Journal writing is amazing!

journalYou don’t have to be a good writer to enjoy journaling.

There are many ways to write a journal.  The word derives from the French word Jour – day, and is a daily record of your thoughts, feelings and experiences, similar but different from a diary.  A journal is very individual and private. Journals can be shared as in student journals and reflective practise journals, but in this article I am looking at personal life journals that are useful to give you an overview of your life, to express yourself and to find your own way of coping and improving your self esteem.

 

My Experience of journal writing

I wrote a 5 year diary from the age of 15 to 20, dwindling entries the older I grew!  Looking back at it now is fascinating and gives me insight into how I was many years ago.  Even in this I can see themes, values and indicators of how I made decisions.  For many years I continued to write diaries, often only when in distress or when there was a huge momentous experience.  I found it helpful to write short notes and these have proved so useful in understanding myself later in life.  At the time the journal offered me a means of expression, to off load the harsh or strong emotions.  Reading later on it gives me so much more than I ever dreamed of:  a snapshot of events, people, communications that were important, that helped to create the person I am now.

 

Writing a journal helps you to know yourself.  It allows the unconscious to surface and be heard privately.  This is a release and can be a freeing and spiritual experience.

 

Start with your life story!

When working with clients I ask them to buy a beautiful book as a journal. Something they love and relate to as it will accompany them on their journey.  I suggest they think about their life in roughly 5 year chunks and write down the significant events, highs and lows briefly (without analysing too much), who influenced them, who they loved/disliked, what was happening, the peak moments, where they lived/went to school/uni/work etc.  A general view.

This takes some time and there is no rush.  There is no need to be a brilliant writer – just jot down words, phrases, there is no need to be perfect here! You can embellish the story with photos and mementos too if you like!

 

If you can’t remember, then if you feel happy to, ask friends or relatives about things, it all helps in connecting and remembering.  When working as an Occupational Therapist with older clients I spent hours creating Life Stories for patients with Alzheimers or Dementia with the help of their families.  These were so precious in honouring the person within and helping care staff to respect and understand them.

 

Other ideas

Journals are great for just about anything you have on your mind.  Use them as a depository to dump the thoughts and ideas, jot notes and lists.  Answers to questions or questions to find answers to.  I have a list of questions if people are stuck for ideas such as:

 

What am I most grateful for?

What were the 5 happiest moments in my life?

What was my saddest moment?

Who is really important to me?

What is my secret dream?

If I had all the money, time and energy I need what would I do?

 

There are 100’s of questions to get you flowing.

 

Make Space in your life for writing your journal

Create a regular time to write in your journal.  It may be daily at bedtime or weekly on Thursday evening – find a way that fits well for you.  In times of stress journal writing can be a fantastic relief and will help you focus and clarify where to channel your energy.

 

7 reasons to write a journal:

  1. It gives you an overview of your whole life
  2. You can see the highs and lows without analysing
  3. You understand how you make decisions and what influences you
  4. You can recognise your role models, inspirations and influences
  5. It helps you understand what you value, love and need in life
  6. It helps you to understand what you do not want in life
  7. It helps to give you clarity, focus and direction.

Alongside journal writing creating a visual representation of your dreams and goals is wonderful.  My next article will be on the benefits of creating a Dream Board (Vision board/Treasure Map).

If you would like to work on improving your self esteem I offer an individual course as part of my life coaching sessions in person or over the telephone.  This course has helped many people find out who they really are, accept themselves and feel comfortable in their own skin.  For a free 15 minute discussion just call me on 01803 847674 or 07779496240

The Importance of Self-Care

seaWhat is Self-Care?

Self care can mean so many things but put simply it is the ability to look after yourself.  Many things can interrupt our ability to do this basic task including illness, disability, pressure of time, lack of money, safe environments, motivation and self-love.

On a basic level self-care includes feeding, cleaning, dressing, organising our lives and our time.  On a higher level it includes nurturing our higher-level abilities such as our intellect, spirituality, and connectedness to loved ones, our environment and feeling our place in the world.

As babies we are born dependent on our parents or carers.  Gradually as we develop from the child into the adult we learn from them and others how to be independent and look after ourselves. If we are lucky our caregivers have role modelled the need for self-nurturance and we have this in our repertoire.   However many of us slip from the child into the parental role of carer and giver and seem to skip over the need to care for ourselves.

What happens when we don’t care for ourselves:

When we become overwhelmed, tired out and stressed it suddenly dawns on us that we have forgotten to take some time to look after ourselves.  It can be work that causes this lack of awareness:  perhaps we are starting a new career/family or business and are very focussed.  Time is stretched to the limit and deadlines loom daily. At times such as this self-care falls very low on our priority lists.  But, if we ignore our essential need for ‘time for ourselves’ we pay the price.  There is a fine balance between what is just about manageable and what will cause a breakdown or burnout. Many conscientious and extremely commendable people have gone on just that step too long and have ended up totally exhausted, drained or seriously ill.  Recognising the need to care for yourself is the best way to manage your stress long term.

Not only does is give you space to stop and think, review and adjust your life but it also allows you to check out the direction you are heading to ensure you are in line with your core values.  We sometimes find ourselves driven towards something that doesn’t hold the meaning it did when we first started.  Like all goal setting we need to recognise the necessity for flexibility and keep checking our goals are in line with our current life, hopes, dreams and values.

 

Here are six simple steps to improve your self-care:

  • Recognise when you are overburdened and stop doing something. This may involve making crucial choices to prioritise the most important things on your to do list.  If you have perfectionist tendencies this will be a challenge!  But the answer is the 3 D’s:  dump it, do it or delegate.  If you can’t do it, cross it off the current to do list.  Make a little space to stop.
  • Buy a special personal journal and start writing. Just let if flow, it can be your life story, how you feel, what you want, anything initially to get the juices going.  Life story work can be really helpful (more of this in my next article).  Writing ideas/problems/worries/successes down really helps you to express yourself privately and moves the barrage of thoughts onto paper where they can be released.  This is cathartic and freeing.
  • Learn to say “NO” nicely! Many of us tend to say yes when we mean no to all sorts of requests and demands.  Learn to take a moment to think before you say yes.  If necessary answer a request you are unsure about by offering to call back at a more convenient time. It is very important to value your own time and the telephone/computer can become the never ending time waster!
  • Set your self some boundaries on how you use your time. Review an average day and write down what you actually do.  An hourly time sheet will be useful.  Then analyse where all your time goes.  Decide what is important and what isn’t and then device strategies to save time in order to do the important activities.  E.g. if time with your children is important but you always finish work late and suffer regret and guilt.  Then make it your obsession to finish work on time.  Focus on the fact you will have that extra hour to spend with the kids and the joy for you and them. Recognise what is really meaningful to you.
  • What makes you feel good? Have a good think – it could be small simple things such as painting your toenails or walking in the countryside.  There are many small activities that helps us feel good – make a list of your happiness buffers and ensure you do at least one a day.
  • Decide to be mindful. Instead of rushing around at top speed, slow down.  Start by listening to your breathing, something we are often unaware of.  The breath is so important to being alive and we take it for granted.  By focussing on our breathing:  we can calm ourselves down, slow it down, make it deeper, just for a minute or two.  Look around you and really notice your surroundings.  Stop speed-reading through your life.

In my next article I will elaborate on the benefits of using a personal journal to enhance your life.  If you feel overwhelmed by a deluge of responsibilities and would like to find a way of easing your situation I offer an initial free session bookable on www.mentaline.com/kathrynharris/.