Caregiving is hard, and when you are frustrated, angry, tired, sad, or lonely, the thoughts and feelings you are having can threaten to spill out of you in ways that you may not want. How many times have you said something out of frustration that you instantly regretted? Does your partner bring up things you said out of anger, throwing them back at you when they are feeling upset, too?
A journal is a safe space to get those thoughts and feelings out, and no one gets hurt. Better yet, you and your partner will actually benefit: Research has indicated that journaling has many health benefits too, as people who express their thoughts in writing often feel that they are relieved of the burdens of their stresses once they get them out of their heads and bodies, and onto paper.
People who journal regularly are also thought to be ill less often, make fewer trips to the doctor, and have fewer physical symptoms related to stress. Who knew putting a pen to paper could be so effective?
Journals do not have to be formal, nor are there any “rules” about how to keep a journal, or what goes in one. Having a journal is all about being able to express your true essence. For some people, there may be pages and pages of writing each day. For others, doodling or pictures cut from magazines may be the best way to express thoughts. Others may want to have a routine style of entry, such as always recording the weather and highlights of the day. Whatever works for you! The point is to help you feel better and less burdened by caregiving.
Another option for putting your thoughts out there is through blogging. Blogs do not necessarily have to be seen by others, as most blogging sites allow you to set privacy levels. For people who are concerned about a family member or someone else coming across a book-style journal and invading your privacy, a blog that is password-protected and not available for others to browse online may be a solution.
Some ideas for journaling:
- Gratitude journal: Every day, write a list of five things you are grateful for that day.
- Right now, I feel…: Many people struggle to name the emotions they are having. If you have a partner with a mental illness, you likely are having a range of feelings about it and your relationship. Use this prompt to identify what is happening for you right now, and explore those feelings on paper.
- Positive affirmations: It can be hard to find the good when you have a partner with a mental illness. By writing positive affirmations, you help your brain to change from the negative to the positive. Some ideas are to choose one affirmation to write ten times, or write two or three every day and read them over several times a day. Be creative!
- Today I learned…: This helps you to be mindful of what is happening around you, and of the progress you are making. Maybe you will observe lessons you learned through experience, or perhaps you will note what someone else taught you.
- This week, I want to focus on…: Each week, you can choose one area of your life you would like to focus on, and note in your journal each day what you observed. It can be something productive, such as eating a healthy meal each day, or being sure you pay a compliment to someone everyday. Or it could be something you want to observe, such as how you interact with others, or taking time to notice what you are feeling at specific times of the day. Again, what you record is going to be aligned with what your own goals are. Health? Happiness? Mindfulness?
Do you journal? What are some of your favorite topics to write about?