Thinking Ahead: The Best Way to Take Care of Yourself

man reading shopping list in grocery storeEach and every day, we communicate in ways we may not even realize. While we might like to think that our communication is smooth and clear, and that anyone would know what we are saying, this may not be happening. There may very well be many other messages that you are sending and not even realizing it.

I think the more the amount of responsibility and/or stress you experience, the less clear your messages may be. For example, during an average day, you are asked to do a number of responsibilities. Some of these may be at work or at school—you may take on this new assignment, make additions to something that already exists, help someone else, could you stay later, come in earlier, and so forth. Some of these responsibilities could be at home or from loved ones or friends, such as taking over someone else’s chore, working on your own list, going to the bank, doing the grocery shopping, giving someone a ride, etc.

Now, I don’t know if you have ever counted all the things you do during a day, but I am surprised when clients say either, “I don’t think I do a lot” (when they truly do way more than they realize), or “I think I do way too much,” and then tell me “I have to do it all.” Many of us undervalue ourselves and our efforts and yet, if this self-view changes, we are less likely to take on too much or devalue ourselves.

When people who see me for therapy find themselves discounting their efforts, for me this means they are discounting their worth as well. If they tell me “no one else can help with this,” I know this is not the case. With this idea in their mind, what I tend to see is that they are most likely going to overwhelm themselves, assuming they are not already. Planning ahead is so valuable. But how do we accomplish it?

I like to have clients write out each and every task they take on during the day. Then we can evaluate what constitutes a small responsibility or a larger one, and how much is too much. I want to help them understand how it came to be, as well as what their role and that of others has been, in the development of this process. We then look more at what they want it to be and then examine how we can set boundaries for ourselves.

Planning ahead may also allow us more flexibility in trying to juggle all events of the day. Here’s how: When I acknowledge all the things that may be on the upcoming agenda, it may be easier to prioritize which needs to come first, as well as realize that all of it may not be possible and that maybe we then decide to wait on one or more of the less pressing issues. Once that is done, you’ve succeeded in lightening the load, and you may then feel less stressed. By not planning, we sabotage ourselves in thinking or expecting to accomplish everything which can or will be taxing. So if you are deathly opposed to saying “no,” this may at least help you start to set boundaries for yourself in giving you the tool of delaying and organizing a bit to catch your breath.

Planning ahead helps us in so many ways—like in making the list for the grocery store. If you are prepared, you follow the list and get the items vs. getting home and saying “shoot! I forgot ____. I should have written it down.” Listing out those responsibilities for ourselves (or someone else) keeps them in our focus and helps us prioritize if we only have so much time. Let’s do what we can to take care of you.

© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Stuart A. Kaplowitz, MFT, therapist in Chino, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Joie

    Joie

    November 4th, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    Often times the only way that I find that I can get things done is to have a very thorough to do list.

    This helps me in a couple of ways, mainly in that it helps keep me on task and helps me remember the things that need to get done for the day.

    But personally I like that feeling and sense os accomplishment that I get when I can mark things off of that list. That feels good to me and lets me visually see that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

  • Caroline

    Caroline

    November 5th, 2013 at 4:41 AM

    I am such a procrastinator that it is the planning ahead that always seems to stress me out more! I think that I am one of the few who actaully functions a little better without a plan, on the fly, and that way I get things done but without the pressure that planning ahead for things seems to bring on in me. Myabe it’s weird, but it does seem to work for me.

  • Deanna

    Deanna

    May 23rd, 2015 at 7:58 AM

    Me too!!! This is exactly how I operate best. Planning ahead makes me feel trapped and boxed in!

  • zac

    zac

    November 5th, 2013 at 6:04 PM

    There are days where I am not sure where I would end up if I didn’t have my list ahead of time helping me prioritize the things that have to get done and then the things that I want to get done. It is all about looking at things in that way for me, because if I don’t I am likely to hop from one thing to the next without ever getting one whole thing accomplished. Yes, I am that ADHD person that all of you natuarlly organized people dread having to deal with, so please, don’t deny me my list, because that isn’t going to turn out well for anyone.

  • Stuart Kaplowitz

    Stuart Kaplowitz

    November 6th, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    I think the most important idea here is to get it done, so any way you are most comfortable is certainly ok with me. smile. Thanks all.

  • Frannie

    Frannie

    November 9th, 2013 at 1:29 PM

    Without all of my little lists I would be so lost! Sometimes I think that I would forget to get my head on straight if I tried to remember it all without my little helpful to do lists. They may get on others’ nerves but for me they are my life savers!

  • Andre

    Andre

    November 11th, 2013 at 4:42 AM

    Planning ahead offers me that sense of control when I am encountered with the chaos of the regular day.

    It gives normalcy and balance when life throws you for a curve, you are a little better prepared to handle those kinds of ups and downs.

  • Stuart Kaplowitz

    Stuart Kaplowitz

    November 13th, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    Nice additions!!!

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