1st June 2017Category: Working Carers
You might be thinking ‘why are you mentioning journaling?’ Well I would be slightly sceptical too. I bet you are getting memories of childhood diaries but adult journaling is a great method to de-stress.
For most of my adult life I have been required to write reflective journals as part of qualifications. When learning, they help you look back at experiences (good and bad) and it helps you to learn to become a better practitioner. There were times when I felt rubbish as a Student Social Worker during or immediately after a visit (I was always hard on myself). When you are ‘in the moment’ (a conflict or something new) you are reacting to the situation, there are emotions and thoughts running through your mind. It is only later when you step back from the situation can you look at what happened more rationally and logically.
Writing in a journal gives you space to change your perspective on a situation. It helped me understand how I processed situations, what might have been other factors affecting the situation and how to move forward.
So what is the process of journaling?
Well step 1 is get a pen and notebook; it doesn’t matter on the size of notebook or style, just what works for you. If you like your technology then there are journaling apps. An example of an app for online journaling is Penzu. There is a free or pro version. Here is the link: https://penzu.com/
Once you have your notebook the next decision is; do I write daily or just when something sufficient happens? To be honest to start off with, you might just write the odd thoughts or comments down and then once you get used to writing, build it up.
When writing a reflective journal, you are simply documenting something that has happened in your life that requires you to make a change or consider the impact of your decision. Your journal, in many ways, is a dialogue that you are having with yourself. You are forcing your brain to think critically about something and to produce written words accordingly.
The worst thing you can do to a creative flow is to start inputting criticism before your thought is complete. Allow yourself the time to make a mistake and keep going. Who cares if you didn't phrase that exactly how you should have or you didn't spell that word right? Those things just aren't important here. Find whatever works for you.
However please note that it is not making a list of jobs or tasks you have completed that day or week. For example, I went to Tesco and did the family shop. Rather an example of journaling is; ‘I had a doctor’s appointment today and the minute I said down I started to cry. I have been anxious all week because I have been running around trying to care, being a parent and set up a presentation at work. Looking back I realised I have been spinning too many plates and I need to change something.’
If you write each day it might be that the questions can be about different areas of your life such as:
What do you hope to be doing with your life in a year? What about in a decade?
How do you want to improve yourself?
Or at the end of each day you ask yourself; what are the 3 things I am grateful for today?
If you decide that you will use the journal when you had a tough day (for example you had a tough meeting at work) or you had a good day (special moment when caring for your relative) the questions can be the same. The questions basically allow you to just write, they are prompts.
Prompts could be:
What was the event? Note the facts about what happened and why
Record your reaction- Note how you felt, what you thought, how others felt and behaved.
Think about what you have learned- what might have influenced the event- previous experience, external factors and your situation?
Write down what changes you are going to make- from out of your learning experiences think about what you would do differently next time or how your values may have changed?
Where to put the notebook?
It might be that you start the routine of writing in your notebook at the end of each day when you are in bed. Reflection can help the mind unwind and prepare it for rest. It might be that you keep it in your handbag and at work something has happened and you go for a break and digest the situation and write. Keep it nearby but just do what is right for you.
Do you look back at your notes?
Well for my courses, I had to because I had to write essays on my reflections. However I kept a journal personally later on and I never looked at it again. It is up to you. The idea of a journal is help learn and understand and process events. It might be in a few months or year’s time you look back and see patterns and trends. It could show you how you have changed but to be honest my writing is so messy I would probably struggle to read it anyway.
What are the benefits of writing in a journal?
For me, I carry thoughts and feelings around (sometimes for longer than I should). The longer you carry them around, the heavier they become and it gets to the point where you are stuck or you just get frustrated. Writing in a journal, you can release all of those emotions and thoughts and leave them in the book.
It can also help you detached from that situation. Once you have written it down, it might become clearer what was happening and what you might need to do next. It is a safe place to let it go (starts singing the frozen song).
I may have given you some steps to get started but the best thing is there are no rules. In one entry I remember I started to just write swear words (I was angry if you couldn’t tell) but once I got that out of my system, I started to write about the facts of the event. Then the rational mind came into play. Other days, I might just spend a couple of minutes writing about positive things in my life.
There are scientific reasons to start journaling. The act of writing accesses your left brain, which is analytical and rational. While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to create, intuit and feel. In sum, writing removes mental blocks and allows you to use all of your brainpower to better understand yourself, others and the world around you. It helps you to solve problems more effectively.
Why are you mentioning it for working caring?
Working carers have a lot to juggle, stresses and strains on their lives and sometimes there isn’t an outlet. You might not have a group of supportive people around you or you just want to create a moment of calm for yourself. In a fast paced world this is something, which can slow things down including the mind. There is a lot of emotion involved in caring and sometimes this can cloud our perspective. There can also be misunderstandings in situations. This process helps you to take a step back and see what is happening whilst removing the intensity of the emotions.
Try it for a month and see what can happen. Creating a positive new habit might be tough at the start but the benefits could be just what you needed.