VALLEY COTTAGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — For many, the coronavirus pandemic and a chaotic year have created some pretty unhealthy habits.

But, as CBS2’s Nick Caloway reported Friday, others have found inspiration to live healthier.

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“I was pretty much a smoker since being a teenager,” Valley Cottage resident Paul Ernst said.

When the virus hit in the spring, Ernst had a newborn baby. It was the perfect excuse to finally kick the habit.

Then, COVID-19 hit home.

“I vividly remember having a cigarette on my back deck,” Ernst said, “and I was like, ‘I feel weird. I think I have a fever.’ And that’s when it hit me.”

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Ernst isolated from his family and got very sick with COVID-19. But he recovered and came away from it with a new perspective.

“It was a month after I recovered where I even thought about having a cigarette, and I was long enough away where I was like, ‘You know what? I think I did it,'” Ernst said.

Sherry Blair is a life coach and mental health expert in New Jersey. She said for some, experiencing a crisis can lead to positive changes.

It’s called post-traumatic growth.

“We end up with strengths that we never would have had, had we not experienced that incident,” Blair said.

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But not everyone responded to the pandemic the way Ernst did.


During the spring lockdowns, with lots of us working from home or not working at all, many found themselves eating and drinking more.

Gyms were closed, so exercise was curbed, leading to weight gain and unhealthy habits.

If that sounds familiar, Blair suggests not being too hard on yourself.

“Not everybody makes lemonade from lemons, and it’s important to realize that just surviving, getting through it day to day, and being able to navigate. Like I know in New Jersey, we couldn’t get toilet paper. So, if you could just get toilet paper, that’s surviving, and it’s important to give yourself that credit,” Blair said.

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She said if you think you need a change, first allow yourself to feel any negative emotion you’re experiencing. Then, create a strategy and put that plan into action.

But remember, change takes time.

“It has been, oddly, a blessing in disguise for me,” Ernst said.

After surviving a brutal bout with coronavirus, Ernst is now smoke-free and healthy.

And for that, he’s thankful.

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