I just stumbled across this post that I had drafted in February. Coincidentally, I’ve been going through the motions over the last days and in searching for ways to ease my stress and anxiety, I once again ended up with my journal that I hadn’t touched in weeks.

Rereading my journals has become one of the most helpful practices in my life.

After all, nobody knows you better than yourself. Every time you let a new person into your life, trying to help you, you have to start from scratch, explaining to them who you are, how you ‘tick,’ and what matters to you. And most of the time, you’ll be left with the realization that no matter how much you explain yourself to a person, they will never fully understand you.

I want to add here that I do think talking to a counselor, therapist, or coach can be incredibly helpful in its own ways. Sometimes, you are so honed into your own thinking that you cannot see your world from another perspective. You might not know all the tools that there are to get better. You might need someone to spark that feeling of motivation and hope in you and give you some direction. I’m writing this because you might not be able to go to therapy for whatever reason that is.

So back to the journals.

Every time I reread my journals, I find inner peace. I also usually get very emotional and am reliving the memory of my pain and suffering. That will then bring me back to the present, and I will realize that those moments have passed and that I am in a different moment right now, even if it will feel similar to some previous situations.

I acknowledge that I have worked a lot on myself. And even if at the point that I am reading this, it doesn’t feel like that did anything to help me, seeing the effort will give me the feeling that I am acting at least and now standing still. I am working on my personal growth, and even if I’m hitting rock bottom, I know that I have been in different stages and states before.

The other day, I found a whole list of practices that I’ve tried over the years. I had made an Excel sheet and had written what I got out of the practices. And despite not following up on all of the practices anymore these days, I appreciate all the work that I put in.

So what I do with my journal these days? I don’t journal daily anymore, but more whenever I feel the need to bring it up. Often when I feel down, I feel low in self-esteem and lonely. Writing on paper soothes me as it’s a welcoming distraction from screens that seem to suck the life out of me and my eyes these days (working from home and being glued to it, that is). The slow movement of a pen over paper is consoling to me as I feel like I’m sorting things out.

  1. I take my journal and do a ‘thought dump.’ It’s like a big mind map of all these random ruminating thoughts that are circulating through my mind. Like this, you can look at your thoughts from a more distant perspective, which can help you gain clarity over them. 

  2. If I have the mental energy, I will write some questions regarding the points above – My previous coach shared the concept of ‘quality questions‘ with me, and I love it. Quality questions refer to meaningful reflective questions regarding your problem that you can then ponder over and dig deeper into what’s really going on. Often, a problem is not what it seems, but there are layers and layers of other issues and reasons underneath.

  3. If that’s not possible (because I don’t feel like it all the time, let’s be honest), then I’m trying to take another step back and look at the BIGGER PICTURE. Will these things matter in a year from now? Have I had these fears, worries before and know they will eventually fade? Should I thus spend my time worrying about this? Note that I said worry – usually, the bad and uncomfortable feelings will last. They won’t magically disappear, but the ruminating worrying might lessen a little. 

  4. To stop feeling sorry for myself, I will make a list of the things I’m grateful for. I used to write down what I was grateful for daily, and though it doesn’t automatically make me love life again immediately (just being honest here), it will show you this tiny, tiny light in this whole messy darkness. It might be big enough to accept the state that I’m in and that once I get through this, I can focus on the things I’m grateful for again. These things might be the most mundane, e.g., my apartment with space all for myself, the new plant that I bought and haven’t killed yet, the 15-min workout I managed myself to do despite wanting to stay under the covers, etc.

  5. I do allow myself to release any emotion that comes up. I used to think crying made me a weak person. These days I find crying a very freeing practice. I actually wrote a blog post about this and didn’t post it on any social media because I felt so vulnerable. Still, people managed to find it, and it’s one of my most-read posts now. In the post, I’m writing about how I embrace crying and make it a mindful practice and coping mechanism. I’m feeling vulnerable in sharing it here again, but I am hoping it will benefit someone.

  6. Reflecting on previous valuable experiences can bring a little more light into your state – I like to browse through my photos from living and traveling abroad. They might create a whole snowball of nostalgia, but ultimately, they also remind me that even though life wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies back then, I count these as genuinely valuable times of my life.

If you’ve never journaled, then congrats for reading through all of this. If you have, maybe this will motivate you to pick up your pen again. I feel like the longer lockdown gets, the more the overall mood in the world is going down, and this is just a little thing that can help us get through this.

If you’re interested in some prompts, check out the following

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