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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Using Journal Writing to Reduce Stress

Apr 29, 2020 06:58PM ● By Nancy Andres
We are living in difficult times, and statistics and news reports about the COVID-19 virus may challenge our coping capacities. Our routines have been disrupted and our face-to-face social connections are on hold for now. That’s why it’s key to check in with ourselves daily to find life affirming ways to nurture our mental, physical, spiritual and emotional health and thrive.
Journaling can be a great stress reducer. A journal is more than just a place to document experiences and record thoughts. Studies indicate that journaling helps us get in touch with many of our concerns. Journal writing can help us process troubling thoughts or feelings, and transform our attitude and behavior from fear and lack to ease, grace and abundance.
A 2013 study published in Journal of Affective Disorders showed an everyday expressive writing practice is associated with significant decreases in generalized anxiety disorder symptoms, including worry and depression. Despite the advantages of journal writing, we may hesitate to start a personal journal and are unsure about where to begin.
The key is to take a leap and write the first one or two words on a pristine page. The rest will follow. No need to create extra tension thinking of how, when or where to journal. No need to buy a fancy journal. Any notebook, journal or bound book will do. Any comfortable place to sit will work.
For best results, be mindful while opening the journal, lift a pen or colored pencils and put pen to paper. This tactile, meditative way of writing helps ground us and acknowledge our feelings and frame of mind. Writing things out awakens our senses, and anchors us to the here and now.
As a starting point, we can use journal writing to express sadness, loss or any worrisome thoughts we have about losing our livelihood, getting ill or distress about others succumbing to this disease. We need to be kind, caring and compassionate with ourselves by affirming “we have a right to our feelings”. In turn, it helps to recall that millions of people are challenged right now. We can use this information to be compassionate for them as well. 
Releasing our pain out onto the page and then ripping the page out of the book and shredding or burning it in a safe receptacle is a symbol to our mind and body that we have let it go. This purging process creates space for healing. We may then be able to journal in detail about our progress, hopeful signs, small victories and dreams for the future. Focusing on positive aspects helps us feel relief, or at least gives us the endurance to deal with the new normal of hand-washing, social isolating and precautionary health measures.
Once we do that, we can choose to recognize and record our gratitude for having the motivation or willingness to walk, run or exercise in nature or indoors, eat healthy food, work from home and feel gratitude for first responders, merchants, farmers, delivery people and the dedicated people who are keeping our communities going.
Wherever we are at the moment, journaling can help us feel better about ourselves and today. Personal journal writing is a skill and art—one that can be practiced daily for free. After all, a journal may prove to be akin to having a superb friend or coach, a confidant who is available to listen respectfully and without advice giving, whenever needed.
Taking a few moments a day to journal can be empowering. It is a dedicated place to write down the pros and cons of issues, sort through options and select a course of action. When we do the footwork to still our minds and create peace within, we can focus on being part of a caring global community that comes together for our common good. Use journals to reap rewards of enhanced health and well-being today.

Nancy Andres, Health & Lifestyle Writer, is the author of the self-care journal Colors of Joy: A Woman’s Guide for Self-Discovery, Balance, and Bliss. Her word for this year is kindness, and she aims to improve the quality of peoples’ lives through her writing, wellness blogging and workshops. Connect at [email protected] and