Have you ever woken up before your alarm and thought about your plans for the day, spiraling into hypothetical thoughts and scenarios that only serve to keep you from getting back to sleep? Have you ever struggled to fall asleep worrying that you forgot to do something that day? How about conversing with your best friend with your mind deeply entrenched in your weekend to-do list? At times, these scenarios are commonplace in my life.
I often like to say that the best way to combat concussive symptoms is to achieve two goals: reduce stress and get high quality sleep. But how can we do this when the ever present voice in the back of our heads is asking “are you SURE you got it all done?” or “sleeping? resting? How ridiculous! You need to be improving!” or even “What did you fail at today that you can do better tomorrow?” In the right context, these questions are fine. In fact, they are healthy. They become unhealthy when they permeate every corner of our consciousness. Fortunately, this preponderance of unnecessary preoccupation has a solution: a daily planner.
The way I use my planner to reduce stress can be broken down into 4 key practices:
- Weekly entry (here I record the major events for the week)
- Daily morning check-in (structure your day around this)
- Daily evening check-in (did I get everything done I wanted?)
- Drop it in, and forget it. This is crucial. Anytime that you think of something to do (big or small) put it in your planner, and forget about it!
There are many options for what your “planner” can look like. I personally prefer a physical planner.
Types of planners:
Electronic-Google calendar, lots of apps (Fantastical, To-do, Productivity, Daily Planner, and many more).
PRO: reminders, always with you via the phone. Backup-able.
CON: on your phone, easy distraction, what if your phone dies?
PRO: writing something down has been shown to increase retention (10.1177/0956797614524581). A notebook planner cannot run out of battery or malfunction, a phone or computer can.
CON: takes up space, no backup.
Prior to my accident, I could retain dozens of tasks in my memory for days without needing to record them. Many of you may still be able to keep this up. But I want to ask, why would you want to? Every time I think of a task that needs to be done, yet don’t write it down in my planner, a little pump of cortisol (AKA stress) is shot into my bloodstream, directly preventing goal number one. Once I started to do weekly and daily planner entries and developed the habit of dropping and forgetting, the spaces in between my tasks become more enjoyable. My walks to campus are leisurely, my interactions with others are more genuine, I no longer have stressed-out-concussion-headaches. The point is, my planner usage requires discipline, but the liberty it creates is so worth it.
So give it a try!