Journalling as a Self Care Activity

Journalling as a Self Care Activity

How Journalling can help you deal with emotions

I have always found journalling to be a very positive way of channeling my emotions into something positive. Writing has always been my preferred form of self expression, ever since I was a teenager. I read my journal from when I was a 17 year old and that was an eye-opener! So much teen-aged angst. My most productive period of journalling was when I was going through my divorce. I filled whole journals because the emotions I was feeling were often so extreme, and changing day to day, that I didn’t feel like I could share them with other people. A divorce is similar to losing a loved one – it is a type of grieving and it is a type of loss. My journalling helped during my times of loss of my mother, sister and father as well. My confidantes weren’t always available, and therapists weren’t much good at 11pm when I needed them!

I suffer extreme insomnia and can lie awake for hours with my anxious mind working overtime. Journalling is the best way I have of stopping those constant cogs rotating in my brain. As a self care activity, it has obvious advantages – it’s free, it’s easy to do, and you can do it almost anywhere. There are even apps for your phone to record your thoughts.

Journalling as a self care activity is a constructive way to deal with your emotions. Just writing them down can clarify those emotions for you and help you to understand how you really feel. Often our emotions are so confusing that it’s hard to put a finger on what it actually is that we’re experiencing. Journalling can help you to frame those thoughts and make sense out of them.

Journal prompts are a great way to start you off when you are journalling. You may just need one journal prompt, or you may want to write something about all of them. I have put together a list of the journal prompts that I find most helpful.

What didn’t go well today?

Start with this if you have had a bad day. Journalling can help to identify the emotion and channel it into a positive activity. Bottling up feelings or using vices like alcohol and drugs to cope, are not positive ways to deal with emotions. They may offer a temporary fix, but the feelings will still be there.

What emotion am I feeling? Anger, sadness, guilt, grief, disappointment

Feel the emotion. Write down everything you are feeling. It may help to write a letter to the person you are angry at – not to give to them of course. Some people burn the letter as a way of symbolic release of those emotions, and coming to terms with feelings about that person.

If you still are struggling to cope with extreme emotions after a few weeks, seek help. If you are feeling like self harm or suicide is the only answer, please seek immediate help.

Australian Mental Health Services - phone and web contact details
Phone and web contact details for Australian Mental Health Services

What am I Grateful For?

Writing a gratitude list can help us to become more optimistic over time. There is always something to be grateful for, even when things seem really grim. Some suggestions may be:

  • Having a nice meal
  • My job
  • My home
  • My family
  • Something I am good at
  • The sunshine
  • Rain for my garden
  • My health
  • I am safe and secure

What Have I done for Myself Today?

My recent blog, Prioritising Self Care had some suggestions on self care activities. Self care activities can be small things we do for ourselves like take a walk, have a bath, listen to some uplifting music, read a book or get a professional massage. If you realise you’ve gone the whole day without doing a self care activity, can you finish the day off by doing something? If not, can you start tomorrow off by doing something for yourself?

What were the Good Things I Noticed Today?

This is similar to What am I Grateful For, but it’s all the little things that made you smile. Think of simple things like coffee, sunshine, nice perfume, your pet doing something funny, an uplifting conversation, an enjoyable movie. Today while I was walking my dog I smelt an exquisite perfume – there must have been a tree in bloom because it was very strong but the tree was hidden from view. It’s moments like this that make you smile. The first whiff of coffee brewing always makes my morning routine go well.

When I first had a smart phone I loved the fact that I had a portable camera with me all the time. I loved taking photos of everyday things like birds on a wire, a lovely flower or cloud formations. I had a new appreciation for the beauty around me in the everyday things we take for granted. Try doing this as a simple exercise in boosting your morale.

What Am I Most Looking Forward To?

This year has shown us that life is not about superficial things like prestige and possessions. With restrictions to our activities and losing the freedoms we once took for granted, society has realised that the most important things are our loved ones and our health. Not being able to move around freely has taken its toll. Without a doubt, we are all looking forward to something, and hoping this pandemic gets under control soon so that we can go back to normal life.

Write down what you are most looking forward to.

  • When do I think it will happen?
  • What can I do to aim towards that?
  • If I can’t do it now, is there an alternative thing I can do? (for example, if it’s seeing my family interstate, can I organise a Zoom meeting? If it’s going to the gym, can I do a class online?

Journal Prompts Printable List

I have created a printable list of the journal prompts that you may use to record your journalling. Feel free to use it.

Self Care Journal Prompts
These prompts may be used when journalling as a self care exercise

Printable download – Self Care Journal

Instructions:

  • Click “Download”
  • Either download to your computer files, or print (top right hand corner)
  • Print as many copies as you like

I hope you find these journal prompts useful. Please comment and let me know of any other journal prompts that you use.

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Please note: I am not a registered mental health practitioner. The information provided in this article is for general informational and educational purposes only and should not replace information provided by your own mental health practitioner. Please refer to my Disclaimer

Shared at the Life This Week Linkup

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Shared at this link-up party – life this week, https://www.denysewhelan.com.au/denyse-blogs/taking-stock-3-27-51-lifethisweek-54-2020/

Shared at Midlife Share the Love Party Link-up

Inspiring a Healthy Lifestyle Series

Inspiring a Healthy Lifestyle Series

Guest interview with Lauren Spencer

Meet Lauren Spencer, licensed marriage and family therapy associate, who agreed to take part in my Inspiring Healthy Lifestyle Series. Her story is truly inspirational – her desire to help people shows how caring she is.

Lauren Spencer, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy Associate
Lauren Spencer

A healthy lifestyle is only possible when we strive for mental and emotional wellness as well as physical health. That is even more true in today’s world where we are faced with more stress than ever before. Please read Lauren’s interview transcript as follows:

Tell me about yourself. What is your background and how does that impact what you do now?


Hello! I’m a licensed marriage and family therapy associate newly married to my favorite Army Captain. I have always wanted to be a therapist (literally since I was in the 7th grade) and graduated with my masters a year or so ago. Seeing couples is my sweet spot, along with people with anxiety disorders. 

I was born and raised in Gig Harbor, WA, and have been a self-proclaimed homebody my whole life. Marrying an active duty Army officer has changed a lot of that for me as we will be heading to South Korea in the fall to live for 2 years. My beloved dog will be coming with us as we start our journey of exploring the world. 

I am also a Christian, lover of romance, supporter of body positivity, and a Christmas fanatic.

My passions led me to pursue my career as a way to support people on their journeys and to start my own blog as a way of diversifying my time and expanding my reach to those outside of my clients. 

Lauren Spencer and her husband
Lauren and her husband


What drives you? Where do you get your passion?

I believe my passions are God-given, just like spiritual gifts. My motivation comes from inner hope. I became a therapist with the goal of sharing my hope to those who are struggling to hold it for themselves. I have hope that our relationships can heal, that we can heal, and that the world can work toward healing as well. Sometimes we just need help holding onto that hope when life is hard. Seeing clients, loved ones, and my own story experience healing drives me to seek new ways of supporting people on this journey called life. 

What is the defining moment that set you on this course of interest? Who or what inspired you?

I would say I am on 2 courses in life that intersect and diverge from one another all at the same time. What set me on the therapist course was my experience of having a mom who was gravely ill for much of my childhood. I didn’t have the “normal” childhood many have (though what really is normal?), and when I got older, I realized my experience of having support all throughout those hard times was not the norm. I became a therapist so that I could support others and offer them hope.

As for my blogging journey, I had a moment when I realized my life was absolutely wacky. Washington state homebody falls for an Army officer from Texas, he moves away, they do long distance for 6 months, he proposes, she says yes, wedding planning begins, 2 weeks later they find out he’s being stationed in South Korea for 2 years, they get married 2 weeks after the news so that she can get on his orders, COVID-19 happens, she road trips across the country with her dog and college roommate so she can spend 2 months with her husband before he leaves. Pretty crazy, right? That’s where my story is now. I’ll return home when he leaves, prepare for our “big” wedding in November, and then head off to South Korea afterward.

Lauren Taylor and her husband
Lauren and her husband

When I realized how crazy my story had become, I started to think of all the other military spouses out there who have even crazier stories than I do. I also realized that in starting a blog to tell my story, I would also be able to share my therapist tips and wedding know-how (especially for brides in a bind like I was). 

What inspired me? My own experiences honestly, and the hope that my life story could instill hope in someone else.

What are your goals in life?

My goal in life is to help people, which sounds cliche but hear me out. My career is driven by my desire to help restore relationships, between partners, families, with God, and even with ourselves. I want to restore hope to those battling mental health, improve my own relationship with mental health and body image, and then pass those traits on to my future children. Which leads into my eventual goal of being a mom. Right now I’m a doting dog mom, but I cannot wait for the day when there are mini mes running around. And, as I have said prior, my goal for my blog is to extend my reach to more people so that I can strive to help and provide hope to those I wouldn’t have otherwise met.

What message would you like the world to hear?

That there is always hope. The sun always rises. Even on our darkest days, even when life throws major curveballs, even when there is intense grief, there is hope. And, there are also always little joys scattered everywhere–sometimes we just have to open our eyes a little wider to see them.

In your opinion, what does the world need now that would improve it?
Empathy. 100%. Being able to stand in another person’s shoes and honor their emotions is vastly important. Imagine what would happen in social equality movements, marital conflicts, business settings, etc etc if we had empathy. I believe just about every aspect of human life could be improved if we all tapped into empathy even just a tiny bit more than our usual.

Please take a look at Lauren’s website and social media accounts:
 
Links:

https://accordingtomrsspencer.com/

https://www.instagram.com/accordingtomrsspencer/?hl=en

I completely agree with Lauren that empathy would help the world become a much better place. Her message of hope is one we all need at the moment in these unprecedented times. If you are finding that you are not coping well as the pandemic continues to affect us in every aspect of our lives, consider therapy as a way of assisting you to get a different perspective, and learn coping strategies. Your first port of call should be your GP, who will be able to refer you to the appropriate services. Here are some phone numbers (Australia) where you can access free phone support:

Mental health services and phone numbers in Australia
Australian support services for Mental Health

If you enjoyed this guest feature, please take a look at the other guests in the Inspiring a Healthy Lifestyle series:

Sevinj Ahmadova, founder of Healthy Recipes Guru

Morgan Fitchett, Vegan Life and Wellness Coach

If you would like to be a guest in the series, contact me via the contact form. I would love to feature other people who have a passion for inspiring others to live a healthy lifestyle.

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Comments and shares are always appreciated.

Prioritising Self Care

Prioritising Self Care

Many people have remarked on how well I’m coping with all the setbacks I’ve faced in my life, especially this year. Developing resilience doesn’t come naturally, it needs to be learned and nurtured. I thought I’d share some of the ways I incorporate self care into my daily routine, and hopefully inspire others to develop their own resilience.

Until I prioritised my own self care needs, I was a bundle of nerves to the point of social anxiety. I had difficulty enforcing my boundaries so that I was a punching bag for others’ abuse. My self esteem was so low that I had absolutely no confidence. If I did speak up I was knocked back down so I built up barriers and sunk into my shell.

I went to therapists and they helped to some extent but I still lacked confidence. Getting really fit helped with my self image but I was still lacking in self esteem. Even though my external appearance was the best it had been for years, my inner self was struggling with self doubt and negativity. I was rushing around trying to fit all my responsibilities into my daily routine, which left little time for myself.

The real change came last year, when I finally lost a lot of weight. I had a coach for my weight loss program who rang me every three weeks, not only to set goals with me, but also to give me positive feedback about my progress. Having that regular contact helped me lose over 17kg and graduate early from the program.

That success gave me so much confidence. The changes I had made included regular exercise, a new healthy diet with lots more vegetables and the joy of cooking and gardening. With it came the realisation that I had to prioritise self care.

My top tips for self care are:

  • Get outdoors daily. Natural light is better for you
  • Ladies wear makeup (even just tinted moisturiser and mascara) even when you’re not going out, and men shave. You feel better about yourself when you’re groomed. It goes without saying, but shower and brush your teeth too. You’d be surprised how many people don’t, as a nurse you see it all. Wear clothes that make you feel good, and that make you look good too.
  • Exercise daily, even just a walk. You will get natural endorphins.
  • Eat healthy food and drink plenty of water. Eating junk food depletes your energy and will have long-term repercussions if you base your diet around it.
  • Listen to your body. If you’re tired, rest.
  • Have regular massages, beautician visits or manicures purely for the enjoyment of it. If this is outside your budget, you can do at-home spa sessions . My favourite routine is a soak in a bubble bath with a face mask on, and lovely soft music playing, followed by beautiful scented body lotion. I definitely make time and room in my budget for regular professional massages though because it helps me manage my chronic back pain.
  • Listen to the sound of water. We have a pond with a fountain and the sound is so relaxing. You can get the same effect from white noise apps or a small water feature. Bubble baths, swims in the ocean and looking at waves lap on the shore are also calming.
Tips for prioritising self care collage
Tips for self care
  • Practice gratitude. Regularly write down a list of all the things you’re grateful for. Thank other people too, it goes a long way.
  • Spend time with your pets and loved ones. If you have young children or grandchildren play with them. Being around pets and children allows you to see things from a different perspective. Play games with them and their laughter will cheer you up.
  • Hug someone! Social distancing laws made this impossible and a lot of people struggled with not being able to have physical contact with their loved ones. I really missed not being able to hug my best friend and relatives that didn’t live with us.
  • Do something creative for example drawing, painting, baking, music or writing. I found a great colour-by-numbers App, very similar to the paint-by-numbers paintings we did as children. It’s so relaxing. Jigsaws are also calming.
  • Use your brain – do crosswords, puzzles or Sudoko. Learn something new like a language or skill.
  • Read books written by people who are inspiring in some way. I’ve read a lot of books by people who have faced the worst adversities and come through them. That gives me confidence to tackle anything that comes my way.
  • Have less screen time. Avoid reality TV especially – it’s just trash. Only watch news from trustworthy sources – don’t get all your knowledge from Facebook and Instagram. Knowledge is power, so don’t get sucked into believing everything you read or hear.
  • If you’re sick stay home. I know we’ve heard that constantly this year but I’m shocked by how many people go to work and school when they are sick. By resting and recuperating your body has a chance to heal. If you’re working and mixing with other people, it takes a lot longer to fully recover and you’re passing it on to other people. Those people may have compromised immunity or other health issues which would lead them to develop much worse illnesses than you.
  • Most important – reach out to someone if you are not coping. There are resources there to help you. Avoid people who suck your energy from you or make you feel worse. These are some help lines available in Australia:
Australian Help lines for people struggling mentally
Help lines in Australia for people struggling

Once you start prioritising self care, it will become part of your daily routine. It will be easier for you to assert your boundaries and say no to people. Your confidence will grow, and you’ll feel so much better within yourself. You will be more resilient when life throws unexpected stresses and crises your way.

Go on, you deserve it.

Please share if you enjoyed my article. I would love to hear what your tips for self care are in the comments below.

Please note: I am not a registered mental health practitioner. The information provided in this article is for general informational and educational purposes only and should not replace information provided by your own mental health practitioner. Please refer to my Disclaimer

https://www.denysewhelan.com.au/denyse-blogs/share-your-snaps-5-25-51-lifethisweek-50-2020/

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Staying positive despite setbacks

Staying positive despite setbacks

Updates on Midlifestylist

It’s five weeks since my bilateral mastectomies and in that time there have been triumphs and setbacks. First the triumphs:

  • Midlifestylist is now officially a business! I registered the business name on the Australian Business Register and applied for an ABN (Australian Business Number). It’s exciting to see my business name on official documents. I first thought of the name seven years ago and bought a domain name but didn’t officially start my blog until October 2019. If I ever start earning money through my website I’ll need to pay tax so I thought it would be worth registering the name officially.
  • While I’ve been at home healing I completed a legal course for my website. I knew I’d need to get the legal side of things done before my website grew any further but I haven’t had the time to sit down and tackle it until now. The course was very beneficial and included all the templates for Terms and Conditions, Disclosures, Privacy Policy and Disclaimers. A blogger that I follow had her blog plagiarised by a B-grade celebrity who made thousands of dollars off a book that she compiled from 4 or 5 bloggers’ work. The course I did covers copyright and what to do if your work is plagiarised. I recommend this course and if you’re interested, click the link highlighted. The basic course is free but if you buy one of the other courses I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you because I’m affiliated with the course conveners. Read the full disclosure here.
  • My niece Ally, her friend Coralee and I raised over $1000 for breast cancer research by taking part in the GO PINK campaign. We dyed our hair pink and did a live feed which was a lot of fun.
  • My husband and I baked bread for the first time. He did all the mixing and kneading because I’m still not able to do anything strenuous and we ate 3/4 of the loaf with some homemade vegetable soup because it was so moreish. We have a bread-maker on order but it won’t come until July because it looks like everyone else had the same idea when there were shortages of everything in the shops.
  • Our vegetable garden is thriving and we’re already eating produce from it. Every year it improves because with trial and error we’re finding the best ways to do things. The weather has been perfect for growing too with lovely sunny days and plenty of rain. Winter really is the perfect time of the year in Queensland.
  • I’ve been collaborating with other bloggers on some projects which are new and exciting. One of the best things about blogging is the community of like-minded individuals that you meet online. Reading their blogs gives you another perspective as well.
Freshly baked bread

Now the setbacks:

  • I still have a lot of swelling and the wound is taking a long time to heal because of the massive post-op bleed I had on the left side. I had to have another course of antibiotics and I’ve been very restricted in what I’m allowed to do. I’m supposed to start back at work on Monday but I’m not up to that because nursing is a very active job and I’m not allowed to lift anything or do strenuous work yet. I was referred to a haematologist to try to get to the bottom of why I bled so much and it may be genetic because I’ve had a few other instances in my life of unexplained bleeding. I’ve had days when it all gets too much and I’ll be very down in the dumps and cry, but I’m able to bounce back and am in a positive frame of mind most of the time. I’ve had a lot of support so that definitely helps.
  • Because my mobility has been restricted I’ve been very tired at times. The worst week was when my husband went back to work after looking after me for 3 weeks. I wasn’t allowed to drive so was catching the bus and tram which meant catching 2 buses to get to my doctors’ appointments and 2 home, plus walking. I can drive short distances now and that’s been a huge improvement. I hired dog walkers so that my dog didn’t miss out on his walk and now that I can drive I can take him to a dog park where I can park so close that he can jump out of the car and go straight onto the off-leash area so I don’t have to hold his lead. He’s a big boy and at the moment I’m not up to him pulling on his lead.

The social distancing laws are gradually easing in Australia which is a big relief. The border between Queensland and New South Wales will open in a couple of weeks so I’ll finally be able to visit my brother who lives an hour away. We have a camping trip planned for the last weekend in August which has been delayed twice before. We’re really hoping we’ll be able to go this time. My sister-in-law’s 50th birthday party can finally go ahead as well – she was waiting for restrictions to ease. It has an Alice in Wonderland theme so I’ve been making a costume – watch this space as I may be brave enough to publish photos!

I hope all my readers are staying well and coping with whatever restrictions are on in your part of the world. This year has certainly put a lot of stress on to people and we’re all having to cope with current events. There’s still a lot of unrest from the Black Lives Matter movement, which I wrote about in my last post. I hope that this year’s events bring about lasting change for the better. The world has now woken up and it would be awesome if we all learnt the lessons that are available to us.

While recovering from surgery there are triumphs and setbacks. It’s important to stay positive and look to the future as this period in my life won’t last forever. I don’t regret making the decision to do risk-reducing surgery as it means my chances of getting cancer are reduced almost to zero. No matter how hard things seem right now, it is important to focus on the bigger picture. I’ve been through much worse than this in the past and I know I have the inner strength to get through this as well.