There are lots of tools for emotional and physical healing out there, but today I want to talk about using your planner to heal yourself.
First, though, I have big news. I am officially a Passion Planner Ambassador!
Originally I was not accepted, but they ended up opening up more slots for Ambassadors and they said my application was one of their favourites. So now I get to be an Ambassador for a planner that’s helped change my life.
If you want to get 10% off any order with Passion Planner, use the referral code KATJE10 with your purchase! Go here to make your order.
Planning for Healing Change
In the planner world there’s a lot of focus on hustle, on crushing goals and making dreams happen. That’s all well and good, but it’s no longer my focus. I have discovered, through years of planning and journalling and an on-again, off-again relationship with those activities, that where the true value in planning lies for me is in healing.
When I focus on planning as a road to healing my trauma, I am better equipped to truly make my goals happen — or to realize I actually have different goals from what I thought I did.
We all have trauma. Some of us have had quantifiably less than others, but it doesn’t make their pain or need for healing any less.
Some people have trauma from their early childhoods and their families, and others have experienced it later in life.
Regardless the source of your trauma, you can work to heal it.
Disclaimer: I’m not a psychology professional. I’m not a mental health professional. I am a person with C-PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, and potentially a few other things that haven’t been diagnosed yet (ADHD and Borderline Personality Disorder, specifically).
My number one recommendation for healing your trauma will always be to see a professional.
However, I realize that is next to impossible for a vast number of people these days. Besides the cost (it’s not a covered service even here in Canada, where we ostensibly have free, universal healthcare), finding a mental health professional who can actually help you make a positive change can be a difficult, long process that often ends up being more depressing than fulfilling.
I have had very good experiences with psychologists and therapists or counsellors. I have also had really not-good experiences. While I am a huge believer in therapy being, in general, good, and something that works, I realize that in practice it can sometimes severely miss the mark.
The Lightbulb Has to Want to Change
I am 34 (as of last week!). I first started seeing a psychologist when I was 5, because I am one of those whose trauma started in early childhood. My mother recognized this, and took me to Dr. Joy.
Dr. Joy was incredibly helpful for me when I was a child, and I wish I’d been able to continue to see her into adolescence and adulthood. She knew exactly how to help me figure out how to work through my own stuff.
Because that’s what a good psychologist can do: help you find the tools you need to work on your own stuff.
My years of going to see professionals has helped me realize I can work on healing my trauma by myself. Don’t get me wrong — someday I’d like to have access to a good therapist or psychologist again. But I realize that may be a tall order these days, so in the meantime I am doing what I can to make my life better.
Find the Tools That Work For You
What the right tools are is different for everyone. Something that works for me might not work for you, and vice versa.
If you can find the right tools, you can work on healing yourself.
I won’t lie — it’s not a fast fix. It’s a long, slow process and it’s really annoying at times. But it can be done. You can get better.
Some tools that can be useful in healing trauma (a non-exhaustive list):
- visual art creation (painting, drawing, etc).
- working with your hands — this could be anything from woodworking to crochet to working on cars.
- writing. Not just journalling, but writing poetry and non-fiction can be tools to heal trauma as well.
- religion or spiritual seeking.
- gaming, including video games, table-top RPGs, board games, and card games.
It can take some experimentation to find the right tools for you — or perhaps you already know! You might have read this list and gone “Oh, hey, that one right there is mine!”
While I do all the things on the list above, not all of them are trauma-healing tools. Some are just hobbies. What is a healing activity for one person may just be a hobby for another — and that’s perfectly fine.
A Strong Foundation
Regardless what tools you choose to help heal yourself, I do think there are a couple of things you will need in order to make real progress — a strong foundation for your healing journey.
- A support network.
- A record of some sort, so you can measure your progress.
Your support network can be small — one person who’s got your back, is in your corner, on your side is something we all need. They don’t have to be nearby. They can be an online friend.
If you don’t think you have anyone like that, ask. Reach out to folks you know. You might be surprised by their reaction.
Your record can be an online blog, a digital or handwritten journal, or a planner (which is what I’m mainly talking about in this post).
I do recommend you keep it mostly private, if only because the internet, being populated by other humans, can be a cruel place.
Yes, I’ll be sharing intimate details about my planner on here, but I’ve been on this road a while. I’ve already been through targeted harassment campaigns aimed at ending my life. I’m comfortable sharing my process online — and I want to help other people by doing so.
Why Record Your Progress?
Humans have short memories. It’s why we create all these tools to remember our lives. Sometimes I’ll be going through a journal that’s only ten years old and read about an event that I had completely forgotten about. Something that happened when I was 24 has disappeared from my mind — totally.
We can’t keep it all in our heads. Our brains were not meant for that.
Recording our progress visually is a way to tell our brains that look — we have made progress.
There are multiple ways to do this. Right now I’m engaging in doing before and better photos while I work on cleaning six years of mess out of the basement suite I share with my husband.
A very popular way of recording progress in the bullet journalling community is to use habit trackers — not only does it record progress, it helps you build good habits.
There are other ways too. Are you the sort to forget to do a to-do list? Sit down at the end of your day and write down the things you accomplished on that day, just so you can cross them off. It will make you feel accomplished, and it makes a record of your progress.
There are plenty of other ways and things to record in your planner or journal in order to improve your health, whether mental or physical. Here’s an incomplete list:
- note your emotions/moods on a particular day. You can do this with a colorful mood tracker or you can just jot a few notes down on each day in the planner at the end of the day.
- note how much sleep you got, and if it was quality or not.
- if you’re tracking something like your BP, you can use your planner to keep track of your numbers and how and why they change. This is how my mom figured out what was causing her hypertension and fixed it.
- track what you’re eating. Diet has a large effect on our moods and mental state, but it’s different for everyone. Tracking what you eat and your moods will help you figure out what foods work for you.
Using Your Planner to Heal Yourself
We tend to think of planners as being things to plan for the future in, but they are so much more than that. I know jokes are abounding right now that buying a planner for 2020 was a bad idea, because no one’s doing anything.
Ok, my planners were pretty blank during lockdown. But there’s a difference between a planner and an agenda. At the beginning of 2020 I bought three planners, for three purposes — and then pivoted halfway through the year and bought a different one.
I use my planner to note important dates. I also doodle in it, track my habits, and write notes about days after they’ve passed.
Sometimes life gets so busy you forget to fill up the planner with the busyness before it hits. You can always fill it up after, so you know what you did that week. Or you can leave it blank, or draw on it.
I love using my planner to create art, especially art that reminds me of what this is all for. Like below.
I know I’m not a great artist, but it doesn’t matter, because I’m doing this to heal myself, and thus better achieve my goals.
Small, Incremental Changes Over a Period of Time
What “Create the life you’ve always wanted”, Passion Planner’s motto, means for me is to create a life where I’m healed and healthy.
In addition to using my Passion Planner to create art and to record my progress, I’m also doing the following:
- becoming okay with blank weeks. Sometimes life is Life and everything gets pushed aside. For me, that was last week when I threw out my back and was able only to heal. It’s okay I didn’t fill out that week. I was healing.
- using the Passion Roadmap to track not only measurable goals but ones that are more nebulous. I do multiple Passion Roadmaps, and while I do some with measurable, deadline-possible goals, the others I do as sort of mind maps to how I want to feel. It’s like a treasure map to feeling better.
- supporting my writing and author life. Writing is one of my main tools for healing and it’s also how I want to make a living. Making a living as a published author would help me feel I’m living my soul purpose.
- utilizing affirmations to keep my mind on the right track.
These are all small actions, and that’s all you can do to heal your trauma. It’s not possible to do a cleaning sprint and get everything done and over within a matter of days, pushing your body ragged and yourself to breaking.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. Maintenance, not one huge magical clean-up job.
Over time, my recording progress helps me note patterns in my behavior. I note the times of year when I’m more likely to fall down on the job, and the times when I’m more successful. Noticing things is the first step to changing them — or learning to live with the ebbs and flows you might have.
Knowing that there are holidays that are difficult for me helps me prepare for them. Eventually, it helps me repair my relationship with them. Ten years ago I hated Christmas for reasons directly related to my trauma. After several years of hard work, it’s one of my favourite times of year — helped along by the family I married into.
Change is Not Only Possible, It is Inevitable
How you might use a planner to help you record your progress and work on your healing could look completely different from how I use mine. Perhaps you’re more about spare aesthetics than pretty colours, or perhaps your planner barely looks like a planner anymore because it’s so covered in your hand-drawn art.
All these approaches are valid. The beauty of a planner is that it’s meant to be your personal space. You can do whatever you want with it.
I hope I’ve given you some ideas on how your planner could be used to help you heal trauma, beyond noting down therapy appointment times (also very important!).
The thing to remember about life is this: change is not only possible, it’s inevitable. Either you will direct the changes in your life, or the universe will, and its ideas of what constitutes fun changes are famously erratic.
Change is the one universal constant. Nature abhors a vacuum, and it detests stagnancy.
Use this to your advantage by creating small, incremental changes over time. So long as you are changing something, the will of the universe works with you, and you are not fighting upstream.
How do you use your planner to direct healing changes in your life?
I’d love to hear what you have to say! Leave me a comment below.