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Journaling for wellbeing

Off-load your emotions, organise your thoughts or gain a new perspective

Although caring can be rewarding in many ways, it can take a toll on our stress levels and significantly impact our health and wellbeing. Even though a systemic change needs to happen to better support the caring community, we also need to take care of ourselves as much as we can, to keep going and avoid burnout.

Self-care isn’t a ‘one size fits all’. What works for one person may not work for another. Many of us need to try a few different methods, before we find what feels right. In this article we’re going to explore the benefits of journaling and how it could support you in your caring role.

Journaling seems to have risen in popularity over the last few years, with many in the caring community finding it helpful to focus their thoughts, declutter their minds and reduce tension. Some assume journaling is what you do as a youngster, writing about teenage angst in a diary or some think its best left in a counselling session. I’m here to tell you that journaling is not limited to these spaces. This therapeutic tool is now in the hands of the masses, allowing us to explore our feelings in our own time – and best of all it’s free!

I've never classed myself as a 'creative person' but there is something very therapeutic and freeing about writing down what's in your head on paper and letting it go by tearing it up physically.

The act of journaling can help us get our thoughts, feelings, and worries out of our head, turning them in to something tangible that we can observe or analyse from a different perspective. It can help us understand our pain points a little more, ultimately making them more manageable. Joe, who cares for his mother shared that journaling has helped him understand more from his mother’s point of view. He appreciates the insight it offers him to how she might be feeling in a situation.

I’m here to tell you that journaling is not limited to these spaces. This therapeutic tool is now in the hands of the masses, allowing us to explore our feelings in our own time – and best of all it’s free!

When I’ve felt frustrated in my caring role, it’s helped me get a balanced view of things.

1. Free writing

With this great technique, you put pen to paper and write all your thoughts. Let your stream of consciousness flow and jot down any reflections that crop up, quickly and without censorship. It can be difficult to get going at first and it can be hard to face our raw emotions. To get in full swing and release any tension, it’s useful to set yourself an allotted amount of time or a specific number of pages to write, and make it part of your routine a few times a week. We suggest keeping it short, between 5 and 10 minutes of writing or about two A4 sheets of paper. Don’t stop until your time is up or the pages are full, and if you don’t know what to write – start with ‘I don’t know what to write’! Even if it looks like complete gibberish, keep going and let it happen. This process can help you learn to accept your feelings without judgement as well as clear your mind.

Whilst it’s stuck in your head, it just keeps you in state of anxiety. The more you let it stick with you, the more control it has over you. Getting it down on paper helps you release it. Journaling is your space, a tool help you.

2. Unsent letter

Relationships with the ones we love are not linear, they are complex especially with the addition of a caring role. This is a powerful exercise that helps us voice our thoughts without holding back. You simply write a letter to someone, who will never see it. You can write this letter to anyone, it could be someone you’re closest with, a person you may not be able to directly speak to or even your future self. This cathartic process can help us express what’s truly going on for us right now and gain clarity and closure. When you are finished writing, you decide what to do with the letter. Burn it, shred it or keep it, the choice is yours.

3. Gratitude list

Let’s start the day right. Before your morning routine begins, take some time to list a few things that you are thankful for. Big or small, it doesn’t matter just write about what is important to you. Feeling grateful can have incredible benefits, including supporting both our physical and psychological health*, helping us feel happier and healthier. If you’re struggling, try the following prompts to help you begin:

  • Take a walk or look outside – are you grateful for something in nature?
  • Look at an old photograph – is there a memory you cherish?
  • Think of a loved one – did they do or say something that made you feel supported?

4. Visual journals

Journaling doesn’t always have to take place in a notebook, it doesn’t even have to be written text. We can take photographs, make collages or create videos to express how we feel. Joe enjoys making videos, he’s found that recording himself having a conversation allows him the space to vent and express himself in a judgement-free zone. As many of us own smartphones these days, the technology to create short videos is at our finger tips. A great tool to help you build a habit of shooting daily videos is the 1 Second Everyday app. It’s easy to use and allows you to edit footage, stitch short snippets together and reminds you to keep going, to captures life’s ups and downs.

Having that conversation with yourself, helps you get a natural flow. Next thing you know you’ve been talking for 10 minutes!

5. Worry journal

If you’re juggling a lot, it’s hard to keep track of everything and our worries can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Try to declutter your mind before you go to bed by placing your worries elsewhere. You can do this by noting your concerns using a journaling technique of your choice like free writing or bulleted lists. Then go through each of your concerns and ask yourself ‘can this be easily solved?’ If the answer is yes, explore it further and set intentions or actions to achieve a resolution the next day. If the answer is no, try to break down the problem and find the root cause. This may help you reframe it and work towards your next steps. You may come back to the problem at a later date when you are able to resolve it. By getting your worries on to paper, you can create some distance from your racing thoughts and find a sense of calm.

Remember there are lots of ways to journal whether that’s using a notebook, a computer or even your phone. You can express yourselves by writing a little, a lot or not at all. Give it a go and see what works for you!

*Psychology Today. N.D

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