Organization and Anxiety: Using planning as mental health care

February 6, 2016

 

I feel like by now I’ve dropped enough hints about how for me planning is more than just a way to stay organized and be productive. I decided that it’s time to start being very explicit about how and why I am as organized as I am because I think it could be really helpful to others and considering that this is the direction I’m trying to take the blog in, it just makes sense. That being said, this is where I’m starting. This is the beginning of me hopefully helping other people get their shit together and regain some form of control of what can often seem like really out of control circumstances, because outside of medicine, there’s really not much to be done about chemicals not working properly in your brain.

My background: I’ve lived with depression and anxiety disorders since puberty. I struggled a lot through puberty and through high school and it took me a really long time to figure myself out. The only constant that I had was that I’ve always been really driven. I have a great work ethic that’s been drilled into me by my family and I figured out really early on that I had to figure out a way to reconcile what were pretty frequently crippling depression and anxiety disorders with how busy I need to keep myself and how much I wanted to achieve. I’ve always been a planner, I’ve always loved folders and office supplies and paper goods. Eventually I realized that when I was really stressed the first thing I did was sit down and plan out my whole life. I would make to do lists, I’d plan out whole months, I’d make action plans and budgets. I’d put pen to paper and dump out my brain and i’d put my pieces back together again.

I still do this. Except now I usually create a five-year long-term budget plan (adulthood!). I very quickly realized that the more structured my life was, the more prepared I was for events, the more control I had over things, the less anxiety I felt. Even though I was anxious near constantly I had the illusion of control that planning gave to me. I was in control of the order of events in my life and I could do something to combat the world which was coming at me so fast.

I learned that the less extreme my anxiety was, the less severe my depression got when I went into lows or highs. The more organized I was meant I would be more prepared to keep living “normally” when my depression ground everything to a halt. This is the time I started thinking in terms of Past Meagan and Future Meagan. I still constantly thank Past Meagan for helping Current Meagan out. When I plan something out really well and create an action plan of small steps that are easy to follow and make something easy, I think about how pleased Future Meagan will be. I do this because I don’t know what state Future Meagan will be in. I don’t know what I will have been through or what my emotional state will be like. I do what I can to help myself out. When your emotions are unpredictable and your ability to regulate your highs or lows is out of your control, you control what you can and you set yourself up for success.

So what I’ll be doing every Saturday for the month of February is I’ll post about one aspect of my organized life and how I use it to help myself out. I’ll include tips, I’ll include thought process, I’ll talk about how and why it helps me, and maybe this will help you.

This is my version of self-care. This is what I do for myself so I can live a successful life and while it doesn’t “Fix” anything about me, it definitely helps me cope and it nullifies a lot of symptoms for me. I’ve regulated myself pretty successfully and I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish without medical intervention.

Disclaimer: I’m not advocating eschewing medical intervention. If you need licensed professionals to help you, please seek that help, please do what is best for you. This is just what is best for me.

Hopefully this will help some of you, even if all it does is just motivates you to examine what you can do to help yourself and what self-care means to you.

untilnexttime

4 Comments

  1. Reply

    Kay Nyman - My Open Sketchbook

    I completely agree that having things planned in my life in an organized manner cuts down on anxiety. And on days when I feel like it’s overwhelming, making a list (even a tiny one) and just being able to actively cross off things and say, ‘Yes, I DID something’ does wonders for mental well being. I’m so excited to see more of this series!

    1. Reply

      Meagan Crowe

      Yay thanks! I’m happy to just try and write this out. I hope it will be helpful to other but honestly i’m just hoping that it’s going to allow me to help myself.

  2. Reply

    Bethany

    It’s so great you’re doing this Meagan! I’ve had anxiety and depression my whole life as well, and a similar obsession with planning and organizing as a way to cope with stress, but an awful lot of the time I don’t follow through. The plans are just what I do when I’m freaking out. So I’m particularly excited to see your tips for small, manageable action steps.

    1. Reply

      Meagan Crowe

      Thank you so much! Yeah that used to happen with me all the time before I figured myself out more. Hopefully it will help 😀

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