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5 Reasons to Stop Planning and Live Better

5 Reasons to Stop Planning and Live Better

Think about how much time you spend planning. You plan your meals. Plan your day. Plan your vacations. Plan your wedding. Plan your family and plan your life.  How well is that working for you? How many times have you painstakingly planned something only to have the bottom drop out at the last minute? What can we do about all the unhealthy ruminating about planning?

Does it mean we shouldn’t plan anything? No, but we can learn to become more flexible. Here’s a few ways to start thinking a little differently about planning and ease your control freak tendencies.

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1. Notice your patterns

Chances are you didn’t become a control freak overnight. Your need to plan is directly connected to your need for security and adequacy. While planning may give you a feeling of being in control of life and the people around you, it’s an illusion. The first step in learning to relax and stop micro-managing everything is to notice your behavior and thought patterns. Pay attention to what you tell yourself about the need to plan everything. Write down your thought patterns. Notice the triggers that set your need to plan and control in motion. Ask yourself, “Why am I planning this out?” or “What would happen if I just went to the store and bought some ingredients, instead of planning out a menu?”

2. Learn to think differently

Being a stickler can be good in some areas of life, but if we’re honest, we have to admit that even the best-laid plans can go up in smoke. We can easily get drawn into   what therapists call cognitive distortions. These include “all or nothing thinking and catastrophizing.” For example, we may tell ourselves “If I don’t plan my day, nothing will get done.” Nothing means that not one thing will get done. Is that really true? No. We would have to lie in bed all day for nothing to get done. Catastrophizing means you blow things way out of proportion and assume the worse possible outcome. If nothing gets done, what do you tell yourself?  Things like: I’m inadequate, I have to be responsible, I am a loser, or I have to please others, are negative self-defeating thoughts. Try and replace them with positive counterstatements. “I’ll prioritize my list of things to do and if I don’t get to it all, it’s not the end of the world. I’m still adequate,” is a good example. After all, tomorrow is another day!

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3. Accept Change

The one thing we are all guaranteed in life is change. Learning to adapt to life’s unpredictability will afford us a lot less anxiety and mental stress. Sometimes we plan our lives so rigidly that we set ourselves up for disappointment when things don’t go our way. Sooner or later we have to come to terms with the fact that we can’t control life and the people around us. How do we move toward accepting what we can’t plan for? Being convinced that all the stress and anxiety that goes along with it is not profitable for our well being. As long as we’re convinced we have to make perfect plans, we’ll continue to drive ourselves into the ground. Do your best and forget the rest!

4. Face your fears

No matter how much we know intellectually that we can’t plan for everything, we still try. We generally don’t give up until the usual coping strategies we have found for making life work go up in smoke. In the long run we would do better to face our fears and deal with them head on. Facing our fears means unpacking the underlying beliefs that drive them.  What do you believe about yourself, others and the world around you as it relates to having to plan? How does planning make you feel secure? Answer those questions for yourself and you might find that you can plan less and take on new challenges.

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5.  Learn to relax 

Trying to control everything in our lives is stressful, and when we’re stressed our bodies take a hit.  If we learn to pay attention to our physical bodies we will realize that we all live with a certain degree of tension. Relaxing isn’t just about watching television or playing computer games. Real relaxation begins by noticing, so doing a body scan can help. Start by closing your eyes and sitting in a comfortable position. Scan your body starting with your head and neck, moving to your arms, stomach, legs and feet, paying attention to where there is tension. Once you’re done, you can do some progressive muscle relaxation exercises to reduce your tense muscles or perhaps some yoga to take the stress out of your day.

Let’s face it we all want to be in control and planning is great as long as it doesn’t take over your life. Start today to practice healthier ways to stop making plans for everything.

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More by this author

Rita Schulte LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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