JOURNALING TO IDENTIFY AND COMBAT STRESS

“If it comes, let it come. If it goes, it’s ok, let it go. Let things come and go. Stay calm, don’t let anything disturb your peace, and carry on.”– Germany Kent


 

Writing has long been recognized as a powerful tool for coping with long-term, ongoing changes in life as well as the brief flare-ups that occur day to day.

A journal is a personal tool used to identify inner-reflection and emotional release. As you journal you gain new clarity and depth along with new resilience needed to adjust to change and process challenges and hardships.

Freewriting is a common and effective form of journaling about stressful situations. But structured, reflective forms of journaling can help even more. Awareness of your internal stress responses before they become a reality through journaling is important. It serves to reconcile those and other responses before they impact you negatively.

Your ability to write down emotions and thoughts is to “see” the magnitude of a situation from a new, often detached, perspective.

As you write, you train yourself to view a challenge or situation from a position of emotional distance. This emotional distance helps you identify solutions, seeing them for what they are, and what they are not while, at the same time, releasing pent-up emotions.

So, as an example, let’s look at the most imminent of threats, the Covid-19 pandemic. At this time the virus is our greatest common enemy as it threatens millions all over the world. But each of us absorbs the implications differently based on our experience with the disease and how it affects things like our income and our social lives.

POWERLESSNESS OVER COVID:

This pandemic creates the overwhelming sense of powerlessness that, together with the power of fear, can paralyze us.

The mere knowledge that there are as yet no known solutions for this international pandemic and all of its consequences is an invitation to feel as though we are swimming against a current that only becomes stronger with each passing day.

Added to this sense of powerlessness is the reality that our financial situation may become insufficient at any moment, childcare may be non-existent, food insecurity a threat, and we may not have access to the needed resources to help our nuclear and extended family.

This crisis by itself, creates a horrific sense of frustration, loss, and a feeling of desperation because of our lack of power to change anything other than own behavior in how we react to this situation—and that is where journaling comes in.

LET’S WRITE ABOUT AND ISOLATE ONE PROBLEM AT A TIME:

When you get worry out of your head and down on paper complex, seemingly unsolvable issues can be broken down into manageable pieces.

As the process of writing unfolds, many feel a new sense calm, of an inner-power, and the return of control.  This is the goal.

Begin this exercise by listing the current stressors in your life. Imagine each stressor as a slice of pie. Look at them individually and assess the following:

WHAT DO WE KNOW RIGHT NOW ABOUT US?

  1. How is it affecting my life?
    1. Emotionally: by creating anxiety, uncertainty, and by making relationship communications difficult.
    2. Physically: by raising blood pressure, creating acid reflux, encouraging chemical or alcohol abuse, interrupted sleep, causing weight gain or re-injury, becoming domestically violent or unable to complete daily living skills. Distancing from people, whether by choice or necessity, causes us to engage in destructive behaviors including sexual activity, shopping, food addictions, and other exhibits of acting out.
    3. Mentally: by having a racing mind, procrastination, inability to concentrate, and a feeling of being overwhelmed by perceived added expectations either self-inflicted or by others, despair.
  1. Which stressor causes me the most symptoms? Can I identify why? 
  2. What factor about that stressor keeps me awake at night or causes my brain to work overtime to try to resolve it? 
  3. Is there something I am doing to create or contribute to this reaction?
  1. When I encountered this situation in the past what was my normal reaction? What was productive? Is my current reaction holding me hostage in fear?
  1. What are some positive actions or responses that would help me feel better in this situation?
  2. What can I do to change how I look at each stressor to help the process to either find a solution, or let it go? 
  3. In what ways can I use this stressful situation to make myself stronger and/or have it benefit my life? (List them in order of importance.)
  1. Who in my life can you turn to for help? 
  2. What would happen if I did nothing in response to this situation? What would be the likely result if I just let it go? 
  3. Despite, or because of this stressful situation, what can I feel grateful about in my life? (List them without thought, regardless of how small or insignificant you may think they are.)

And now you have it down on paper! You have created a roadmap and a template to use for situations as they arise.

Journaling reflectively, on a regular basis, can permanently change the way you respond to stress in the moment, and in the way you internalize the situation‑‑even in the way you perceive it!

As you write from the heart, your blood pressure subsides. Slowly, you begin to see the big picture, while at the same time, the miracle of hope becomes a twinkle on the horizon.

You begin to execute the power of doing with focused intention, and as you do, negative feelings and emotions become elevated, positive, becoming a force for change in your life.

 

Because you’ve done the work of identifying and processing the stress as it arose, you took back your power, came closer to finding solutions, and no longer hold this situation against yourself.

 

Through this and other similar exercises, we become convinced of our own self-esteem which leads to a new, deeper sense of self-compassion and self-nurture. We deserve to honor ourselves with this gift of quiet time and inner-reflection.

We make it a point to seek opportunities to ask these and other questions in order to better handle the baffling situations that confront us. With practice, this exercise of inner-work and our ability to find answers which, otherwise, would not been seen, grows, and so does our comfort level and confidence that we’re on the right track.

As we execute and instruct our own power within, our ability to cope with whatever life throws at us becomes stronger.

In doing this fearless work, we become warriors of our own destiny, rulers of our contentment and joy, and we do it by drawing on what is within.

Journaling is one way to resurrect information about our truth of who we are and what we’re made of, which is often hard to see in the heat of the moment. The self-care journal acts as a reference book replete with deep knowledge about ourselves, and knowledge we can tap into or add to at any time.

Dedication to our own self-care through the gift of journaling gives us what we need as we do the work to find the answers that lie within, along with the ability to transform that stress into something manageable, even useful.

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If you like what you’ve read here, please do pass it on for others who might be interested.  Also, a comment would be so appreciated!  Id love to know what you really think.

Read more about Journaling by visiting https://harriethunter.org/journaling/

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