Last summer, one of my fellow You Matter bloggers wrote a great post on the benefits of journaling and how it helped him better understand his emotions (you can read that here). For me, too, journaling has been a wonderful way of expressing and identifying my emotions. I have found that it can help clear my mind and provide me with some more emotional margin. Now that we are facing the uncertainty of a pandemic, I imagine that you, like me, are experiencing a wide range of emotions. This is the perfect time to create a habit of journaling.
There is no right or wrong way to journal – that’s part of what makes it so therapeutic. However you want to do it and whatever way works best for you is fine. Sometimes I have found that when my mind is full it can be hard to know where to start and you can get lost staring at the blank piece of paper. When this happens, I have found it can be helpful to have something specific to journal about to get me started.
One journaling strategy my counselor shared with me with some time ago has been particularly helpful during this time. At the end of the day, or at any point when you are feeling particularly anxious or depressed, write down three things that went well that day. This is a little different than some other journaling prompts which may have you think of three things that made you happy. The difference is perhaps a little nuanced, so here’s an example from one of my journal entries:
- Made mistake at work, boss was understanding, and I did it right the next time.
- Made it to counseling on time.
- Ate food.
While at first these may seem a bit simple, they represent the small victories that are so important to recognize and celebrate when struggling with mental illness. It helps to combat the voices of shame that tell you nothing is going right, that everything is a disaster or whatever else may be running through your mind. My counselor told me that this specific journaling strategy has been shown to help reduce depression and anxiety.
Between school, work, and relationship changes that have occurred due to the pandemic, some days it feels like nothing is going well. Taking a moment to stop, breathe, and reflect on the things that are going well has helped me keep up my spirits and remember all the things I still have to be grateful for. This doesn’t mean I no longer feel the losses, but it does help keep me from spiraling into depression.
If you do not already own a journal and are under a shelter in place, you can always try an online word processing platform or download a free journaling app. Even if you don’t want to keep a journal, listing three things that well that day to yourself in your head is still beneficial.
These are strange times we are living in. We’re all trying to find our new sense of “normal”. Creating a list of things that went well to look back on at the end of the week can be a helpful way to stay grounded and be reminded that even though things feel uncertain and stressful, life is not completely falling apart. You are strong, and you will get through this.
As always, if you are struggling with tough thoughts call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text ‘home’ to 741741.