Category Archives: Stress Management

Stress Management and the Zen of Journaling

People live with varying amounts of stress, and I totally admit I make my share too easily, despite my intention to simplify things. Is that ironic? No, probably just slow learning on my part. But what starts out simple often morphs into something complex faster than I can keep up.

Case in point: this is (one of) my April blog(s)—that’s a whole other story right there, the tale of my lost second blog of the month—and here I am, posting it in May.

Should I mention this post was prompted by learning that April is Stress Awareness Month? Well, there you go. Welcome, May; hello, Stress, I am aware of you; and, am I on the ball these days or what?

Despite the date, I wanted to share this post because I’m pretty damn sure everyone can relate to the stress in their lives getting out of hand now and again. Worse, perhaps way more often than that. And while I’m no police officer or doctor or someone who holds others’ lives in their hands, stress is real and evident in each person’s life to varying degrees, and that stress needs a release before it takes a physical, mental, emotional toll on a person.

Having said my little piece about that, life—as ever, it seems—has been a tad taxing, so I’d like to share how journaling helps me cope.

On one level, writing is stress-inducing because I’m striving to make my living with it. Learning the intricacies of publishing, marketing, blogging? Switching mental gears from the other aspects of everyday life to something creative? Creating compelling stories to share in the hopes readers will enjoy them? No stress there. ; )

On the flip side, writing is incredibly stress-relieving in another form. I’m talking about journaling, keeping a diary. Or in my world, AKA writing to a therapist without paying for one. ; )

I’ve kept a journal, diary or daily calendar for most of my life. Doing so goes back to my first real diary, which still lives somewhere in my mom’s basement in a dusty cardboard box with my name scrawled in black Sharpie on the outside. Prior to receiving that journal, I vaguely recall using cute, pink notebooks (Hello, Kitty, anyone?) for my scribblings. But being presented with that book—a most-cherished gift—was a turning point.

The perfect-bound book is small but meaty. It’s about 4 inches wide by 5 tall, an inch thick with lavender-lined, white pages dated for every day of the year. No year, though, just days, and I wrote in the diary for many years, on and off, when the mood struck and the need great. When I look at the pages now, I see the rounded loops of my childish cursive mingling with the flatter scrawl of my “grown-up” script.

The cover looks like bleached leather, off-white and semi-smooth, with the word “Diary” debossed in gold lettering.

But perhaps the best part of this notebook was the tiny lock and key that protected all my secrets. That lock freed me. Finally, I had a place to pour out my heart without fear of ridicule or retaliation. For a sensitive young girl like me, that was gold in paper form.

I didn’t understand at the time, but that diary would help me in immeasurable ways. Writing as a career can be exceedingly stressful, but writing for passion, for catharsis, is one of the best stress reducers I know. And a handy side effect: journaling is practically free.

For those of you who’ve not journaled yet, I encourage you to try. Maybe the best part is that you can (and perhaps should) write about anything. When I write in my calendar or a spiral notebook—my diary of choice these days because it opens flat—I’ll jot whatever comes to mind. Sometimes what happened during the day, what new food I made, or what errands I ran. I might segue into a mini rant on the bad drivers around me. Or a musing on the nice person in line who pointed out I’d dropped a five-dollar bill.

Journal and coffee

In its longer form, my notebook holds nighttime secrets, dream depictions that lingered until the next morning. Lots of folks are big into dream analysis; I’m intrigued by that, and I try to note my more unique experiences, either to try to decipher them or simply for later amusement. Whenever I die, whoever reads those dream notebooks will have a field day with my mental state, I’m sure.

Anyhoo, my point is writing in this manner is a release. Putting words to paper releases the emotion—good and bad—that fills my day. When it’s good, writing it solidifies the feeling and helps me enjoy it longer. When it’s bad emotion (stress), I’m able to channel it away to a large extent.

Remember Julia Roberts’s line from Pretty Woman? “The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?” It’s always stayed with me because I feel like the bad stuff is also what really sticks with us. Too often, the good stuff falls by the wayside, easily forgotten or overtaken by some other worrisome feeling. So, writing the good stuff is how I enjoy and retain that happy feeling, how I focus on the good when all the mayhem tries to sneak in and overwhelm me.

And writing the bad stuff is how I expel my anger, alleviate the immediate pressure, vent my sadness and confusion and worry. When I need to, I can return to my spewage later to evaluate my reaction, to understand why I responded as I did. To view my stress from a safe distance and work through my problems with a clearer head. Wow, talk about handy.

So, readers, does any of this resonate with you? Who of you have journaled or written in a diary of any form? It’s a practice I’ll keep for my entire life, I’m sure. I hope you found something useful in this post, and that maybe I’ve offered a reason for you to start scribbling in a diary or notebook. It does wonders! Please share your thoughts below. Thanks, and have a brilliant day.

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