“To-do” or “To-be,” in the Time of COVID-19

July 14, 2020 Patti carey, Class Facilitator, Swedish Cancer Institute

Most of us are creatures of habit. We plan schedules, make to-do lists and rely on routines to get us where we want to go. However, no matter how much we plan out our lives, nothing is truly permanent…except change.

When the winds of change in health or life roll in and routines are uprooted, a shift in thinking is a useful tool to adapt to the stress of unplanned change.

Rather than worry over and fear about the unknowns, we can think of change as an opportunity for tremendous personal growth rather than a missed opportunity for getting things done. A mind-shift from needing to feel in control all the time to being curious is a useful tool.

When we ebb-and-flow with uncertainty, it shows us our resilience. We realize how creative and adaptable we are with problem-solving and Plan B’s. Change offers an opportunity to focus on Plan B which can be considered as the “to-be” list.  We can practice a change in perspective. We can ask, “how do I want to be in this situation?”

As the Chinese proverb says, “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, others build windmills.”

To practice leaning into a “to-be” list, try these ideas:  

  1. Try to not over-think things that have not happened. So much time is lost worrying about things that never happen.
  2. Take a deep breathe in, then on the exhale, say “I am safe”.
  3. Make a list of what brings you joy. Do at least one of these every day.
  4. Make a vision board of what you look forward to in life. Cut out pictures and words from magazines. Put the board somewhere where you see it every day.
  5. Send an old-school, hand-written letter. Decorate the envelope with your favorite quote.
  6. Discover a new way to exercise. Try jumping on the trampoline or climbing the stairs in your home while listening to a podcast.
  7. Keep your muscles healthy, strong, and flexible by stretching every day. Start with 10 minutes then build up to longer periods over time.
  8. Shift your thinking about aging in positive ways. Think about the wisdom you’ve gained overtime about your body, mind, and spirit. We can be better versions of ourselves as we age.
  9. Seek out a daily dose of humor. Read the comics. Watch funny movies. Send friends jokes. Try writing a caption for the weekly New Yorker cartoon contest.
  10. Focus on creative ways to cope during the stormy detours in life. Build your windmill.
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