Love, Health

I fight my trauma with one of the most basic tools ever: my planner

For me, using a planner isn't just about being organized. It's about self-care and mental health.

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For my birthday last year, I wanted just one, simple thing: a diary. Specifically, I wanted a Passion Planner.

I ordered one as soon as I could so that I could start my year with one. When I received it in the mail, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I was almost ashamed of how giddy I was.

I absolutely adore planning: I love organizers, diaries, and calendars. I am the sort of person who owns multiple sets of highlighters, pens, and Post-It notes. My favorite aisle in any store is one that has stationery in it. I love the smell of new notebooks, the look of washi tape, the feeling of writing with a high-quality pen (and yes, I can feel the difference between a ‘bad’ pen and a ‘good’ one).

But my love for planning goes beyond my love for washi tape. For me, using a planner is a fantastic form of self-care.

For me, using a planner is a fantastic form of self-care. Click To Tweet

I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many people don’t realize that one of the symptoms of PTSD is an inability to concentrate. I struggle to focus on simple tasks, and I often forget important details.

Trauma has an ability to strip you of who you are. I used to be a quick-thinking high-school student who mastered speed-reading and could write exceptionally quickly. I always had a lot on my plate, but I always managed it all. I remembered all the tasks I had to do, and I seldom had to write it down.

PTSD changed me. I now get distracted easily. I sometimes have to read a paragraph five times before I process a single word. I struggle to remember the errands or work I have to do, which frustrates me. I often have conversations that anger me because I can’t find the language I need to express myself, nor can I process what the other person is saying. Many times, I’ve sat down to read a book only to end up crying because I can’t understand a word I’m reading.

It means that talking and reading – things I love to do – become draining tasks. It means people think I don’t care about them because I forget details about their lives. It means I’m afraid to pick up books, which have always brought me joy. I’m starting to get better, but I still need help.

Planning is one of the many tools I use to fight back against my trauma. When I write out a daily plan each morning, I’m practicing self-care. I’m preventing myself from stressing about things I’ve forgotten. I’m giving myself a game-plan so that I can focus. Ticking tasks off a to-do list also helps me feel like I’ve accomplished things: when I realize how much I’ve achieved, I remember to congratulate myself for trying hard.

Planning is one of the many tools I use to fight back against my trauma. When I write out a daily plan each morning, I’m practicing self-care. Click To Tweet

When I know I’ve written down all the tasks I have ahead of me, my brain doesn’t distract me from work by stressing about everything that I have to do. When I start getting distracted by other tasks, I simply tell myself to write down the task and return to it later.

The way I decorate my planner is also a form of self-care. I try to make my planner as beautiful, neat, and fun as possible. Many people take a minimalist approach to planning, using very little color and decorations, to help them focus on the tasks in their planner. Personally, I like using pastel colors and stickers so that planning is an exciting and creative pursuit in itself. This way, planning is a fun activity instead of something boring and dreadful.

To me, self-care isn’t just about feeling good and having fun. While bubble baths and meditation can be useful forms of self-care, we often forget that taking care of yourself includes making sure you’re functioning on a day-to-day basis. I need to remember to buy groceries, email my therapist, and pay my rent so that I can function. When your brain struggles to cope, like mine sometimes does, writing down your tasks can be super useful.

Self-care includes making sure you’re functioning on a day-to-day basis. Click To Tweet

Receiving a diary in the mail might not seem like a cause for celebration. But to me, keeping a diary is nearly as important as seeing a therapist or having a healthy sleeping pattern. It helps me keep it together, and for that reason, it’s important to my mental health.

When you use a planner, you’re giving your future self the gift of organization. You’re taking care of your future self and your present self. As many people with mental illnesses will tell you, believing in a future is sometimes a difficult thing to do. What a beautiful statement it is, to tell yourself that you have a future, and one worth planning for.

Sian Ferguson

Sian Ferguson

Based in South Africa, Sian is the proud parent of three cats and numerous pot plants. In addition to working as the Assistant Love Editor at The Tempest, Sian is a freelance health journalist. She has been passionate about reading and writing for as long as she can remember, so working as a writer and editor is a dream come true for her. In her spare time, she loves cooking, baking, and learning about astrology.

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