Earlier this month I had the chance to see U.S. Women’s Soccer icon Megan Rapinoe speak at the University of Miami. At this sold out event, she was asked how she managed to keep her stress at bay with all her responsibilities. Rapinoe’s remedy? Planning.
“Being calm doesn’t just come. Being organized doesn’t just come,” Rapinoe said.
Rapinoe, co-captain of the U.S. Women’s team, helped lead her team to win the World Cup in July. In September, Rapinoe traveled to Milan where she won the FIFA 2019 Best Women’s Player in the world. Given how busy she is, Rapinoe said that she knows she will inevitably feel overwhelmed at times. For her, planning is key to keeping a low stress level. To do this, Rapinoe prefers to put pen to paper.
“Actually writing it down is the key,” she said. “Even typing…doesn’t do it for me. And to take the time to schedule it. Even though it might take an hour on the front end, it is worth it to map everything out.”
She also said that planning and organization do not come naturally for her.
“It’s something that I really have to work at,” she said. “Otherwise I feel myself getting crazy or overwhelmed.”
In medicine, when patients have symptoms of depression or anxiety, we recommend counseling, exercise and lifestyle changes. If those interventions don’t work, medication is an option. Seldom do I address the importance of staying organized as a means of stress reduction. I’ve discussed it as a non-medical therapy for patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, but it is not something I often bring up. Maybe I should.
Since attending Rapinoe’s talk, I’ve been making an extra effort to plan out my day in more detail. I sit down at the start of the day and write down everything I want to accomplish in no particular order. Then, once I’ve finished that, I choose a few important tasks that need to be completed and prioritize them. I also keep a master list tucked away in the back of my planner. On the master list are the things that I need to do eventually. I don’t need to be staring at the master list all the time, though. (That’s just overwhelming). Instead, I pull it out once a week to review and update it.
“Self-care and mental health are key,” Rapinoe added. “If that’s out of whack, your whole life is out of whack.” She’s right on that one. And a little bit of planning goes a long way.