Thursday, April 14, 2016

How planning helps me combat social anxiety

I wrote about my journey through mental illness in this blog post. I mentioned in that post how I still struggle with a lot of different issues and the biggest one is anxiety. I had my first panic attack two weeks after Claire was born and my incision split open. I had to drive myself to the emergency room and I had a full on panic attack. They had to give me oxygen and help me calm down. Once I did I was fine but getting there was rough. Since then I have had two panic attacks, all involving my husband leaving on trips for work and me taking care of a baby by myself for weeks at a time. Thank goodness I have family close by so I could get a little break cause my anxiety was really bad.
I haven't had a panic attack in about 2 months but that doesn't mean I don't get anxious. Sometimes I get so anxious to the point that I have to cancel all my plans because I just wouldn't be able to handle the social stimuli that day. This is where my planner comes in.
I know some people probably look at my planner and think it's ridiculous, or way overdecorated or way too chaotic. That's fine if you think that. For me it works. The decorations help me calm down for a minute while I think about my week, it makes it so I can map out my plans without becoming to overwhelmed by them. Decorating my planner is very therapeutic for me and I love the end result when a spread turns out cute. I still check things off when I complete plans, so the decorations don't deter me from doing that.
Last year at this time I didn't use my planner at all. Of course I didn't have a tiny human dependent on me for every need either, and I was able to keep my head above water a lot easier. Last year I was just working in an accounts receivable/payable position, it was a full time 11-6 job so I didn't have much schedule change with it either. I was pregnant at this time as well. So mostly I just had doctors appointments and that was it.
Two weeks before Claire was born I really started using my planner again. I haven't missed a week of planning since. I have missed plenty of weeks of posting on my planner instagram but you know that is how life goes. Planning helps me to mentally prepare myself for the week ahead. I pre-plan my weeks out on Wednesday before the upcoming week approaches. I use the Erin Condren sticky notes to do so and I love them for that purpose. I just keep my clipped into the front of my planner for easy access if things come up and I don't want to put them permanently in the planner yet.

When I sit down to plan I just move all the sticky notes and refer back to them to make sure I don't forget anything. Pre-planning helps me map out the week and see where it will all end up. When I don't plan I have a really stressful week.

This week I didn't use my planner hardly at all and nothing got done. My house was a disaster at the end of the week, I was a wreck and really we were just surviving.
When I have appointments but I forget about them and they call to remind me I usually reschedule. The reason why is because I get so stressed about it and can't fit it into my day. Mentally I see my schedule as full even though it isn't. Because I have social anxiety I don't like to get out and go to places with big crowds and lots of people, i.e. the grocery store, or even church. This is why I write every single thing I do down in my planner. Then I can mentally see oh I have 6 days until I have to play the piano in church, everything will be okay. I mentally start preparing by saying positive comments to help me get through to the event. Once it passes and I have gone to church and I am home I realize that it wasn't so bad. Getting there is my biggest struggle.
Planning helps me take the initial steps so I can get out in public. I know it might sound crazy but it truly does help me. That is why I plan, the decorations are cute but the actual plans really help me to see where my week is going and to give me enough time between social events that I can reboot and take time to myself.
How does planning help you with anxiety? I'd love to know!

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