A month before the pandemic hit, she quit her job as an archivist at Netflix and, with her partner, agreed to watch over a friend’s property in the woods of New Hampton, N.Y. Then New York’s stay-at-home orders went into effect.

“Everything shifted,” Ms. Padham, 41, said. “I could understand what it would feel like to be able to make my own choices.”

She said she began to listen to the plants on the property. Eventually, Ms. Padham and her partner purchased the property, and they plan on turning it into a spiritual retreat center called Mystic Hill.

WAS IT WORTH IT? Mystic Hill is set to open by early 2023, Ms. Padham said, and will feature nature walks and yoga and meditation classes. Amid the isolation of the early months of the pandemic, and away from the darkness of the studio, Ms. Padham found a way to connect to her deeper mission: “showing people that the reality they see around them might not be the only reality.”

In high school, Marlon Zuniga killed time at his convenience store job by flipping through tabloid magazines, mentally placing himself in the pictures of vacation destinations surrounded by turquoise water and white sand.

When the pandemic hit, Mr. Zuniga, 37, rarely left home. He logged hectic hours as a business manager in corporate banking, and because he worked remotely, the lines between work and leisure became blurred. His wife, Maria Kamboykos, 32, who also worked in banking, felt the same burnout. So last spring both of them quit their jobs, let the lease run out on their West New York, N.J., apartment and embraced a nomadic lifestyle.

While the pair was traveling in Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore and other countries, Mr. Zuniga and Ms. Kamboykos picked up elements of different cultures they planned to bring back to the U.S.

WAS IT WORTH IT? “I think I found utopia,” Mr. Zuniga said by phone from a bar in Bilbao, Spain.

Mr. Zuniga and Ms. Kamboykos’s sabbatical is set to end soon, though; they will settle down in Charlotte, N.C., where they own an apartment, and re-enter the work force. But they say they will do so feeling more empowered about how they structure their lives, and with a greater diversity of perspectives.

Daniel Raedel had become a therapist because he wanted to help L.G.B.T.Q. youth make sense of the world. He saw his younger self in the college students he met with. But as the pandemic wore on, and his clients’ mental health issues intensified, Mr. Raedel, 31, became anxious and depressed himself. He began waking up with a feeling of dread and started limiting his food intake.

“I felt like I couldn’t put my own oxygen mask on,” Mr. Raedel said, referring to the universal commercial airline directive to parents in the event of a loss of cabin pressure. “I couldn’t help others with theirs.”

Mr. Raedel quit his job at the University of Colorado Boulder and opened a small private practice to help his husband pay the bills. But he also took time to look inward. Mr. Raedel tapped into his long-dormant artistic side and enrolled in an M.F.A. program. He also reimagined his physical appearance: He bleached his hair, grew out his fingernails and wore dresses. Eventually he came out as nonbinary. (Mr. Raedel uses he/they pronouns.)

“I’d never had, like, a year, to nurture that artistic self,” Mr. Raedel said. “Parts of my identity that were more latent were expressed. I was transformed.”

He eventually did return to to an academic setting, landing a job as a clinical psychologist at Yale University, where he integrates art into his practice: Mr. Raedel encourages students to bring pen and paper to doodle on during therapy sessions, and to try dripping water on their skin at home as a way to connect with their bodies.

WAS IT WORTH IT? Mr. Raedel feels more equipped to help students after undergoing his own personal transformation. He’s also enrolled in a philosophy doctoral program at the University of San Diego that is focused on education and social justice, which he believes will bolster his practice even more. These days, Mr. Raedel’s oxygen mask fits just fine.

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