To say it’s a funny old time is an understatement. I can honestly say that I have leant into all of my coaching and mindset training to get myself this far through the pandemic. And without it, I can imagine my journey these last few weeks would have been very different.
I’m continuing to work – because I want to serve my clients, and because I’m lucky enough that I still can. And having purpose and routine is good for my mental health, and my soul. Believe me, when I finish a session with a client – I feel so many positive emotions. I truly gain just as much from it as you do.
And that’s why I feel compelled to write this article. Because for those of you who are struggling at the moment, and don’t have a mentor, a counsellor or person to talk to – there’s a tool at your disposal that I pretty much guarantee will help you. And it comes up in sessions time and time again.
A proven strategy
If you know me, you’ll know that I’m evangelical about the benefits of journaling. And you’ll also know that all of the techniques I practice and share are based on scientific evidence, research and proof. So, not only does this come from me personally – from my experience, from my heart. But it’s also a practice that is proven to work.
Journaling is not like keeping a diary. You aren’t documenting your day or recording memories. Journaling is a hugely powerful a stress-management tool.
There is a huge body of evidence which supports that by recording your thoughts and feelings you can alleviate anxiety – on a similar level to therapy. By identifying and processing the emotions you feel will reduce blood pressure, sustain your immune system, improve your mood, reduce symptoms of depression, help you sleep and ultimately allow you to control and move past negative emotions.
One of the founding researchers in therapeutic journaling, Dr Pennebaker, found that writing about emotionally difficult feelings for just 20 minutes at a time over four consecutive days was associated with both short-term increases in physiological arousal and long-term decreases in health problems, such as immune system functioning.
Journaling is a hugely powerful, evidence-based strategy for coping with anxiety during the Coronavirus pandemic…and beyond. So, if you do just one thing today, I urge you to do this.
Writing to hear yourself think
You’ll know that when you wake up in the morning, especially at the moment, there’s a million thoughts and feelings rushing through your head and throughout your body. Your mind bounces from one thought to the next. One worry to another. Put simply, putting all of that stuff onto paper – externalising it all, allows you to process it, and most importantly walk away from it…giving your brain less to carry around.
You might want to get in touch with and gain some clarity on how you’re feeling at the moment. You may have a problem you need to work through and find a solution for. You could just need a really good rant about something that is troubling you so you can draw a line under it.
It’s always amazes me, even though I journal regularly – the lightbulb moments which come up when I’m journaling. The ‘aha’s. The freedom. Clarity. The weight that’s lifted. The insight. And it comes from within you. That’s the incredible thing. You just need 5 minutes of peace, a pen and paper and you’re good to go. You have all the answers. All you’re doing is untangling the many jumbled thoughts in your head and facing them head on. Recognising them, processing them and walking away.
Where to begin
I’m not going to lie, this may seem a little unnatural if you haven’t tried it before. Sitting in front of a blank page can be the most daunting thing. But there are a number of things you can do to kick yourself off. One of them is free writing – open up your journal, take a few deep breaths and see what comes up. If that’s not working for you, pick an answer to a question – how do I feel today, what good thing is happening today, what am I grateful for, what’s stopping me from…?
As your journaling habit develops, the benefits become long-term. You’ll become a person who is in tune with your thoughts, feelings and health. You’ll truly connect with your needs and desires. You’ll gain perspective and become more mindful, be able to regulate your emotions, feel confident, positive, develop your intuition and have a strong sense of identity. You’ll grow as a human being in ways you never thought possible. I promise you! That’s the joy of journaling – you’ll make sense of all the big, jumbled up things you’re feeling so you can enjoy a richer life. I’m so genuinely excited for you to begin.
Don’t feel bad for not feeling motivated – start where you are…a single line, or even a word.
Don’t censor yourself or worry about handwriting or punctuation – just write for you, free of judgement. It doesn’t have to be poetic. The uglier the better.
There’s a lot you can learn from reviewing your past journaling, but you may not want to. Most of my notebooks have never been revisited.
Write, don’t type. Writing by hand stimulates the mind in a way a computer keyboard can’t.
If you adopt a stream of consciousness style of journal, invest in a large A4 journal so your thoughts aren’t interrupted by turning pages.
Enjoy it. Create a relaxing routine around journaling – with your morning coffee in the garden or a comfy spot at night before a bath. But don’t pressure yourself to write every day.
Do what works best for you.
Don’t aim for a miracle. Listen for a response to your questions, but don’t be surprised if the answer doesn’t come straight away – it may come to you when you least expect it. Look for signs during the day.
I know you’ll be inundated with well-meaning advice from various sources during this lockdown – some good, some bad. I’ve felt overwhelmed with information at times. But if you can manage just one thing today – please take 5 minutes to journal. And do let me know how you get on. I’d love to hear from you.
Stay safe and well and happy journaling!