As a teenager I can recall begging for a journal with a lock and key. This meant that I could write my deepest secrets and then lock them away so that my family could not read them. Once I got the journal, which is exactly what I did. I wrote, and wrote and wrote some more, then locked it and hid the key. This was my time to get my thoughts onto paper, thoughts that I did not feel I could share with anyone. Well, over the years, I would get a new journal annually. It became so important to me that I started buying and gifting journals to friends, family members and church members with their names engraved on them with a scripture or a positive quote. Even then, I saw it as something so personal, not realizing that journaling had the ability to meet needs in other areas of my life.
Fast forward to the 2000’s. I still cannot walk away from a pretty and colorful journal. Maybe, I no longer get them engraved, but journaling is still a big part of my life. It is also a major part of the interventions I introduce in private practice. As a clinician, I have the opportunity to meet with men and women who are diagnosed with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and adjustment disorder. When I hear that they are unable to sleep at night, feel as if their thoughts are unorganized when stressed, and that they do not feel like they are able to focus during the day, I begin to assess what their coping skills look like in regards to how they manage themselves. When I ask about journaling, I often get the response, “yeah, I have a journal but I do not use it consistently.” This right here is where I issue the challenge to journal.
In 2018, we have come a long way. Journaling can be done by writing, typing or audio recording. So, there are options that I present to clients when I issue the challenge to journal for one week straight. I make no promises that this works for everyone, because it does not. However, for many it has increased their ability to function.
Here are 4 things you should know about journaling:
It can be cathartic meaning stress relieving. When you write you are releasing stress and allowing your body and mind to come to a place of relaxation and calmness. This can also be done with crocheting, drawing or even painting.
It can be considered the Data Dump of your mind by choosing to journal about your events, stress, dreams and goals. Imagine turning over a basket filled with paper and other unwanted items into a larger can. This is what happens when you begin journaling you are getting all of your thoughts, worries and ideas onto paper. A place that can properly hold it. The key to this is not seeing it as garbage, but as a place holder for your thoughts in case you need to go back and review as needed. You do not have to hold it all in your head.
It can be daily, every other day, or even weekly. Whatever you choose remember to be consistent.
Knowing when to journal is very important. It can be done at any time during the day, but it is most beneficial to do it right before going to bed. It is your late night data dump if you will, allowing you to begin your sleep journey with a clear mind waking up more refreshed. If there are no struggles with your sleep pattern, then journaling at any time during the day would be fine for you. However, if you find that you struggle with falling and remaining asleep due to flooding of thoughts, then journaling right before bed might be the best solution for you.
As a result of journaling consistently, you will find that it impacts your emotional and physical well-being. The process of journaling can improve sleeping, concentration, mood and mindset. So, you can see that it is more than just getting your thoughts on paper (under lock and key), it is about releasing the stress and flood of thoughts that impact functioning. Journaling can be whatever you need it to be, but know it is a super gift to a better way of addressing symptoms and stress. I encourage you to take the challenge as well in hopes of an improved way of doing things. Make a commitment to your health and see the benefits for yourself. Selah.
Disclaimer: This blog on journaling does not in any way imply that journaling replaces medication management that one may need to assist with addressing other symptoms.