Woman playing the piano.

6 Women Who Turned Former Passions into Pandemic Hobbies

By Ericka Sóuter
January 12, 2022

It’s easy to think about all that we’ve lost in the past 18 months. Fears of health and safety, the feelings of grief and loss, and financial insecurity have hung over our lives like a menacing shadow. It’s been a trying time emotionally, to be sure.

For some, however, pandemic life has also meant reconnecting with once-beloved activities that had been set aside and forgotten over the years. It’s not simply about wiling away the hours while social distancing; there are clear emotional benefits to having fun and spending your free time in creative ways, too.

Why Find a Pandemic Hobby

“Making time for hobbies is an important aspect of self-care,” says psychotherapist Joyce Marter, author of The Financial Mindset Fix: A Mental Fitness Program for an Abundant Life. “Hobbies are often meditative, like knitting, art, and dance. Or they are social, like sports or classes. Having time to spend on a hobby can feel like a reward and can increase endorphins and dopamine.” These are the building blocks of true happiness and contentment.

During challenging times, it’s important to care enough about ourselves to create time and space for joy and wellness. Here are six women who rediscovered pastimes and turned them into new pandemic hobbies that give them a sense of peace and fulfillment.

Rein-y Days

Julie Neale, 50, San Mateo, California

As a little girl, Julie loved horseback riding, but she drifted away from the sport in her teens. After that, when she thought about the things that brought her joy, riding always came to mind. “I was a petite girl, but sitting on a big horse, I felt empowered,” Julie recalls. “It's an activity that really forces you to be present. You're not scrolling on your phone while you're on a horse.”

For years, she wanted to reconnect to the sport but never had the time. Then, the pandemic happened.

“This was the time when so many of us felt disempowered,” Julie says. “Being able to feel like you're doing something for yourself. There are many ways that my experience horseback riding and being around horses is very different now than it was when I was a child. There's much more mindfulness now.”

Bling It On

Susan Ballinger, 62, Huntington, Maryland

Susan loved nothing more than her rock tumbler when she was in grade school. From the shiny beautiful stones it created, she made necklaces and earrings for friends and family. In her 40s, she picked up the craft again, but she stopped because of work and family commitments. After retiring, however, she found she had a little too much time on her hands during the pandemic.

“I watched every episode of Outlander, Yellowstone, and Criminal Minds at least twice,” she says. “I started binge-watching every Netflix movie and TV series I read about on social media. Basically, I was driving myself crazy! I had to do something different.”

When her granddaughters expressed an interest in jewelry making, she pulled out her old supplies and taught them how to do some basic crimps and knots. It inspired her to dive back into the craft.

“When I went shopping for more materials, I felt like a child in the toy store!” she gushes. “My creative juices were flowing again so I was a happy camper. I honestly felt lighter and freer and calmer, like I was no longer stuck in my head with the pandemic.”

Strings Attached

Kate Rope, 48, Atlanta, Georgia

“I played the violin as a kid, but I was terrible,” laughs Kate, author of Strong As a Mother: How to Stay Healthy, Happy, and (Most Importantly) Sane from Pregnancy to Parenthood: The Only Guide to Taking Care of YOU!

A move to Atlanta in 2015 sparked a love of fiddle music, but she felt too busy to fully embrace it. After all, she was already meeting with a Buddhist group once a week for her mindfulness practice. “I always feel like I can’t have two extracurriculars until my kids are fully individual,” she says.

COVID-19 changed that mindset. With everyone homebound, she made time for online lessons.

I think music has always been like my natural antidepressant,” Kate says. “We're so bogged down in the stress of this pandemic and the responsibilities of our work and family that this was something totally different that I could work for and enjoy. It's an activity that provides growth for you as a person, and separate from work or parenting.”

When Nature Calls

Kimberlee Morrison, 41, Phoenix, Arizona

Like so many others, Kimberlee wasn’t prepared for the isolation. The yoga teacher deeply missed the students, colleagues, and friends she regularly connected with at the studio. Desperate to get out of the house, she started hiking, an activity she had first tried 10 years earlier when she moved to Phoenix.

Kimberlee and her husband began renting Airbnbs near hiking trails. She also started gardening to get her mind off work, loss, anxiety, and social unrest going on around her.

“I wanted something green in my house,” she says. “I had tried container gardening on and off over the years, and everything died. But this time, I was determined to keep something alive. Now, I have 20 plants. Both of these hobbies are meditative and grounding and have become such an integral part of my self-care routine.”

The Write Stuff

Briana Brownell, 38, Saskatoon, Canada

At age 13, Briana made a decision that ended her piano playing career. “It started being uncool,” she says laughing. Next, she tried music composition, but after writing one bad fugue, she gave up on music altogether. “When COVID started, my mother bought an electric piano for my birthday, and I started playing and composing again,” she says.

Blocking off time on weekends for online classes has helped her develop her skill, and she writes and performs her own classical, rock, and dance music. “I’ve always enjoyed music, going to shows and concerts,” says Briana, a data scientist and tech entrepreneur. “When you can’t go anywhere, playing it is the next best thing. I find it very freeing and very exploratory. I don't need to finish and release a song. It's just being able to have fun.”

Art Blanche

Karen Condor, 57, Wellsboro, Pennsylvania

“I greatly enjoyed drawing as a child,” Karen says. “I was shy and introverted, and my parents couldn’t afford typical childhood recreational activities like summer camp. I found that drawing was enjoyable and affordable, a solitary activity, and a pleasurable means of expression.”

The hobby was put on the back burner, though, when she decided to become a writer. Decades later, Karen started drawing again during the pandemic to cope with the stress of living in lockdown mode and what was happening in the world around her.

“I was nervous when I started drawing, because it had been decades since I sketched,” she says. “But having 30 years of life experience made it much easier to accept that the activity would be clumsy at first. I talked myself into focusing on enjoying it instead of obsessing over the quality of the finished product. It puts me back in touch with my childhood and gives me a sense of calm and satisfaction.”

How to Find Your Own Pandemic Hobby

Searching for an outlet? Look for what women’s leadership and mindfulness expert Vanessa Loder calls energetic breadcrumbs. “It feels like little jolts of energy in your body,” she explains. The feeling is joy and connectedness—quiet contentment. “It’s a clue as to what brings us joy, a feeling of aliveness.”

Ultimately, reconnecting or discovering an activity comes from turning into yourself and what makes you feel as though you’re living, not just surviving. And it’s a good idea not to give up these pandemic hobbies once life gets back to the usual grind.

“We used to have to edit things out of our lives,” adds Loder. “Now, we have to be selective about what we edit back in so as not to lose the space that we’ve made for things that make us feel alive.”

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