There you are. It has been a hard day. Maybe a really difficult one, straight up ugly. So you open a notebook and let all the frustration and fear spill out on the page. You did good. Instead of pretending, “No, really everything is so great right now" (said shakily, an octave above your normal voice, while cracking the seal on a bottle of whiskey), you chose to support yourself via the written word. BRAVO.
Taking that step can be intimidating. One of the recurring barriers to journaling that comes up in workshops - and I hear them all - is the concern that by letting difficult emotions rise to the surface they will overwhelm you. You will be worse off for writing it down, not better.
But the opposite is what tends to occur. By naming the fears they usually do one of the following things (Bonus: some all-new journal prompts to help):
Journal Prompt: Organize your concerns by listing them out. That might be enough to help you ease back from the red zone, but keep going if you want to. Take each one and create a way to either counter or transform it. None of us are fixed points on a map, which means circumstances are dynamic. You’re a creative being, call in those superpowers to dream up solutions and opportunities.
Journal Prompt: Take 5 mindful breaths: in through your nose, out through your mouth - longer on the exhale. Now, consider where and how this set of circumstances can be your teacher. Focus less on The What and more on The Why.
Imagine someone who loves you very much witnessing you with tremendous wisdom and compassion. What would they say about the situation? Doesn’t need to be an actual person. What would your own personal Mr. Rogers want you to know? If it helps, imagine taking a walk with them. Write it all down.
Then I invite you to recognize that this voice, the one that just provided so much caring support, is actually resourced from within - and you can access it whenever you need some solace or guidance. How ‘bout them apples?
Still need support? That. Is. Okay.
You aren’t here on this Earth to try to manage all of life’s potholes on your own. I don’t know anyone who operates like that with prolonged success. Sometimes we need extra help. That resonate? Read on and get one more prompt to support you.
Case in point, when I was going through chemotherapy I didn’t want to have to explain how I was feeling to a vanilla therapist because I was so overwhelmed physiologically I could hardly name my own emotions. I wanted to talk with someone who was deeply familiar with the terrain, who could deconstruct this mind-fuck with expertise.
So I sought out a therapist who worked specifically with cancer patients. And it helped a lot. In the handful of sessions I had with her, I gained helpful clarity and perspective around my current circumstances. Did I also journal? Like it was my job (and this was long before it would kind of become my job), but I also got additional help.
Was I being a wuss? I’m pretty sure you’re going to say “no” to that question. So if you can have that level of compassion for me, I hope you’ll do the same for yourself.
Journal Prompt: What kind/s of support do you need to help you through your current obstacle? What people, places and things might help you gain clarity / feel better? What resources have helped you in the past? What new resources might you add to that portfolio?
Any and all of the above are going to serve you better than burying the boogeyman. Sure, there are times when you'll need to compartmentalize in order to get through the day. Some moments require us to set aside emotional concerns and perform. But that's a mentality reserved for once-in-a-while use, otherwise it starts to add up. Eventually a tab comes due, with interest. Instead, skip that sticker shock by giving yourself some grace in the form of mindfully wringing out your mental sponge on the page.
Interested in some guided journaling sessions with me? The MOJO Series is open for registration. This special program only runs twice a year, and this will be the last time for 2023. Get your dose of MOJO's feel-good juice while you can. Let me know if you have any questions and hope to see you there.
Photo Credit: Steve McQueen looking like he’s had better days captured by Ron Galella