With all that is going on in the world right now, and especially with all the extra time spent sheltering at home, we understand the need for an outlet. There are so many thoughts and emotions to process and being stuck inside can feel overwhelming if you do not have any healthy coping mechanisms for handling this experience.
For this reason, we chose this opportunity to discuss how journaling can be one of those healthy coping mechanisms.
Despite what you may believe, you do not have to be a creative person to begin journaling. You don’t even have to be well-versed in writing. The idea behind journaling as a coping mechanism is allowing yourself the time and space to begin writing thoughts down, processing your emotions, and reflecting on the content that you have written.
Various studies have proven that journaling is a healthy way to cope for those who experience depression, anxiety, PTSD, or panic attacks. Although research has focused on these four areas in particular, journaling can be a useful tool for a wide variety of other conditions, uses, and purposes.
When journaling, try to put anxieties of having the “perfect” thing to write aside and allow the simplicity of this technique to be inspiring. Choose a topic you wish to write on, an event you want to reflect on, or begin to journal about how your day is going. No structure is needed, if you do not want one. Journaling can often be most effective when you allow yourself to write freely as an outlet for your thoughts and emotions.
Some of the many benefits of journaling include:
- Increasing emotional awareness as you reflect on how you are feeling, process why you may have behaved or reacted in a certain way, and take a deeper look into situations and triggers in your life
- Providing a productive and efficient way to cope with a wide variety of issues
- Being a convenient method of coping that you can do virtually anywhere with no special skills required
- Building your confidence to understand and express yourself as you begin to feel more comfortable with the practice of journaling
GETTING STARTED WITH JOURNALING
The first step is to find a good medium to write on, and a tool that is fitting to write with. When picking out what you want to utilize, find a notebook with a quote or image that you enjoy or find a pack of colored pens that makes you feel inspired. It can help you to feel more connected to this activity. This is your notebook, so you should make sure that you feel it is representative of you. Worried about someone finding your journal and reading your inner thoughts and emotions or not having your journal when you really need it? Consider a journaling app on your smartphone, tablet, or computer. There are tons of options, most of which can be customized to your design preferences and have password protection features.
Next, find a space to write where you will not be distracted by people or outside sources. If you do not like writing in silence, put on some music in the background, just make sure it is not so loud that you are unable to concentrate on what you are writing.
Now, start putting down words. If you feel as if you are stuck and not sure where to begin, start with writing how you are feeling in that moment, or writing down how you have felt throughout the day. If you have a specific event that you feel you are fixating on, start writing about that event or the emotions that surround it.
It’s a journey to see how much growth and improvement journaling can bring once you start. You may notice that when you are feeling tense about a situation or circumstance, the weight begins to lift from your shoulders as you write down your worries and anxieties.
Once you are done writing, read over what you have written and take a moment to reflect on it. Do you see any themes? Any certain events that have triggered the way that you feel? Do you feel better after writing in your journal? You may be surprised to realize that at the end of a journaling session, you feel calmer and more at peace.
After you have reflected on what you have written, take some time to think about what you would like to achieve moving forward. For example, if you noticed a lot of your writing is centered around how stressed out you are when you go to work, consider making a goal of finding ways to destress while at work, or while on breaks. There are no limits to what you can create for your goals, and if you are having issues coming up with one and are comfortable with sharing your journal, speak with your counselor to see what they might suggest.
There are so many things that you may find out about yourself while journaling, which makes it not only a healthy coping tool as you write out your thoughts and emotions in a safe environment, but also a way to learn more about yourself and increase your personal growth.
Tips for Journaling
- When you are writing, do your best to not censor yourself, your language, or your feelings. You will find that journaling is more relaxing and helpful when you are open and honest with how you are doing and what you are directly feeling.
- Although you may feel more inclined to write only when your feelings are intense, try to put aside a little time each day to journal.
- If you find that you are having a hard time processing your emotions while journaling, take a break, or come back to that subject later. It can be hard to talk about certain subjects even when we are just writing for ourselves.
- Do your best to not view writing in your journal as a task or chore. When we view things with this perspective, it can be harder to follow through with it. Instead, see it as an opportunity to cope or process, reflect on your day, and release any pent-up feelings. Try to embrace the view of journaling being an opportunity to get more in touch with yourself and grow.
Still not sure where to begin? Download our free journal prompts for mental health below to get you started!