If you are struggling with COVID-19, then I hear you. Living life, or attempting to live life at this time isn’t easy, and you can be forgiven if you feel any number of emotions from deflated, to lost to even contemplating the big questions about life and why we are here.
Midway through week 7 of lockdown and COVID-19, with no light at the end of the tunnel, and a lack of human contact and interaction, you may be struggling to cope. Even if you are surrounded by family or your partner, you can still find it difficult to have to spend all day and night with your loved ones with no means of escape.
Despite my knowledge and understanding of resilience and mindset, I had what I refer to as human responses.
During week 3 of COVID-19, I sat with big fat tears rolling down my face one Sunday and into the roast dinner I cooked for myself. In my heart, I experienced so much pain that I couldn’t be with my parents who lived a 4-hour car journey away.
At times like this, I wholeheartedly encourage you to go with the flow! These emotions are like water, flowing downhill and a healthy release within us. It’s often said that we feel better after a good cry. And if we don’t honour these emotions, and instead try and repress them, they will find a way to come out. A little like water breaks through a dam.
At other times however, it can be helpful to look at ways to regulate our emotions and for me, journaling has always been a powerful way to achieve this.
This week I woke up feeling flat.
I felt like I’d lost my Rasa Sayang as they say in Indonesia – my loving feeling or zest for life.
Groundhog Day didn’t even begin to describe what I was feeling and I could sense the emotions welling up inside me as I sat and journaled.
What is Journaling?
I have always loved to journal and like to think of my journals as Bridget Jones meets the Dalia Lama (I’m sure he would appreciate that compliment!).
I always kept a journal when I went travelling for long periods, but my daily journaling practice started 10 years ago when I began to study Solution Focused Psychotherapy and Hypnotherapy.
As I explain to my clients, journaling isn’t so much about keeping a diary. Journaling is more about capturing your thoughts down on paper.
I journal every day and it’s the first thing I do in the morning. Even if I have to be up and out the door (in normal circumstances!), I’ll wake up that bit earlier to allow me to capture the stream of consciousness that is my mind onto paper. This practice is described as ‘Morning Pages‘ in the Artists Way.
For me, my journal is like my best friend. I tell my journal everything. What I’m feeling, what ideas I have, what’s lifting me, what’s pulling me down, what I’ve learnt, what’s inspired me, what experiences I’ve had – you name it, it all goes into my journal.
How Journaling Has Helped Me – And Can Help You
On Tuesday instead of getting on with my ‘normal’ Groundhog work day I sat back and reflected on what I needed deep down. How could I nurture myself? How could I feed my soul?
I pushed aside thoughts about what I ‘should’ be doing and recognised if I tried to sit and work, I’d be as useful as a chocolate teapot.
So sat in my PJs I proceeded to pull every journal I had off the book shelf and began to read.
My journals go back around 10 years, so I have built up a good many!
You know that feeling that you get when you lose yourself in a book? You become so immersed in the story and the character. Reading is one of my favourite pastimes, but this time I was reading about myself. My journey. My adventure. And through it, I took myself back to why was I doing what I was doing. I rediscovered the excitement I had experienced when I first started working with people. How blessed I felt to know how to help people.
I spent the day reading through my early journals which served as a reminder to keep doing what I was doing. Setting up my own business was a challenge. I had no idea of how to run a business, I just knew that I needed to take the knowledge I had gained into the world. As I turned each page I was reminded of how I had got through challenging times. A reminder of my strength.
My journals also served as a strong reminder of how far I had come, and just how much I had grown as a person both personally and professionally. What lessons I’d learned, old limiting beliefs I’d released, the insights into my mind I’d gained.
I took great comfort in reading about the people I had met along the way, people who had touched my life in some way.
Overall what struck me was how, even during times of struggle, heartache and fear I was always being divinely guided.
Not only has daily journaling helped me to regulate my emotions by slowing down the stream of consciousness that is the mind, and capturing my thoughts and feelings on paper, but those journals have tracked my journey over the past decade. Reading back over them is like seeing a visible map of where I have come from and what I need to do to keep moving in the right direction.
How Journaling Can Support You
The beautiful thing about journaling is that there is no right way of doing it and no wrong way of doing it.
Clients sometimes tell me ‘I don’t know what to write!’. I encourage them that this is normal. We spend so much time living in our head and dancing around our thoughts, that to start to assemble your thoughts and put them down on paper can take a little practice.
Some days you may only feel the need to write half a page. Other times, and especially when you get into the flow of it, you can find yourself writing page after page.
Personally, I have found that journaling provides the space to ask myself questions. When I am writing about what I am thinking and feeling, I can reflect on why that is the case. To challenge my thoughts and look for ways to reframe what I am feeling. I also find it a wonderful way to soothe myself, to write to myself as my own personal champion or best friend, encouraging me – like a sports coach cheering you on from the sidelines.
When you start to journal regularly you will find that the mind becomes calmer. You are less likely to be at odds with your thoughts because you have captured them on paper, and as a result, have also helped to process some of the emotion that is attached to those thoughts.
When you have become comfortable with journaling, you will also see opportunities to work on emotional blocks. Most of the time, your emotional responses to situations are simply the result of old conditioned responses based on past experiences and limiting beliefs you still hold. Journaling can help you to see this, to spot the themes and patterns by which you are running your life. Even creating this level of awareness is extremely liberating.
When you start to identify these emotional themes, you can, like me, use powerful techniques such as EFT Tapping to help you work through these. When you let go of old stagnant emotions and emotional responses, you will begin to create a new inner emotional blueprint that empowers to you respond to situations from a different space – a space of calm and clarity, therefore enabling you to change how you behave.
Journaling For Beginners
The easiest way to begin journaling is to simply start!
I love to journal in a beautiful hardback notebook because I find it adds to the experience. I don’t recommend keeping a journal on your phone or laptop because the brain processes information differently when you write compared to when you type. The brain waves slow down more when you are writing with a pen and paper and that’s what you need to help you process your thoughts and feelings in a much more effective way.
Don’t worry about getting this ‘right’. You don’t have to journal every day. You may find you start with the practice once a week and then build up from there.
I like to journal first thing in the morning with my coffee, but again, there’s no wrong or right time, just do what works for you. I may find myself journaling at the end of the day too if there is something I want to capture about the day.
During this time of heightened emotion, there has never been a better time to start to journal, so get a notebook, take yourself off somewhere and discover how journaling is not only good for the soul but can change your life.
Sara Maude is an Edinburgh Hypnotherapist, Solution-Focused Psychotherapist, EFT Practitioner, Transformational Coach and International Wellbeing Trainer providing in-person and online sessions. Sara provides problem-free therapy which goes deep into the heart of the unconscious mind to create powerful lasting change.