You say you’re stressed, distressed, and don’t know what to do next? Are you filled with anxiety, grief, doubt, depression and confusion? For your own mental health, this is the time to get out an old-fashioned pen or pencil, a pad of paper, and write, long hand, as much as you can. Long, stream of consciousness, totally uncensored writing, raw with every misspelling, grammatical mistake, and rule ignored.
Most writers are familiar with this process, because that is how we make sense of the world. We just write.
Don’t even read what you wrote for a while. Just write, day after day, for days, weeks, even months. At some point you will want to go back and read what you wrote, but not until you have enough written that you will be able to see the full arc of your thoughts and feelings.
Don’t let anyone else read your journal either, or you will find yourself writing to your audience, which means you will edit yourself. You can always share what you wrote at some later date.
When should you write? First thing in the morning, while you are still groggy with sleep is a good time to write, as you are then unlikely to edit yourself. Write anything. Write how stupid it is to write when you have nothing to say. Write about your cat getting in your way of writing, because she wants to be in your lap. Write about your frustrations, fears, hopes and dreams.
Some people recommend writing with your less dominant hand, resulting in a childish scrawl, and it is said, childish feelings and memories. Write any time you are filled with strong emotion that overcomes your inclination to hold back.
As I go along, I will put a mark next to information that I consider really important to key on later. Right now, I am looking for problems and their solutions. Why not just make a list? I would if I knew what problems I had.
Things reveal themselves in a very subtle way in a journal. You might not even know how really annoyed you are with all the clutter the family leaves around your work-space, until you see you have mentioned it here and there. This is something fixable. That thing waking you up every night at 3 a.m. might not be under your control to fix, but maybe you can find a way to help the situation.
You will learn how you really feel about things. Don’t jump to the conclusion that you already know. People are notorious for discounting or minimizing their feelings. How can you address an issue without really admitting the depth of feeling you have.
Even if you never read over what you have written, your writing will have helped to clarify your feelings and thinking. This is why mental health professionals recommend writing in a journal. But rather than toss it out, give it a read. You are bound to be surprised by something you wrote.