The past three weeks have been a whirlwind (under-statement?!) but hopefully the dust is beginning to settle on our strange new world. Now that we know we’re going to be ‘here’ for a while, we need to think about making plans so that we come out the other side in the best place possible…
Like all of you, my head has been all over the place at different times since the COVID-19 crisis began to impact our daily lives. Emotions are finely balanced and there have been a few wobbles along the way, but the thing that is helping me the most, is making plans.
I’m not actually a huge planner in life – I’ve always tended to drift a bit and see what happens – but right now I recognise that I need a plan! It’s definitely not about having a busy, packed schedule; it’s more about having a general idea how I’d like my day to look & feel and building in time to nurture myself. Having a plan gives me reassurance that I’ll still be standing at the end of this pandemic, and also keeps me grounded in the moment so that I can get through each day in turn.
Of course there’s no ONE way to handle this – we are all unique and armed with our own coping strategies – but talking to other people (remotely, of course) it seems that there are three common approaches at the moment:
- make plans, find time for supportive activities, think about the end goal, get on with the ‘new-normal’
- sit it out, do nothing, wait for it all to pass, hope that we’ll all go back to ‘old-normal’ afterwards
- over-plan for the children, forget about yourself, feel stressed about no-one else sticking to the schedule you wrote for them, get up and do it all again tomorrow…!
Maybe you can recognise your own approach somewhere in this list? Maybe it changes from day-to-day? Maybe its a mixture of all three? Maybe you’re still settling?
All of these are perfectly good IF they are working for you – ie. that you feel mentally & physically supported to get through your day; that you have a balance of different activities to keep you engaged; that you are able to manage your stress-load effectively; that you’re able to carry on with the mundane everyday tasks that we all need to do; and that you are sleeping and eating to support your body.
But, if your current approach isn’t working for you, or if it stops working for you, perhaps it’s time to start making plans?
For me, planning is not about creating a rigid schedule. It is simply about recognising what you need and making plans to include some of that in your day/week, because now more than ever, what you need is truly important. It is not selfish to take care of yourself and focus on what you need. If you are supporting other people right now, make sure you also support yourself.
I know that we are all in totally different places right now – physically and emotionally and practically – but within all of our circumstances there is an opportunity to make plans to support ourselves.
Write them down – make them happen:
Ideally your plans will be written down (in your diary, on your family calendar, in a journal, on a scrap of paper, in an online planner…) and shared if you’re in a shared space right now (because it’s important that other people know what you need to do today – it’s not all about them and when they want to eat again!)
I’m a Filofax kind of girl so my plans all go in there, but I’m also fond of keeping a pen & a piece of paper by the kettle for any thoughts that occur while I’m there. My diary tends to work best for my weekday planning; the piece of paper plan is most often used at weekends, when I try not to be in my office near my diary! Right now there’s a bit of a cross-over but I’m trying to separate out the working week and non-working weekends as much as possible for a semblance of normality.
Writing plans down is the best way to make them happen!
What to plan:
My key planning tactics over the past 3 weeks have included:
- planning my work schedule to support clients whilst also being mindful of the times I need to support myself
- booking online yoga/meditation/breathing sessions which are FREE of charge – this is important because it would be easy to get carried away and spend more than I’m earning!
- booking online yoga/meditation/breathing sessions which are PAID activities – this is important because I want to support other people who are in the same financial position as me
- planning what food I have that needs using by a certain date to avoid waste and make sure I am engaged with my own nutrition
- planning when (& where) I’m going to take my daily walk – so far I’m saving this until the late afternoon so I have something to look forward to when I might otherwise slump into a ‘sofa/chocolate/rubbish-on-the-TV hour or two’
- planning when I can face-time my three girls without it being too noisy or chaotic!!
Some plans are made for weeks ahead (work for example), some are made at the start of the week, some are made at the start of the day. I like to keep a balance of these so that there is some flexibility within the structure.
Best laid plans…
Yesterday my day was thrown off course completely because I didn’t have a plan beyond 12pm!
In the afternoon, I spent three unexpected hours sorting out some technology; I had a face-time call with Imo who wanted to see where her little bed was, and see the tortoise, and see the dog, and see her high-chair (basically I think she was checking that I’d cleaned the house!!), and then after my walk, I slumped into bleurgghhh!
I didn’t eat the food I had defrosted (I had apple & chocolate for dinner instead!). I didn’t do the online class I had intended to do because I didn’t book it and therefore it became easy to ‘forget’.
Instead, I watched boring TV, went to bed and played a stupid game on my iPad until later than I should have…and weirdly it didn’t feel like a satisfactory kind of day at all!
Getting back on track:
Of course, one wasted afternoon doesn’t matter very much. But right now there is more opportunity than usual for multiple wasted afternoons which is why making plans is crucial for keeping me sane (or at least as sane as usual!)
If you find yourself feeling all-at-sea right now, think of ways to plan a different reality to get you back on track.
As a bare minimum, try to include a balance of:
- some kind of movement
- some quiet time
- some (physically distant) social time
- some time outside
- some time caring for others (directly or indirectly)
- some creative time
- some time that’s just for you
- something that makes you laugh
Of course we might not achieve all of these things every day, but thinking about them when making your plan will make them more likely…
Happy planning! Jx
Click here for details of how I can help to support you with some daily movement habits
Some useful articles on planning as a stress-reduction tool:
- planning is prevention
- the single best strategy for reducing stress
- creating a stress management plan (for children and young people)