Have You Made a Post-Pandemic Bucket List Yet?

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Whether we talk about grief, coronavirus symptoms, economic fallout, or isolation, the last year has been a kaleidoscope of crisis. If thinking about the future feels overwhelming, a bucket list—which is essentially a running tally of things you’d like to do when it’s safe to do them—is probably the furthest thing from your mind, but hear me out.

Lately, you might’ve experienced a bit of hope. Over 95 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These numbers, along with Instagram vaccine selfies, might have you thinking about an actual life post-lockdown. But in a year where personal goals were put on hold, “back to normal” could feel impossible, and returning to your “old life” might scare you.

There’s so much uncertainty surrounding newfound hope. What will life look like after widespread vaccinations? Will old expectations return? What if the pre-pandemic normal kind of sucked? If you’re dealing with grief or loss, you understand more than most that there is no “going back.” Forward might seem scary, but my post-pandemic playlist has made it a little easier to face the future.

At SELF, we talk a lot about resilience and handling uncertainty. Why? Because these terms aren’t esoteric traits that special people possess. Resilience—or the ability to adapt to difficult life experiences (like a pandemic)—is an attribute anyone can cultivate. Uncertainty is something everyone has to manage.

“When there is uncertainty, anxious people feel out of control,” Inger Burnett-Ziegler, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, previously told SELF. “A key part of reducing anxiety is recognizing the factors that are in your control, and letting go of that which is out of your control.”

There is no therapy hack to erase the pain of the last year. A post-pandemic bucket list isn’t a cure-all. But reminding yourself about parts of your life you can control might help manage anxieties about what you can’t. And, as SELF previously reported, creating things to look forward to is crucial to cultivating a little more resilience.

My pandemic bucket list—filled with small items like “Get my hair done” and plans like “Go on a trip”—isn’t overwhelmingly ambitious. It merely reminds me that I have some agency over what happens next. And while thinking of salons and travel plans doesn’t mean that I can grapple with all of the anxieties that keep me awake, the list reminds me, during a season of unfathomable loss, that there are still experiences to have (and revisit).

If post-pandemic bucket lists make you roll your eyes, I get it. A bucket list might sound like a trite solution to existential questions, but it isn’t, at least for me. Our lives are an amalgamation of plans, decisions, surprises, and relationships that pop up along the way. A post-pandemic bucket list is simply a vehicle for hope—and hope can make whatever comes next a little less scary.

Related:

  • 13 Small but Impactful Ways to Cultivate Resilience
  • You’re Allowed to Feel Joy Right Now
  • 6 Therapist-Approved Tips for Living With All This Uncertainty

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