How Creating a Bucket List During COVID can Help Your Mental Health
Like most people, I will forever recall the moment life as I knew it stopped due to COVID.
On a Monday night, before the shutdown, I was out to dinner talking about my plans to go to Miami to perform with my salsa team, the trip to Bali I’d take with my niece at the end of April, the International Figure Skating Competition in Germany in May, and my girls’ week in Mexico mid-June.
I was excited for my new kid’s yoga classes that I’d begun teaching, as well as, the launch of my business E2T Adventures.
I raised my wine glass and toasted all that was soon to become reality.
My friend and I briefly talked about COVID, and how it was simply a new flu, definitely not as bad as Influenza B. It wasn’t something to worry about.
Just 16 hours later Boston began to shut down. We were asked to stay home. Over the next few weeks the cancellations began: events, signed contracts, classes, and of course travel.
Before I could even catch my breath, I was inundated with free classes to take, people wanting me to speak to their online groups, opportunities to teach via Zoom or video. I thought I had to grab every opportunity, including teaching online yoga classes for free to help my community. The time was immediate, and I charged forward.
My social media networks were filled with dance challenges. Everyone was watching Tiger King, and my friends began cooking like they were restaurant chefs.
Soon, I felt like I was failing in this newfound boredom culture. I wasn’t planting my succulent garden, or constantly being on Instagram Live to do workouts for my sports.
My mood felt like a massive rollercoaster. I had to somehow fix the mess I was in with my new business, keep my current customers engaged, disinfect everything in my life, get on long phone calls each day to check on those I loved, and figure out if my tenants would be able to continue to pay their rent.
By week three of shut down, I was online exhausted. I didn’t want to do one more Facetime, Zoom, or Live video conference. I hadn’t talked on the phone this much since I was in high school, and the check in texts took up hours each day.
Grocery shopping became the final blow to my mental health. I stood in line for 45 minutes as it started to rain and sleet. Once inside, everyone was wearing masks, trying to get what they needed, and I had my first pulse of full on anxiety. I’d never had an anxiety attack before and it felt like I was going to explode from within. I reached for chocolate ice cream, wine, and then went home to watch Disney movies.
In week four, as I made breakfast and prepared for another day, I saw the list of dreams I keep on my refrigerator.
Go to Bali with my niece.
Compete in Figure Skating at Obi.
Write my next novel.
Land my axel.
Do my first white water kayaking waterfall drop
Make my business fun and profitable.
Trust in God Always
I stared at my dreams and thought, “I have an amazing life!” I lost so much in this pandemic, but I had so much to lose. “This is a blip in time,” I thought, “what steps to my dreams can I take in this quarantined time that will move me towards my goals?”
I took out pen and paper and wrote down each dream along with a few more and stared at them for some time. Was this what I truly desired?
When the answer was yes, I wrote down what would hold me back from achieving these dreams when COVID ended.
Now I had a list of dreams and my roadblocks. What would be my solutions?
A) Trips I want to take when I’m free to move about the world: I don’t know when that will happen, but creating a Pinterest board of all the places I want to see made me incredibly excited.
B) Money: What will I need to be able to make my dreams a reality again? Instead of this exercise being frightening during this economic crisis, it gave me steps I could take towards what I desire.
C) Favorite activities: Figure skating — I can’t be on the ice, but what are my weaknesses? How can I do off-ice workouts to make my return easier? I could buy rollerblades so I can feel like I’m skating while I get fresh air.
E) Business goals: What is in my control and what isn’t during this time? What can I do each day while not burning myself out and being as gentle as I can be with myself in this emotionally taxing time?
F) Nutrition: What can I eat so that when this is over I can jump back into my way of life stronger and healthier while also protecting myself in the present moment from this virus.
Then I did something I’m not accustomed to doing — I put a limit on how I show up for people. I will be there if my friends and loved ones are in need. The constant check-ins, the long phone calls, all the Zoom parties don’t give me enough space to do what I need to do for my dreams. So each day, I limit my phone usage.
Right now, everyone is offering challenges, free courses, or online yoga. Even college courses are free. I had to start saying ‘no’ to what others wanted me to join. A Grit Challenge, showing up for more dance classes online, jump classes for skating, the meditation circles, etc.
Doing this exercise, creating plans, working towards my biggest dream life has made a world of difference for my mental health.
I know many of you have families to worry about, you’re dealing with a financial crunch, you might be afraid of what’s happening in your business, or you may feel confined by your four walls and extra time with the people you love. You may have someone fighting the virus or you’re a frontline or essential worker who isn’t getting the choice to slow down.
Wherever you are, I welcome you to take this time to create a fun list of dreams. Then mark out the small steps you can take to start enjoying these things now or working towards the goal— even if it’s just creating that Pinterest board.
What dreams would you love to make come true when this pandemic has lifted? I’d love for you to share your Pinterest or Vision boards with me or just write your list in the comments below.