Journaling Our Journey
“For me, there have been times when the act of writing has been an act of faith, a spit in the eye of despair. Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life,” -- Stephen King, American author, about his recovery from severe injuries suffered when hit by a van.
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Journaling is a key part of a daily self-care routine. When we journal, we become conscious of our mental state, physical condition and surroundings. Keeping these three aspects of life in daily focus gives us perspective on the here-and-now which is crucial to planning and perceiving the future.
Besides self-awareness, journaling provides other strong benefits including better sleep, a higher I.Q., and a healthier immune system, according to research by psychologists Rebecca Helm, and Joshua Smyth, Ph.D., of Syracuse University. Helm and Smyth found that focused expressive writing (FEW) about emotions and stress can boost immune functions. For many of us, regulating our immune system is a daily priority.
Writing is therapeutic. It helps us separate the real from the unreal. When dealing with chronic illness, it is easy to become obsessed with being sick, which can take us down a rabbit hole that requires effort to exit. Journaling doesn’t eliminate the aches and pains of serious illness; it allows us to put them in perspective and see around them.
One place to start may be to set the timer for ten minutes and record every disease you do not have. If you have difficulty getting started, watch a few pharmaceutical commercials on television, and you’ll start feeling grateful that you don’t suffer from all those maladies.
My personal journaling process has evolved during the past twenty months. I’ve learned there is no right or wrong way to write. Journaling serves our understanding of where we are and where we want to go. It helps identify fears by giving them a name, and it identifies our strengths and advantages.
“So what should we write in our journal?” This is a frequently asked question from friends, caregivers, and medical professionals. My answer, is, “sometimes I write that I don’t know what to write and that opens the flood gates.” The therapeutic effect of writing does not always come from specific content. It comes from tapping into a stream of consciousness and bringing it to the surface
Memory jogs also help the journaling process. As an example, my current (subject to frequent changes) journaling template arrives every morning at 4:00 AM through my Evernote computer application. It’s automatic, and I can access it on my desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or phone. This accessibility removes all the excuses for not journaling first thing in the morning. Well, almost first-thing, coffee, and reviewing my calendar precede a look at my Evernote template. An early morning start keeps journaling top-of-mind throughout my day, as my activities shape relevant daily entries. Perhaps an evening reflection may be best for you. Or a mid-day reset. The key is to set a time every day for the self- reflection and motivation journaling provides.
Here’s an example of yesterday’s template.
My Daily Journal – May 23, 2020, at 04:00 AM
What did I learn yesterday?
Three things I’m grateful for . . .
I am feeling . . .
I am . . . (Affirmations)
What makes me smile?
What am I reading?
What are my “Someday/Maybe” aspirations?
Living in harmony with chronic illness requires a holistic practice including meditation, exercise, journaling, etc. Recording our journey’s thoughts, emotions, fears, and joys adds to the cosmic soup required for healing.
Thinking back when I was in the midst of things, I didn’t just have ONE thing that doctors could pinpoint and diagnose, hence the delay. Indicators kept accumulating into a big pile of horrendously, painful symptoms that came together to make up GPA vasculitis.