Maintaining Practicing

“Planxiety”: When Your Calendar Is Trapping You

A friend who moved away texts you to say she’s back in town and you should meet up. You immediately say yes; why wouldn’t you? And so, you begin planning a fun-filled day. Next comes the inevitable question of “when are you free?.” You open your laptop to check your calendar and an influx of dates, meetings, and appointments flash up. The excitement turns to dread as plans stretch far into the horizon – enter “Planxiety.”

“Planxiety” is a term that refers to the feeling of being overwhelmed when looking at a jammed-packed schedule and the pressure to always have events lined up – be it social, work, or other. Twenty-four-seven online communication invites constant questions of “when are you free?,” “when should we do..?” and “we need to arrange …” Your life suddenly feels restrained to a strict schedule, without any space for spontaneity.

It’s vital to find ways to alleviate this feeling and avoid turning what should be exciting events into a source of stress. This doesn’t need to mean completely winging it and expecting things to just happen, but by making changes to the way you plan them.

Planners, Paper, and Post-Its

We know that spending hours in front of a screen isn’t good for us, however, we are also well aware that it’s unavoidable for many. One area where screentime can be cut down is by swerving away from digital calendars and opting for their paper counterpart.

There’s been much research on the well-being benefits of writing things down on paper. It can alleviate anxiety, improve memory, and increase productivity. It’s always good to have a notepad to hand to jot a thought down before it distracts or overwhelms you.

Following this, it has been suggested that writing paper “to-do” lists can be more beneficial than online alternatives. They can help you remember dates, focus only on what you need to get done, and feel motivated as you manually cross tasks off. For social plans and events, writing them on a post-it in front of you can bring you back to that excited state.

That being said, information on online planners is much harder to lose than what’s written on loose bits of paper and in a house full of notepads. You can try to find a beneficial balance of both – such as breaking down monthly dates and deadlines on the calendar to a daily paper to-do list.

Room to Maneuver

You can’t see the future and all its potentialities, so you need to make sure you’ve left room for them. Plans always change and it’s impossible to predict everything that could crop up. If you start to think too far ahead about how all the little details will work out you can start to feel overwhelmed and it may even trigger the ‘freeze’ anxiety response: not responding or taking any action.

This could mean you say no to something that could have turned out really well or overlook an opportunity that would have been perfect for you. Remind yourself that nothing is ever set in stone, and every plan is open to change. Leave room to re-reroute by not fixating on all the miscellaneous details too early on. Adding a little dose of ‘winging it’ to every plan you make can go a long way.

Busy Doing Nothing

Ahhh, the beauty of blank space on the calendar. Whether it’s one evening a week, or one weekend a month, keep it all to yourself. Whatever you feel like doing at that time, do just that, without the pressure of anything pre-planned. You can read, relax, or go on a solo date, it’s your choice.

Maybe you wish to do nothing at all. And no, that isn’t laziness; it can be very beneficial for your health. The Dutch word “Niksen” is used to refer to the concept of doing nothing, and it has been found as a powerful burn-out busting tool. Doing nothing is also the essence of mindfulness and meditation, which can increase clarity and calmness.

Not being totally and completely booked might be exactly what you need to breathe a little lighter and find enjoyment in the things you’ve got coming up.

-Heather Grant

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

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