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Depression, Anxiety and Overwhelm: How To Move forward When Things Don’t Go According to Plan

If you are someone who has depression or anxiety, or if you are someone who obsessively plans and feels a strong need for control, then you know that last-minute changes can be challenging to manage. It can feel overwhelming and even chaotic when something that wasn’t scheduled “pops up” and knocks you off track. For some people, this type of derailment can even cause them to spiral in frustration, which isn’t always easy to bounce back from.

Unfortunately, these tailspins can set us back even further. It’s vital that we learn how to refocus our minds and move past the hiccups. The first step in doing so is to understand why you feel the way that you do.

Why Am I So Upset When The Plans Change?

Those who experience this type of distress, use planning as a coping mechanism to control outcomes. If a planner knows that something is scheduled to happen at a specific time, they will often plan other tasks around that event to ensure that they can obtain a particular result. For example, suppose a planner believes that they will have to take a school test or perhaps an assessment at work on a Friday morning. In that case, they will schedule things like studying and preparation for the days leading up to that assessment. The goal is to avoid failure, and they will often do whatever it takes to accomplish that goal. Internal pressure can lead to depression and anxiety.
Planners also experience difficulty with adapting to sudden change. For example, let’s say the plan is to study all day, and a friend drops by unannounced, or perhaps an emergency pops up. The planner may start to feel overwhelmed with flooding negative thoughts of failure because they didn’t accomplish their tasks.

How Do I Refocus And Move Forward After Plans Change?

Refocusing your mind and moving forward after a change in plans can be extremely difficult for those who use planning as a coping mechanism to feel like they have control over their lives. That being said, there are steps to help you weed through the chaos of your flooding thoughts and adapt to the changes.
Give Yourself Permission to Feel

It’s essential to set a time limit on this one. Emotions have a way of lingering and can derail us from seeing the big picture at times. That said, processing your emotions is important, and shoving them down isn’t going to make you feel better in the long run. Here is your time to get it all out. You might even consider journaling during this time, as journaling can be an excellent tool for slowing down thoughts and processing them.

Utilize Meditation
So the plans have changed, and you’re beginning to spiral. You’ve let yourself feel annoyed and anxious and upset. Now is the time to regroup. Take a deep breath and find a quiet place to go and sit. If you can find a place in nature, even better. Take the next ten to fifteen minutes to do mindful meditation. Be sure to take notice of your body and feel your breath. Take notice of any sounds within your environment. Notice when your mind has wandered and be kind to your wandering mind. It will become easier with time.

Recognize the Limits of Your Control
A critical component of processing all the frustration and fear that you are feeling is recognizing that it stems from a lack of control. In reality, we are not able to control everything and everyone. The truth is when something happens that is out of your hands; it only makes matters worse if you allow it to continue to affect your day. Sometimes acceptance is the only option you have, and that’s okay too.

Embrace What Control You Do Have
You do, however, have control over your actions, as well as your reactions. Use the control that you do have to make the best of the situation and potentially find solutions to make the new plan work. Focus on making productive choices.

Create A Realistic To -Do List
Creating a realistic to-do list after plans have changed is a make or break for our mindsets. If we create an overly ambitious schedule or list of things to do, we will only be disappointed and upset again when we’re not able to follow through. To create a realistic plan or to-do list, you are first going to want to make a time assessment: “How much time do you actually have” vs. “how much time it takes to complete each task.” Next, you want to pick the three most important tasks for that day. These tasks will be your top priority, if you get through them, you can move on to the next, but you’ll know that the most important tasks are done, helping you feel more accomplished.

Focus On One Thing At A Time
The truth is, multitasking is a myth. It may feel like you are doing multiple things at once, but in reality, your brain is frantically switching back and forth. Studies show that splitting your focus between tasks will actually lower your productivity by 20% as opposed to taking the tasks on one at a time. Focusing on one task at a time can also help with the feeling of overwhelm and flooding or racing thoughts.

In order to help you focus on one task at a time, you will want to remove distractions from your space. These distractions can be anything from phone notifications to background noise to clutter in your area (physically and emotionally). Pro tip: if you are working online, close or minimize tabs on your computer that are not relevant to the task at hand to avoid temptation.

Improving your ability to refocus and move past changes in life is not only going to save you time, but more importantly, it is going to save you some anxiety in the long run. You got this!

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