Most of my anxiety and stress is triggered by forces that are outside of my control. This is one very important lesson I learned along my journey towards a happier, more peaceful life. So I started thinking differently: what can I change that is within my control?
I have been looking at all aspects of my life, trying to figure out specific tools and strategies that minimize my stress and anxiety. I found that being well organized has had a significant effect - and it's no surprise when you think about it. Anxiety grows when you are uncertain or fearful of some future event. So adding predictability through planning and organization reduces some of the "unknowns" in your life. Creating this layer of structure has helped me establish a consistent routine and worry less because I'm more prepared for the week to come.
One great example is with meal planning. In addition to reducing anxiety and stress, having a weekly plan saves you money, contributes to a healthier lifestyle and reduces food waste. I could write an entire post about this topic but here's a quick explanation of how it works for me:
Each Sunday, I write out dinner ideas for Monday through Friday. (I leave the weekend open to allow for some spontaneity or in case I have a craving.)
I try to use certain ingredients, like cilantro or sour cream, in multiple meals so they get used instead of ending up in the compost bin. (Also saves you money!)
I plan dinners that give me left-overs, so I don't have to buy lunch the next day. (I estimated that this saves about $2,500 per person, per year and is far healthier.)
Following a meal plan avoids the last minute stress of figuring out what to eat and having to run to the grocery store during the busiest time of the day.
A meal plan helps avoid the temptation of eating out. (More money saved. Healthier food eaten.)
Now, I have always been someone who is super-organized; almost to a fault. I feel the need to plan everything and write a million lists. This can take some of the fun out of life but I balance that by allowing myself to make last minute changes, like accepting an invitation for coffee with a friend or going to a fitness class instead of my usual walk. If there's one thing I've learned from being well organized, it's that I worry less because I'm prepared. The best part is, it doesn't take much effort! Just take a few minutes each week to sit down and plan your week.
Quick tip: Grab an agenda and write down any big plans you have for the week. Look at your planner each day so you know what's coming up, reducing the likelihood of surprises.
One of my essential tools for staying organized is my agenda. My favourite agendas are from the brand ban.do and I have been using them for a couple of years now. (You can find them at Indigo or Amazon.) I like them because they include everything from monthly calendars to note pages, and there is plenty of space for my daily memos.
Watch my short video so you can see exactly how I plan my week.
As I describe in my video, I follow four steps while planning each week:
Step 1: Write down any events or to-do items that must occur at specific times and are not flexible. This could include courses you've signed up for, soccer practices or important meetings. You want to get these in your agenda first so you don't double-book your time. (Double-booking or cramming too much in a short period of time is a massive cause of stress!)
Step 2: Write in events that have a little more flexibility with when they are scheduled. Also add reminders that don't necessarily require you to be somewhere. Examples include doctor's appointments and birthdays.
Step 3: Add the rest of your daily or weekly routines, such as your exercise regime, errands, chores, reading time, etc. When I'm trying to get myself into a routine, I find it helps to write everything into my agenda, with an empty check box beside it because. That way, I feel accountable and want to check it off when it's completed!
Step 4: As you may know, I'm a part-time student, so this step my not apply to everyone. I like to write down my school assignments and readings to ensure I'm staying on top of things, without leaving them to the last minute. (Having too much to do at the last minute leads to stress and panic!) You can also schedule your extracurricular or work projects in the same way.
Learning to accept what you cannot change is not easy and takes constant practice but by using certain techniques, you will get better at it over time. Each of us is a work in progress! And remember, if you can bring more order to each day, your life will be a little easier to manage. I hope you found this post helpful and can use some of this advice in your own life. I would love for you to share your ideas and stories in the comments section below.
Thank you for reading.
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