If you are a planner like me, you very well might realize that sometimes you miss out on potential happiness right now because of planning out future endeavors. I’ve struggled with this since childhood, but in the last few days I’ve come to realize just how much it is hurting my anxiety and depression. Here’s what I mean.
In my opinion, anxiety causes people to pre-plan. At least for me it causes a strong fear of the unknown. So to combat that fear, I spend hours and hours, and days, and sometimes even weeks considering each and every possibility during that event.
I tend to become completely obsessed with planning out all of the details of the scenario, often to the point of pushing away my family so I can “make sure we have a good day.”
Depression is more of a result of my planning. Why? Because nothing ever goes according to the plan. I don’t care how much time you spend working it all out, it is guaranteed that something isn’t going to work out right. A child will wake up sick, you’ll have a flat tire, your alarm won’t go off, or maybe you’ll just wake up in a panic attack.
Regardless of the reason, however, when you have worked out every single detail of a day, hour, or event, and then that plan has to change, it is really easy to allow that negativity to feed your depression.
Often during those moments, I fall into a heap and say, “You know what? Forget it. I don’t want to try anymore.” Depression takes over and I just give up.
Planning Steals The “Now”
Even worse than the way planning affects depression and anxiety, it actually steals the happiness of “now.” As I said before, I have been known to tell my kids I wouldn’t play with them, or even be a bit harsh with them simply because I am planning for a great event.
What I have realized in recent days, however, is that no matter how good that one good day is, 50 bad days prior to that spent during my planning phase isn’t even remotely worth it. My kids LOVE fun activities like birthday parties, vacations, activities with homeschool groups, etc.
But do you know what else they like? Curling up beside me on the couch to read a great book. They like playing checkers and having tickle fights. They like laughing at silly, crazy things like saying, “Poop” for no reason. They like me to sit at the table with them while we eat our meal together. And the truth is, I like those things too.
Sometimes, though, anxiety makes me forget how happy those moments are. I get so busy planning that I “don’t have time” for the everyday fun times. And that’s sad.
The other thing that is sad though is that even once that big event does arrive, I am so preoccupied with making sure we get to do the next thing on the list that I completely and totally lose the magic of the first thing that we had planned. I am allowing my planning habits to steal the happiness of the moment.
A Lesson From Daniel Tiger
As silly as this is going to sound, I have to give some credit to Makayla’s favorite PBS Kids character, Daniel Tiger. On one of those episodes, they sing a song that says, “Enjoy the wow that’s happening now.” The very first time I heard it, it reached my heart and I realized that I am horrible at enjoying what is happening right now. I am always so busy with planning for later, that now is just on auto-pilot.
But by taking some small baby steps I am trying my best to become more present in my kids life and to enjoy what is going on right in front of me rather than spending so much time focusing on later.
How To Stop Planning Away Your Happiness
1. Put Your Phone Down
I know, I know. Everyone gets tired of people putting down technology. I’m sorry if you feel that way, but I know in my own life, my phone takes me away from right now. If I am listening to my five year old read, and then pull out my phone, do you know what happens? I suddenly become more focused on that event invite for two weeks from now than I am on how proud I am of my baby girl.
In addition, when you’re using social media to make your plans, it is so easy to want to do everything every one of your friends has done. But guess what? You can’t do it all and that’s okay. But when you truly keep seeing all of the amazing options, you begin to feel guilty and anxious about the ones you aren’t able to get to.
So, find a place to put your phone out of sight and out of your hand. Spend some time with your family without the temptation to pick it up and leave the present moment. ENJOY THE NOW.
2. Give Yourself A Time To Plan
If you have a big trip coming up or a special celebration, allow yourself a set amount of time to spend planning. And do not go over that time frame. Don’t plan out every detail, because you know they won’t happen the way you expect anyways. Instead, ask yourself these questions and even take the time to write down your answers
- What is the primary goal of this event/trip?
- What is ONE thing I really want to make sure happens?
- What do I need to do to ensure that it happens?
- What is one thing I want to avoid happening?
- What do I need to do to avoid it happening?
- Do I need any reservations?
- Is there anything that we cannot survive if we don’t pack it?
3. Tell Yourself No
Anytime your mind begins exploring more options about your upcoming event (even if it’s just another day at the office) that is outside of your allotted plan time, shake your head no from side to side. Take a deep breath. Try some grounding techniques. Look around you and remind yourself of where you are and what is happening around you.
In other words, look at the now. What do you hear? What do you see? Can you name three good things currently happening?
Such a simple exercise can quickly bring you back into the right now and help you find your happiness by saying no to excessive planning.
4. Give Grace
Find some affirmations that apply to your situation that will be helpful to you. As I mentioned in my vacation post, during that last trip, my mantra during packing time was, “We can always go to Walmart if we need to.” Yep, not a very spiritual mantra, but it brought me peace and sanity.
Here are some other affirmations that may help you:
- “We can still have fun even if we don’t do that.”
- “No matter what we do, it’s going to be fun.”
- “She will be so happy with her birthday.”
- “It’s going to be okay.”
- “If I don’t have time to plan, we can just decide when we get there.”
Don’t get angry at yourself or your family when your elaborate plans don’t pan out. Just remember there are other great options. Also remember your anxiety is what is causing you to want to constantly be planning. It is the enemy. It is trying to steal your happiness away from you. Every time you give in, you are making that enemy stronger.
Fight back against anxiety by backing away from excessive planning. Don’t let the enemy hurt you or your family.
Do you struggle with planning obsessively? Do you think it’s caused by anxiety? Let me know how you fight back in the comments below.