Life can be stressful. Balancing all the things–being a mom, wife, teacher, daughter, sister—friend…the list goes on, but trying to manage all of these things can be tricky. Life gets busy and sometimes we just get so caught up in the daily we forget to take time for ourselves.
Sometimes stressors may happen when you least expect them. Remember that post about panic attacks? You think you have a plan for your day and then something unexpected happens–and that may cause some stress.
A simple tool that helps me reduce stress, improve my communication, balance my emotions and help support my overall health is journaling.
Yep, you read that correctly, journaling.
Journaling about stressful events can significantly improve the way you think about your feelings and stress. In fact, here’s a study on why journaling can be helpful. http://transformationalchange.pbworks.com/f/stressjournaling.pdf
I keep three journals. Three. One journal is for blogging. I write notes on topics and sometimes I jot down ideas or goals I have for my blog. It is helpful because I can track titles that I use (or don’t use) and make specific notes about ideas for posts, photos to use, and other ideas (like apps that will be helpful so I can post on the go).
Another journal is for teaching. My teaching journal helps me track my progress as an instructor. I started a journal as a graduate student at SIU. At times it was like a diary, but I use it to write about assignments, lectures, essays–and my thoughts on classes (note: classes, NOT students). I’ve planned courses from the notes and ideas in my journal, and made notes about what works and what doesn’t work in the classroom.
Sometimes my emotions seem like they are all over the place! I feel like I need to write so much down because if I don’t, I’ll forget. My personal journal is an outlet. I can write to process emotions, I can increase my self-awareness, and I can make sense of what’s going on or what I’m feeling–anxiety, stress, anger, frustration, happiness, and believe it or not, a journal and app started this very process of blogging!
I love old-school things like writing out notes (my students love me for that), marking passages or highlighting certain passages in books (some of my novels look like textbooks because of the notes I make in margins), writing out thank you cards or dropping a note in the mail–but there’s this thing called technology that is becoming increasingly popular. I mean, I’m the gal who used an app to make a list of things I would hear people say or ask. Thus, I had material in “old-school” form and “new school” form for a blog.
There are online writing apps that can help you track your notes or even websites that allow you to create a blog. You can search the App Store for various apps that you can use from your smartphone or tablet, or you can go old school and pick out a journal. I have a couple that were gifts, a few that I’ve found in the notebook section of stores like Target or TJ Maxx, and of course, I have a blog. Whatever you prefer, I have to say that writing is a major part of my life and a way for me to process a lot–feelings, thoughts, books, conversations…writing (like journaling) is my jam.
So, how do you get started with all of this?
- Find a format that works for you. For me, it was journaling with notebooks and then it went to an app where I could make a list (I’m a list maker…love to use post-it’s to help with the lists). Eventually, I went electronic with a blog via Blogger and now a website (#lucky and blessed).
- Time. Make time to write. You can set time aside for your time to write in the morning (which works for me at times, if there’s coffee), or you can set some time aside to write after the hustle and bustle of your day is over (before bed, or when the kids go to sleep). I usually spend about 30-45 minutes prepping and then at times it can be a 20-25 minute process to write what I want to publish. Of course, there’s a lot of deleting in that process too.
- Use your thoughts and feelings. Don’t be afraid to put things down on paper. If you fear writing, try to overcome your fear just by simply making a list, or writing in fragments, jot down words that describe how you feel. If you need to listen to music while you write, find your favorite song or your favorite station on Pandora (or Spotify) and get your thoughts out on paper. Sometimes it is easier to process how we are feeling or what we are thinking if we can write it down.
- Write freely. As an English composition instructor, in the brainstorming process, I encourage my students to write down any ideas that come to mind. Pay no attention at this point to spelling or grammar, sentence fragments or where that comma needs to go. When you are in the early stages of your writing, you can get your ideas out in a mess…and that’s okay. It is your mess, so it may make sense to you. Making a list can help, clustering your ideas, or if you prefer formality, set up your thoughts in an outline. Just write.
These things help me, and who knows, they may help you too. Journaling is powerful and getting your story, your thoughts and feelings out on paper can be powerful too.
Writing can come in a variety of forms…above is a copy of my master’s thesis with some feedback and comments from my amazing thesis director, Dr. Ed Brunner. The other photo is me in an elevator at the University of Kentucky–after checking out their rhetoric and English department. I love learning about writing!