How to Deal When Plans Change

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Hello from Wisconsin! With Hurricane Dorian possibly coming through Florida, we had a quick change in plans in order to spend the week with our parents in Wisconsin and not be in the possible pathway. Now, it looks like it probably won’t hit Tampa super hard, if at all, but we didn’t want to chance not having power with two little humans. Plus, we got a random family vacation out of it!

Sometimes I can swing with the punches really well, and sometimes it’s really hard for me to have plans change. This time was a little of both.  Tony had been out of town for the week for work, so I was already pretty exhausted.  On Thursday, Tony called to say we should think about booking flights back to Wisconsin on Saturday so that we could beat the rush.  During this phone call, I kind of freaked out. Planning a plane trip for two little people with only two days notice is a large task. But as we started to flesh out the details and think more about why we needed to do it, the stress went away.

You see, I’m a planner. I have lists for my lists. This expedition was not written on my calendar. I was supposed to get a nice afternoon at Starbucks on Saturday and some downtime scattered throughout the weekend. At least, that’s what I had written down. But so many times, plans change and we just have to accept it and allow it to happen. This happens in big ways (like a surprise baby- Oh hey, Nora!) or in small ways (like it rained and we can’t go to the park anymore).  I’m seeing in Nora now a lot of my own stress when plans change. Who knows if it’s nature or nurture, but either way, I’m trying to work on my own self regulation methods so that I can help her when she’s having trouble too. These are some of the ones that are working for me personally right now:

1) Start with Prayer

This is the biggie. Sometimes I forget that God’s got it. I’m not and don’t have to be in control. By bringing what’s stressing me into prayer, I can find relief in one of two ways. Either, I find that it is something small that I don’t actually need to be stressing about (which is most of the time), or God helps me think through the stresser with more clarity and logic.  A lot of the time, I go in a downward spiral and start thinking about all of the extraneous details and get a little irrational. By taking a step back and giving it to God to look at it with me, I’m able to regain my senses and think a little more rationally.

I’ve been trying to start with prayer in these situations, even if it’s just a short “what am I supposed to do here, God?” when I’m figuring out how to deal with the changed plans.  Many times, I forget to give it up to Him and, instead, take it all on myself. I try to control the situations that can’t be controlled. When I do start in prayer, the stress is shorter lived and I’m able to roll with the punches with much more grace.

2) Make one decision and then the next

Often, I look at the change of plans as this huge task that I have to take on. Whether it’s something crazy like a quickly booked plane trip out of FL or something simple like hosting unexpected guests, it often feels like there are too many things that need to get done in the short time allotted. I’ve learned that by just making that first decision, no matter how small, I can bypass some of those overwhelmed feelings. I’m able to break it down into little decisions instead of looking at it as a huge problem to be solved with one swipe.

On this trip we had to decide 1) if we were even going to go, 2) when to book, 3) who to watch our cats, 4) how to get to the airport, and countless other small decisions. Thinking about all of these at once drew me into panic, but breaking it down into what decision needed to be made first and then which followed made it so much more manageable. Which takes me to my next point:

3) Make a list 

As I said, I’m a list maker. I have daily to do lists, weekly to do lists, grocery lists, goals lists, books to read lists. I have lists on my phone, lists in my planner, lists on the wall. I might be a little Type A in needing order. However, just the act of making the list often makes me feel 10 times better than I feel before it was made. Only through writing things down am I able to break tasks into more manageable sizes and maybe even see that I don’t actually have as much to do as I thought. That’s exactly what happened with this trip- when I wrote down the things that needed to get done, I realized that I was already in a good place and didn’t really need to do as much as I thought once those few first decisions were made.

With the mush that has been my brain with two small people running around, the act of getting things on paper or at least in my phone makes sure that I’m able to remember them. Otherwise, those thoughts get lost. Or else, they’re swimming around in my brain trying not to get lost, and I’m not able to focus on the task at hand. Writing them all down keeps everything in order, or at least helps me to remember what I need to do to get things into order.

4) Lean on the people around you

This has been the biggest help for me on this current trip.  When we first started thinking about what we were going to do, Tony was able to talk everything through with his boss who has been through his fair share of hurricanes in FL.  We were also really lucky to have my parents be flexible enough to take us in at last moment’s notice. Tony’s parents will host us for a couple days as well while we’re here for the week- so it’s turning out to be a random and fun family vacation. 

While it’s easier to lean on family (usually), we were also given the opportunity to lean on others that weren’t so easy.  After just introducing ourselves to the neighbors across the hallway a couple weeks ago, we decided that they would be the best people to ask to check in on our cats (if they weren’t also leaving- which they weren’t!).  I made Tony go ask them- because I’m a chicken- and they were more than happy to come over once a day and make sure that the cats had food, water, and litter changed. This was one of our biggest anxiety points, so it was so so good to be able to lean on people that we hardly know.  And such a lesson for us in reaching out too!

While, this trip was not on my calendar, none of it was planned, and we had to just wing a lot of it, we have been having a really great time so far.  A lot of times, the changed plans are actually some of the best ones! The unexpected surprises end up being way better than anything I could have come up with on my own. By stopping my mind from running away with the what-if’s, I’m able to actually be in the moment and enjoy it more.  With that said, let’s hope that there are no more changes in plans on the way home on Saturday and that all goes smoothly!

We pray for all of those who did end up in the path of the hurricane, that the damage is small and that all are safe. 


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