Writing for Self-Care
Writing for self-care is a tool to aid you in investigating rather than reacting to your thoughts and feelings. Journaling and poetry writing might lead you to insights you otherwise would not have.
Writing As Self-Reflection
The idea here is to get into the habit of self-reflection via journaling and poetry writing.
To reflect, you write down what you are thinking and feeling, maybe adding in photos and artwork if it pleases you. Your written content might include your opinions, thoughts and emotions about what is happening/happened, your fears, frustrations and annoyances, what stresses you out, what you hope for, what you are grateful for, etc. It might explore how these things impact you, others around you and your world.
With journaling and poetry, you get to choose what and how often you write.
Sometimes you may feel the need to write, and then not get the urge again for a while. Writing offers a way to slow down and understand what is going on in your mind, to soothe yourself, to elevate your mood, to work through tough memories, to cope with anxiety or depression and more. You may find that the more regular the routine of writing is, the most useful it becomes to your self-care.
For more on the benefits of journaling …
See C. Ackerman, 83 Benefits of Journaling for Depression, Anxiety and Stress(positivepsychology.com). If you’ve decided to keep a journal, but you’re not sure how to go about it, the article also offers tips, ideas and prompts that you might find helpful.
My Self-Care Journaling Journey
I started writing for self-care when my kids were young. I felt emotions and thoughts and was facing scenarios as a parent that were new to me. I needed to process these things, but I didn’t want to process them with anyone else quite yet.
During those times, I would use journaling as a way to move my “heart and mind” content of the day to paper (or the computer screen), so I could see it all in front of me and make sense of it. Writing it out helped me figure out what I did want to share with others and what I didn’t. It was useful in identifying strategies that might help me, my spouse and kids deal with issues, that before seemed too big to address. So, journaling was a useful “go-to” tool for me to get more clarity in the present, before I delved further into an issue, as well as when I needed to re-group and re-strategize.
In contrast, writing more recently has become more of a lifeline for me for getting through hard times. I find myself sometimes writing several times a day, then once a day, then maybe not for a few days, and then yo-yo back to multiple times a day. So, although I write only as the need strikes, writing has become a habit that I am intentionally using to help myself pause in difficult and stressful situations, find a palatable way to frame my thoughts and feelings, and cultivate wiser responses than I would without it.
The logistics of writing for me:
- While in theory, I prefer journaling with pen and paper, in a pretty book, that is not how it plays out for me. But it might for you—I know some of you are in love with paper products and pens of all sorts, and journaling give you a place to play with them. Typing my thoughts and feelings out raw on a computer just works better for me. I like the no frills approach—I can get it out and be done with it.
- I keep a dated log, and just add to it as I can. I remind myself that I can say whatever I want in it—nothing is off limits to talk about or say. In some cases, vomiting up words is what I need in a moment. I also give myself permission to do what I want with the content. For example, I have deleted some journal entries that are particularly painful or embarrassing to reread. Sometimes, rather than posting a new topic, I pick up threads from a previous entry and think or feel them out more.
- I also have a tendency to add in research, such as URLs and websites that address a topic I was exploring.
See below for examples of mindful writing prompts you can use to facilitate your journaling, if you choose.
Adding Poetry as a Form of Expression
Of late, I have felt compelled to write poetry as a way to express deep feelings and thoughts. The words about those feelings and thoughts flow through me, without demanding sentences and paragraphs. For me, there is a rhythmic feel to the words forming the poetry and an urge for certain words and groups of words to have their own lines; some even need to be indented.
There is a freedom and force in poetry writing that I don’t get with or need from journaling. E. Torres, Your Guide to Writing Poetry as a Form of Self-Care (thegoodtrade.com), puts it this way: “ … A journal asks, “what have you done today?” while a poem asks, “how do you feel about it?” Torres views poetry as a vehicle to help her connect with the world, be present and get to know herself in a new way.
For more on poetry writing as self-care, see the above link.
Reach out the Mindful Counseling Center if you are interested in assistance in incorporating creative expression into therapy or your self-care practices.
Article by Kristin Littel.