Journaling is a powerful tool for processing our feelings. As I’ve written before, it’s as though each piece of paper we write on absorbs our emotions. It bears their weight; it bears the load—and we start to feel a bit lighter, a bit freer.
This might seem like a silly way to think about it, but journaling often feels like a big release, a deep exhale. Plus, it helps us to spot patterns and better understand ourselves and our needs.
But sometimes, you’re too tired to write. Your thoughts are all jumbled up, and the very sound of journaling makes you feel even more weary. You’re tired of rehashing your feelings, and frustrations. But your feelings still yearn to be explored and expressed.
This is when art and movement can be especially helpful. Both also help you to ease into your emotions, to access them in non-intimidating ways.
For instance, board-certified art therapist and licensed marriage and family therapist Carolyn Mehlomakulu shared this excellent suggestion with me: Do quick abstract or symbolic drawings (about 5 minutes each) of different feelings (happiness, anger, anxiety, sadness, hope). Then draw a picture about how you feel today. “This usually brings up some good insight about which feelings are connected together, which feelings are easiest or most difficult for the person to pay attention to, and how they experience those emotions.”
Here are other ways to explore your feelings when writing doesn’t feel right:
- Create a collage from magazine cut-outs that represent how you’re feeling.
- Put on music that feels right and necessary right now, and move your body based on how you’re feeling.
- Take a yoga class, and focus on your feeling as you’re moving through the different poses. Focus on that feeling leaving your body as you extend your arms or stretch out your feet. Focus on connecting to yourself as you draw your hands together at the center of your chest, at your heart, and thank yourself for naming and accepting your feelings.
- Doodle different patterns, which may or may not represent your feelings. Again, go with what feels right to you.
- Close your eyes, take deep breaths and do nothing. Pinpoint the feeling you’re feeling. I feel upset with myself because I yelled at my husband. I feel angry that I keep getting passed over for that promotion. I feel overwhelmed with all the changes in my life. I feel so tired from having to juggle so many things. I’m really annoyed I said I’d go to her party when I really don’t want to. Maybe you can solve or change whatever issue or situation it is–after you’ve allowed yourself to breathe into your emotions.
- Snap a photo of something that mimics how you’re feeling: a sink full of dishes, a cloudy sky, a broken cabinet, a red door, spoiled salad. You can delete the photo right after, if you like. The key is to observe and honor what’s happening inside your heart.
We can explore and express our feelings in many different ways. The only requirement, if there is a requirement, is to go there, if you can. Because when you take the time to acknowledge and accept how you’re feeling, you take the time to acknowledge and accept yourself.