Planning Through the Brain Fog

Planning Through the Brain Fog

When you have a medical condition like POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), which affects the blood flow to your brain, or even conditions like fibromyalgia or Lyme Disease, using your brain to its fullest potential becomes a daunting and often maddeningly frustrating task.

As I’ve written in the past, brain fog isn’t the occasional forgetfulness that us sleep-deprived adults have to deal with. And it’s not just “getting old” (I’m 31, for heaven’s sake!) Sometimes I can’t even remember things I want to say to a degree that I feel trapped inside my own mind, which is not only annoying but occasionally frightening.

When my brain fog really came to a head at the start of this year, I knew I needed some way to keep track of my day-to-day existence. Even though I no longer work, I still have responsibilities that need to be taken care of, such as paying the mortgage and two credit cards on time every month (which of course have different due dates).

But it’s not only the necessary responsibilities that I feel the need to keep track of. As an individual with multiple chronic illnesses, there are certain aspects of my conditions that I keep track of to better work with my physicians in keeping them informed of how I’m doing; heaven knows I can’t remember these things long-term anymore like I used to be able to.

So what was my answer to these predicaments? 

A Happy Planner! ?

I happened to stumble upon these delightful planners by Me and My Big Ideas, otherwise known as MAMBI, during after-Christmas sales at Michael’s. I bought a leftover planner (which I like just fine) and a few books of stickers designed especially for these planners and got to work. It took me weeks to months to figure out the best use of the planner, including how to most efficiently organize things in a consistent manner. This was helped along by further sticker purchases from some great sellers on Etsy.

I’m not all that artistic. However, I have to say that my literal favorite part of each week is on a Friday or Saturday when I pull out my multitude of stickers and get to work designing the next week’s spread in my planner. I’m so detail-oriented that it can take me up to two hours, but I just put on some music and let my mind churn out some creative juices. Some weeks are spectacular; others leave me disappointed with the way the spread turned out.

Let me now take you through the design of a planner spread!

Books of planner stickersPutting A Planner Together

At the start of each design session (well doesn’t that sound all fancy?), I pull out all my sticker books and other stickers I use for my planner. The bed tends to get a bit crowded and the cats don’t always appreciate it.

A blank spread in my Happy PlannerMy design choice is for each day to have its own color scheme. This goes way back to middle school for me, when I realized I had a photographic memory and I found it easier to remember things that were color coded. It was a trick I used throughout high school and all six years of pharmacy school.

I begin at the bottom of the page in the bottom box. The design for these boxes is pretty much set in stone. This is where I keep track of health-related items, including:

  • Hydration (mostly to make sure my fluids are balanced; I have no trouble consuming enough fluids each day.)
  • Pain (my maximum pain score each day.)
  • Feeling (how good or bad of a day was it?)
  • Sleep (obtained from my Fitbit daily.)
  • Rx (I put a tally mark down when I’ve taken a dose of salt tablets so I remember to take all four or five of my doses each day.)

This is also when I set the color scheme for each day. It can get tricky depending on the kinds of stickers I have, primarily the hydration stickers, which I have a few different designs of. Planner stickers Lately I’ve been sticking with a matching design because I have a surplus of these particular hydration stickers. The same Etsy designer makes the hydration and pain stickers, so they match perfectly. The other three stickers in this section come from a different designer.

Having set the color scheme, I move on to the difficult part: going through all of the sticker books to find matching stickers!

I generally put “To do” lists on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. The tasks I write down don’t necessarily have to be done on those days for the most part, but they’re there to remind me to try to get to them at some point during the week.Planner spread in progress

On the left sidebar, I try to make the color scheme complement the colors of the days on that page. My middle sticker is always a prayer list, so the names of those who need more urgent prayer are easily brought to mind each day.

The remainder of the stickers are just a fun game of mix and match! With all of those sticker books to go through, it can get fairly complicated. But most of the time, I enjoy trying to hunt down the perfect stickers to make for an interesting day in the planner. Almost finished planner spread

Some colors are more difficult than others to match because there aren’t a lot of stickers in certain colors. So I try to make do with colors that at least complement each other to a degree.

And then…voila!

Completed planner spread

Now all that’s left is to write in some items on my to-do lists and this week is all set to go!

I’m very pleased with these planners and I’m so glad I stumbled across them. Not only does having a planner help me to remember things I know I would otherwise forget nowadays, but it makes me feel useful. If there’s something in my planner that needs to be done, then I have a purpose. It makes it much easier to deal with the situation I find myself in currently. And it’s really the most helpful way I’ve discovered for tackling and managing brain fog.

What tricks or tools do you use to help you get through brain fog? Have you ever used a planner?


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14 thoughts on “Planning Through the Brain Fog

  1. Love it! I recently started a bullet journal for the same reasons! I actually have a post scheduled about it that should be going up this coming week. I look forward to any future posts about your planner!

  2. My daughter is the one w/POTS along w/other co-morbid illnesses. I have been using a Happy Planner for many months now to help track her appts, etc. I purchased one for her to help her w/schoolwork but it never was used for that. I like the idea of implementing it for her to use to track her own health. I love designing and decorating my planner so maybe I should set aside a Sunday afternoon to sit w/my girls, pull out all of the stickers and go to planning town w/all of our planners. Sounds like a new memory can be made doing this together.

    1. I love using my planner to track things. Mine also has pages in the back where I make a chart to record blood pressure and heart rate to relay to my POTS doctor. I’ve been using this one since January, and looking back through the months past is almost like looking back on a journal. I’m sure it would be a great memory to share between you and your girls! ?

  3. Planners haven’t worked for me so far but I just got a bullet journal and looking forward to trying it out. Love your planner!

    1. Bullet journals would be great, too! I used to have a sort of “poor woman’s bullet journal” in college, which was literally just a piece of paper on my desk where I’d write things down! ?

  4. Your planner is beautiful! It made me smile just to look at it. I also have a planner that I use as a planner and journal, and it helps a lot. I just make sure I give myself permission to slide some things to the next day if they’re not absolutely necessary and I don’t feel up to doing them. That way I don’t feel guilty about not completing my “to do” list.

    1. Thank you, Terri! I’ve had to ease myself into relaxing my requirements for what has to be done on certain days; I used to be a stickler for getting things done on the day I said I was going to! But now that I’m ill, I’ve learned to slide things around a bit, as you said.

  5. I love your planner. The stickers are brilliant! It has really inspired me to plan better. I have the usual forgetfulness, but don’t your kind of brain fog. I do however have a lot to keep on top of with my disability, remembering to do certain things and what caused good and bad days. Sorting out my care assistants. I love the colour scheme/coding you do.

    1. Thank you, Gemma! There are definitely many things to keep track of when one has a disability. Organizing everything just so every week, with the colors and all, gives me a sense of accomplishment and almost peace! ?

  6. Hi,

    I like how you put the water, mood, and medication reminders at the bottom of the daily columns. I do that, too! And I think it is fortunate and creative that you match the colors of the stickers! Nice post!

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