What the ‘30 day LEGO challenge’ taught me about my mental health needs during COVID 🧱

In the midst of trying to keep our sanity during these unstable times, my sister kindly sent the family their own LEGO box so we could all take part in the 30 day LEGO challenge.

I am quite a competitive person, so this caught me by no surprise that I would act any differently during this challenge, than I would for an intense monopoly game. The only difference being we were also playing against my 3 nephews and so a lot of the first prizes went to them (although we all knew it was pity voting… right?).

There were a few things that it did teach me that ended up being rather surprising.

Step 1 of my COVID mental health plan. Feel free to play!

My strategy was to build the most realistic thing and to do that I would turn to google, look at photos and copy that… what does a pick up truck ACTUALLY look like? What does the NASA rocket look like or should I just base it on the rocket emoji 🚀?

Our first few submissions were quite literal. Although looked great still very literal.

I started to look at my nephews (aged 4 and 6) and saw their imagination. Not everything was perfect but we still saw what they wanted us to see.

Research is used to inspire, question and challenge what is already out there. Turning to analogous research helps open up your mind to other possibilities — so why was I being so literal in this challenge? I have used LEGO before as a tool for supporting creative thinking so why not now?

My day job is to simplify the complexity, that combined with my innate passion to plan, I started by laying out all of the pieces out in types. Inspired by my general knowledge of the task (in this case building the tallest building) mixed with some logic, I got away from making it look perfect, but more so how can the structure be built in a way to ground the entire building so that it can stand unassisted.

I felt inspired, creative and more importantly I didn’t think about COVID once!

Step 2 of my COVID mental health plan. Routine helps in times of uncertainty, just find your own groove!

Having a deadline helps keep us on course. We have to ‘submit’ via whats app a photo of our creation by 4pm (to allow for time difference — half the family is based in Florida).

Setting some time aside during the day or evening to complete each daily task helps to give focus, but like any habit — it takes a minimum of 21 days to form one. There were days where we just weren’t inspired, or it started feeling like a chore. So we put the lego bricks down and switched up the routine.

Working from home in a small space during the COVID lockdown can feel like everything is ‘work’ — there is no separation between work and fun anymore. Finding your groove helps.

For me the mornings are precious, I have woken up (usually to sun these days), feeling energised. I have my morning coffee and spend the first 40 minutes of my day doing a Swedish lesson (Ja, Jag talar Svenska) and once my mind has been activated I turn to the LEGO challenge which sets me up for my working day.

Step 3 of my COVID mental health plan. Escapism is key, escaping from the reality OFF SCREEN.

During the first few days/weeks of COVID unfolding, the news was continuing consuming us as we were trying to navigate the severity of the situation. News was on in the background on the TV, it was present whilst I was scrolling on my socials, hidden in plain sight in my chats with friends… there was no escaping it.

Until we started to fill that time with other things. Turning off the TV, deleting FB from my phone and turning to the LEGO challenge when I would be normally be scrolling. Our work days have now been filled with back to back Zoom meetings, our nights filled with HouseParty app with friends followed by face time with family.

Step 4 of my COVID mental health plan. Connection through play creates major Lolz with Friends and Family!

Feeling connected daily to family at a time of isolation (who are also miles away) through play has definitely given us more lolz than I thought.

At this time, more than ever, staying connected with loved ones is key to not feeling entirely isolated and this challenge brings us all together around a common thing, and involves everyone, at any age, meaning the connection is even stronger.

The submissions did start to get a bit questionable…

My parents “didn’t have enough lego” to create a tall enough tower, so improvised with some ‘essentials’ that they had on hand during COVID.

My brother made a pub when asked to build a future house for his parents. I think you can see a theme here…

Here’s to the next 23 days of the ’30 day LEGO challenge’.

Service Design Lead @ustwo. CIID alumni. Loves karaoke, lacks tune. True Capricorn.

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