly promise to always show reverence and respect for nature and for animals. 

Nature has always been a source of inspiration for me. As regular as clockwork, nature can create, grow, clean up and let go of what no longer serves, as if it were so simple. We humans can learn a great deal from that. It humbles me. 


I'm somehow grateful for what is happening, thankful that I can see the real values of life again, thankful that I can enjoy my family without feeling guilty and that everyone around me is healthy and happy. I'm grateful for the opportunities that are now becoming visible and that I can seize. 

I'm very grateful that there are many people who work every day to keep this country running, the heroes of today. I want them to feel valuable and be rewarded for their efforts and dedication. 

And now?

These extraordinary times invite us to do things differently. Not just for now, but structurally. What can I do so I don't relapse into the daily grind afterwards? How can I convert these insights into sustainable and lasting change? The first step was to gain the insight. The second step is to convert that insight into action, every day again, so that after a few weeks and months it has become a new habit. Yep, I can do it. And hopefully the door of the escape room will open again to the outside... 

We don't know yet what the world will be like in the post-COVID era. But one thing is certain:

'Nothing should go back to normal. Normal wasn’t working.'

#staysafe #unitedagainstcovid

Patsy Vanleeuwe

Patsy Vanleeuwe

Patsy Vanleeuwe is a life coach and trainer, a mother and a wife. In her coaching practice, she's guided many people to a happier and more successful life. Her knowledge of online platforms and years of experience as a life coach form the perfect combination for creating online programmes for personal development.