“In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself.” ~Susan Sontag
I wish I had a magic wand and could tell you what will happen with the coronavirus and how it will impact each of us, but I don’t. What I plan to do with this blog and future blogs is share techniques that have worked for me during other challenging times. I hope they offer you some ideas, practices and ways to cope. Plus, I hope that after each blog post, you click on Comment and share your ideas on the topic, so we can all learn and grow because we are all in this together.
I grew up in a dysfunctional family. As a child, I thought that if I just controlled everything at home, then things would be fine and my parents wouldn’t be angry, drink or give me the “silent treatment.” I tried to be the perfect child, kept the house clean, cooked the meals, stayed quiet and didn’t make a mess. I falsely believed that I had control over life situations and their outcome. However, as I have matured (okay at least aged), I have come to understand that I didn’t have any control over my home life as a child and I don’t have control over anything in my life now except my reaction to what is happening. We are living in uncertain times, no one knows what is going to happen. Even if you didn’t grow up in a dysfunctional family, most of us try to control life and we plan and think if we do X, Y, and Z then everything will be fine and we will be secure and happy. Covid-19 is teaching all of us that we are not in control.
One of the ways I have dealt with uncertain times in my life is through journaling. Daily journaling is the best, but the reality is that I only get to it a few days a week. Journaling allows me to express exactly what I am feeling, without filters, as I know that no one else is going to read what I write. I can express my anger, rage, fears, depression, anxiety or any other emotion I am experiencing. My cousin, Ashley Updegraff, just wrote a passionate Pandemic blog entry about how mad, sad and worried she is about the current situation. Ashley shares, "It’s okay for you to voice your frustration and your anger and your grief. It’s okay for you to share your worries and concerns. It’s more than okay—it’s necessary." You don’t have to share what you are writing with anyone like she did, but the point is that she authentically expressed what she is feeling and so should you.
Expressing emotions is very important, because as I child I learned that we should stuff our emotions. As an adult, I know that stuffing emotions is bad for our health and it invalidates our feelings. Suppressing emotions puts physical stress on the body that can lead to issues with memory, aggression, anxiety and depression. Journaling helps me to validate my feelings and express them so I get them out and they do not become trapped in my body. Many times, just expressing my emotions in the journaling process makes me feel better. I also use journaling to express positive emotions and all I am grateful for in life.
A journal is a listening device. It is our friend. Mina Murray states, “Journaling is like whispering to one's self and listening at the same time.” As I journal, answers or ideas about ways to deal with my anger or worries come to me through the pen. I don’t always get the answers right away, but if I pay attention and am open to listening for answers they appear in unique ways. I might get an email message or text that has just what I need to hear, or I am with a friend who shares something they learned and it was just what I was writing about in my journal. The more often I journal, the more easily the answers come to me.
If you don’t currently have a journaling practice, you might want to know how to start. I just simply start free-flow writing. I set a minimum limit of two pages of college-ruled paper or you can set a time limit. You can set a 10-minute timer if that works better as a minimum – I usually write longer than that, but if you are just beginning you want to make sure you don’t give up too soon. I don’t judge what I am writing, I just let it flow. In the beginning, I would write things like “I don’t know why I am writing. I don’t have anything to say.” But, as I continued to write the thoughts that popped into my head, the deeper issues, fears, concerns or gratitude would start to come out. As with anything in life, it takes practice. I know some people find it difficult, but I think it is worth giving it a chance to see the benefits. Now is the perfect time to try journaling if you are quarantined. Give it a try and see if it works for you.
Share your journaling process and how it helps you process the uncertainties of life.
Peggy Steffens is an artist and Chopra Certified Meditation Instructor
My goal is to build a community with like-minded individuals who want to grow, share and learn from one another. Please post comments to enrich the experience for all.