Have you heard the term “journaling” before, and thought, no, that Dear Diary stuff is not for me? Well, you wouldn’t be alone and I myself have been a sceptic for most of my life. Many people associate the idea of journaling, with that Dear Diary format, where you’re expected to talk to your imaginary friend, the Diary. However, this is not the case and writing can be a very powerful tool used to help with stress reduction and relaxation.
What is stress?
Stress can be defined as a state of mental, emotional, physical strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. Experiencing some stress is beneficial for everyone, as it motivates and allows us to deal with daily challenges. Stress only becomes an issue when the feeling is constant, without any relief. Although we can’t avoid all stressors, we can give ourselves the tools to be better equipped to handle them.
Writing and Stress Relief
Have you ever found your sleep has been disrupted and you just can’t seem to get it back on track? A factor contributing to this disturbance that is often overlooked, is stress. Our subconscious can inhibit our ability to get a restful night’s sleep because of looming thoughts circling around our brains. But what is that thought or feeling lurking in the back of our heads, keeping us from some well needed Z’s?
Stressors can be minute and don’t necessarily have to feel like you’re shaking with anxiety and frustration. It can be easy to overlook small stressors in our lives that could be influencing us more than we realise. One of the most effective methods of dealing with these stresses is writing. As previously mentioned, most think of this as a diary entry and it absolutely can be, but that’s not all it is. Writing can be completely personalised to what suits you, whether that’s having a Dear Diary entry, scribbling down 1-word feelings, making a mind map, or drawing images of things that might be triggering that stress response. What’s important is finding what’s right for you! Putting that pen to paper might be what finally helps you discover what is causing that niggling feeling in the back of your mind. Have you been avoiding a certain conversation with a friend? Is there a particular task in work that has been getting under your skin? Is it simply that the house has gotten messy? Even simple things that we wouldn’t consider to be “stressful” can disrupt our otherwise, healthy lifestyle.
How to Utilise Writing
- Stream of consciousness: All this means is writing without thinking too much. Whatever pops into your head, put it on paper. Often, you’d be surprised at what comes out.
- Problem solver: Writing down specifically any stresses and choosing what’s in your control and what isn’t. From those in your control, what is the biggest priority and giving yourself some solutions.
- Visualising: This can be in the form of drawings or diagrams. It could be emotions, problems, plans, and again, it completely depends on the person and/or the day.
- Simple and to the point: Writing down one-word answers of how you’re feeling. This can be a good starting point for someone who isn’t fully comfortable delving in too much. This can be after doing a task (how do you feel after completing it?), after exercise (was it tiring? Do you feel accomplished?) or just how you feel at the end of the day.
Where to start?
The above are just options and there is no “right” way of doing this, everyone is different. Have that pen and paper handy for the moments you might need it. Leave it somewhere obvious as a reminder of something you are going to do, like beside your desk in work or on your bedside table in your room. Try making it part of your routine, just before bed or before you go to work in the morning. Light a scented candle, put on some music and give yourself 10/15 minutes to just think about what’s going on in your head. Although it might be hard to start, this doesn’t have to be a chore and can in fact be something you look forward to. What a perfect way to unwind after a long day, boil the kettle, put the feet up and declutter your mind for a well-earned snooze.