Tag Archives: Journal

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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6 Easy Travel Activities to Enliven Your Writing

August is a popular time to travel, and the hub and I jumped on the bandwagon this month. Our recent trip to see family and friends in NYC allowed us to revisit old haunts and try new ones on for size.

Freedom Tower and Empire views from the SI Ferry
Freedom Tower and Empire views from the SI Ferry

The trip prompted me to write this post about my version of travel writing.  : )

I love to travel. It’s one of my favorite things, right up there with eating, sleeping, reading, writing … you get the idea. The thing is, travel is an incredible learning experience. It gives you the opportunity to discover so much about other places, other people and cultures, other ways of life. And you can learn a great deal about yourself along the way, too. Bonus.

On top of those—in my opinion, fabulous—reasons to traipse the globe, there’s another. If you’re a writer like me, when you return from your adventures, you have the incredible opportunity to share them through words. Which is one of the reasons I call the books I write “adventure mysteries.”

I love incorporating elements of travel, food, people into my stories to add character and depth to the tales. To add a greater level of intrigue and excitement a reader might otherwise not get, or expect to get, from a book.

In my first novel, Emerald Obsession, Lexy explores a Bahamian island, Eleuthera, then returns to Manhattan to solve the mystery of cursed pirate jewels. How fun for me that my vacation in the Bahamas sparked an entire novel. Of course, when you see photos from my stay, you’ll understand the inspiration. Check out this picture, then click the link to my Photographs page for more.

Eleuthera Sunset 2
Eleuthera Sunset

I’m continuing the trend with my second book—still called TB for now—which is set in a couple of fun places, namely the Turks and Caicos and St. Augustine, Florida (shocker, right?). Wait till you read it! ; )

In the meantime, have a look at these six tips for bringing travel to life in your writing.

1—Take lots of photos. They capture the essence of a place, a people, and will refresh your memories and evoke the emotions you experienced while traveling. Besides, you already carry your smart phone, right? So snap away. ; )

2—Keep a travel journal. I find this easiest when I journey solo, but even noting in your cell where you went and when is a good tool for setting scenes, recalling distances and understanding time. Jot down relevant details and pull them out later for a dose of believability.

3—Become a temporary locavore. By far my favorite. Eat, eat, eat and savor the unique flavors and spices, colors and scents of the regional food or cooking style. Use them to saturate your stories with local authenticity.

4—Meet the locals. When possible, have a resident show you around their hometown. Who better to give the inside scoop on all the fabulous particulars of a place than someone who lives there?

5—Stop by specialty events and places; do things you can’t elsewhere. Walk the High Line, a park built on a section of elevated former rail line on Manhattan’s west side. Take in a free beach-side rock concert. Unique experiences are everywhere.

6—Track your journeys on a map, either digitally or old-school-wise on paper. Use your cell’s GPS to get up close with where you’ve been, or stick pins into your wall map to plot your journeys for a great overview.

Brunch
Brooklyn-born brunch
Ferrara
Ferrara’s, Little Italy

 

Night skyline
Night skyline
Ft W
Fort Wadsworth and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

And here’s an extra tip for when you can’t get there in person: use Google maps and zoom in to the street view to get a feel for a place. A note of caution: though maps are accurate, the street-view photos can be out-of-date, so double-check your findings with a second or third source. Try Trip Advisor. So many travelers there, happy to share their favorite, current photos. Have fun with your online journey, too.

Now that you’ve heard my tips for using travel to enliven your writing, please tell me about your experiences. What’s your favorite destination? Or your favorite thing to do while visiting a new place or an old fave? And always a good question: where are you going next? More than half the fun is in the planning and anticipation, right? : ) Share your thoughts in the comment section. I can’t wait for some new travel ideas.

Please tell your friends about my website so they can sign up for my newsletter to read all the latest. And stay tuned for more travel adventures!!

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