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How some Americans are finding solace in a period of self isolation and social distancing

Coping strategies for coronavirus isolation
Coping strategies for coronavirus isolation 06:18

As the ongoing coronavirus pandemic keeps businesses closed and social distancing measures in place, Americans are turning to the hobbies they love to help deal with the self-isolation. Dr. Lisa Damour, a psychologist, said hobbies can be a "positive form of coping" that can help bolster self-esteem and help pass the time.

"There's a lot of benefits to hobbies, especially in times like this," Damour said. "It's meaningful work, and meaningful work is something that we know helps people through high stress."

Cheryl Traylor is using her time at home to embrace her passion for art.

Traylor, 62, worked as a sales adviser for H&M for five years before she was furloughed. After getting the news, she immediately started preparing to make the best of the abrupt change to her daily life in New York City. 

"Everything has stopped. Now is the time to go back to what is important to you," she told CBS News. "For me, that's my art."

Before becoming a mom in the 1980s, Traylor got her associate degree at Parsons School of Design, and worked as a fashion illustrator for JCPenny.

Since being furloughed, Traylor has started sketching again, and said she has been inspired by stories of how others are coping with the coronavirus crisis. 

"A lot of people are going to discover a lot of things about themselves, and a lot of things about, you know, what they missed from the hustle and bustle of just being in the mix," Traylor said.

She credited the strong support of her church community and her family, who she communicates with over video chat, as another inspiration. 

Traylor said that one project of importance for her is a gift for her niece, who is due to give birth in June, years after having a stillborn birth on Mother's Day. Preliminary sketches, shared with CBS News, show a 12-year-old girl holding her baby sister.

"When I told my niece's mother, my sister, what I was doing, she cried," she said. 

Preliminary sketches of Cheryl Traylor's project for her niece. Cheryl Traylor

As for people in her position who might be thinking about picking up a paint brush or pencil, Traylor said "that when it hits you, do it. Especially with all this time you've got, do it."

"I want to encourage people with my art," she said. "I'm not looking at it right now in terms of commerce, but I'm looking at the art right now in terms of being a ministry that just reaches out and makes people feel good."

Further down the East Coast, Pennsylvania resident David Wilson's refuge from the pandemic-forced new normal is his garden.

Wilson, who works at Overdevest Nurseries in Bridgeton, New Jersey, is encouraging other Americans to turn to nature for solace as well, calling gardening "a tremendous relaxation."

"It's great therapy — you don't need to be near anyone else, you're out in an outdoor space, fresh air, you're with nature, birds are chirping," he said. "It's just wonderful to see nature, it's reassuring really to see nature happening." 

Wilson highlighted the "pride" that comes from growing and nurturing something, and said growing a plant can help with getting through tough times. 

And for those who can't plant a garden in their home, Wilson suggests planting a window box or getting an easy-to-grow indoor plant like a succulent. For those who can't do either, Wilson made virtual walkthroughs of the private garden he and his wife have planted. 

An Oasis For All Seasons - Spring by David Wilson on YouTube

"It's getting close to nature, and yeah, you might be in the middle of the city but there's a lot of stuff like that you can do," he said. 

"Grow some plants there and cheer yourself up — it's good to have something you can nurture." 

Although both gardening and art can be a source of joy to many, Dr. Damour stressed that hobbies are "highly personal," and what might work for one person may not necessarily help another.

"And if hobbies aren't their cup of tea, so long as they're finding some healthy way to cope with the challenge of COVID-19 ... that's good too," she said.

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