Daily life looks a lot different for most Americans these days, and that includes how and where we work. These are trying times for all of us — but our hearts and minds especially go out to those who have been directly affected by COVID-19. And while this pandemic is undeniably serious, working through it doesn't have to be all doom and gloom.

Whether you're still onsite or working from home, why not use this period of uncertainty to learn and grow? Here are a few ways you can use this time to better yourself, grow your career and contribute more at work.

find ways to stay healthy and positive

In a global pandemic, as with any other human crisis, people need to come first. So you need to think about your own health and well-being above all else. And that includes your mental health.

If you're looking for ways to stay healthy and positive, it's worth noting that the United Nations endorses guided meditation and yoga (and offers free virtual sessions for the public, ranging in length from 10 to 45 minutes, on their website). Plus, in a recent article "Coping With Coronavirus Anxiety," Harvard Medical School noted that yoga, meditation and controlled breathing were "tried and true ways to relax."

Mindfulness, exercise, even baking — use whatever works for you. Just remember that we're all in this together. And while things may get worse before they get better, it won’t last forever.

go the extra mile at work

New information about coronavirus seems to come out hourly. And as it does, it leaves everyone — and every organization — scrambling to adjust.

As your company works to adjust to the new normal, things are likely in flux at your workplace. That means there are any number of opportunities for you to both contribute and acquire valuable new skills, no matter if you're onsite or working remotely. So don't hesitate to raise your hand and offer to do more.

Try to look for gaps or areas where your support will be especially appreciated. It's a great way to gain exposure to new areas of the operation, evolve your skill set and increase your visibility with the boss, all in one fell swoop. For example, if a coworker is out sick, offer to cover his or her workload (as long as you can still do your own). Or if you’re particularly computer savvy, help your team get accustomed to video conferencing. There are any number of ways you can use your skills to contribute more, so look for areas where your team is struggling, and offer to pitch in.

Just think of it as a "stretch assignment" — that is, a new project or task that falls outside of your current areas of expertise. And if you need any extra motivation, it's worth noting that 71 percent of senior leaders said stretch assignments were the number-one thing that helped unlock their potential. So why not go for it?

set aside time for upskilling

Did you know the average one-way commute in the U.S. lasts 26 minutes and change? That nets out to nearly an hour spent traveling to and from work each day. Yikes!

If you're now working from home, in other words, there's no denying you've got some extra time on your hands — and a significant share of your peers are already taking advantage of that. In one recent poll, for example, 23 percent of respondents said they were using COVID-19 downtime to focus on upskilling or reskilling, while another 32 percent indicated they were thinking about doing so. Clearly, this is the moment to put your career development plans into high gear.

If you’re still onsite, on the other hand, that doesn't mean you can't find ways of upskilling, too. With social distancing in effect, all of our social calendars look a bit different. So why not take time after hours to explore e-learning platforms — and acquire valuable new skills? A quick Google search will turn up a treasure trove of online platforms, classes and other virtual educational resources. Better yet, most of these online learning platforms offer free trials for new users, ranging in length from a few days to 30 or more. Take advantage of that — it's your chance to explore the offering and decide whether it's the right option for you.

key takeaways

The coronavirus outbreak may have changed how we're living right now, but it shouldn't change how you approach your career goals. No matter if you're still onsite or working remotely, you should take advantage of this moment to broaden your horizons, deepen your expertise and grow in your career. While you're at it, be sure to attend to your emotional and mental health, too.

For more actionable advice and practical guidance to help you grow in your career, visit our Career Advice resource center.