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The Art of Journaling Your Way to Joy
Did you ever have a nagging feeling that stayed with you way too long or a negative emotion that dragged you down, no matter how hard you tried to run away? If you are like most caregivers, the answer is an astounding yes.
Did you also notice that the more you ran away from your emotion/feeling, the bigger it got? It’s like one of those scary dreams where the little snowball gets bigger and bigger as it rolls down the hill…heading right for you!
Emotions are there for a reason and sometimes for a season. They serve several purposes:
- To guide us
- To help us follow our intuition
- To not-so-gently point us away from what isn’t working
- To protect us
Out of Your Mind: Out of Your Body
More and more research is showing the benefits of journaling – not only on a mental and emotional level – but also on a physical level, as well. When you write something down, you give your brain a break. You offer your mind a release and a detox of sorts. It’s like removing a thorn or a splinter that has been bothering you for quite some time.
Did you ever have an itch that you could not scratch and you finally were able to reach it and all you could say is …..”Ahhhhhh!!!” That’s the beauty of journaling. When you write it down, it no longer gets stuck in your physical body in the form of a tense neck or a knot in your stomach. It’s a release of the best kind.
It is now time to uncover the joy of journaling for caregivers so you can discover joy itself.
Let’s Get Our Joy On: Are You Ready to Take a Joy Journey?
Hey there, if you are reading this right now, you are probably seeking a release from the stressful duties of being a caregiver to an elder. Moreover, if you are reading this, it’s because God directed you this way. For He loves his people so much, He wants to give them everything they need in order to fulfill His purpose.
If you are a caregiver to an elder or to your own parents, don’t think for a minute that you were not chosen for this purpose. God’s will for you is to be the caregiver that you are, and to be the best caregiver at that.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:26-28)
A caregiver is only as whole as he/she chooses to be. It is important for each and every one of us to have balance in our lives. However, when you are in charge of the care of another human being, that challenge takes on a whole new meaning. You must care for another by caring for yourself, as well.
You can only be as good and productive as the care you give yourself. It all starts with you. God did not create you to have a spirit of weakness.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
Whether you are just starting out or are a seasoned caregiver, let’s be honest – there will be times where you will recognize that your mind is not feeling sound. Stress does play a big role in the caregiving process.
“For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you.” (Proverbs 23:7)
You may have heard before that the thoughts you think may contribute to or even dictate your life. If you are thinking negative thoughts, feeling depressed or being angry, chances are you will have more in your life to feel sad or angry about, as well.
How to Breathe Properly before Journaling:
- Pay attention to your body language – body language is your body’s way of communicating with you. Are your shoulders drooped or up tight to your ears? Let your shoulders relax, they carry a lot of weight around all day long – that’s where much of our stress lands – the neck and the shoulders.
- Take a deep breath into your nostrils – maybe to a count of five. As you breathe in, make sure that you breathe in through your nostrils (the breath of life!) and when you are ready to release – also on a count of five – let your shoulders off the hook; let them down.
- Feel the next breath fill up your neck and your shoulders now – feel fresh ,bright, light airy breath fill up your shoulders.
- You may want to say a statement when you breathe in such as, “I am a peaceful caregiver.”
- On exhalation, you may want to say something such as, “I release stress with my words.” Or “My journaling is my healing.”
Okay, now that you have prepared the tools of the trade so to speak, prayer over it, and had some cleansing breaths, it is time to get to the best part of the journey – the journey to peace.
Get ready, grab and go – Get into your comfy spot, grab your pen and your journal, and get ready to take a journey to joy!
Joy Journaling for the Caregiver’s Spirit
On being raw and vulnerable
First and foremost – After you have said your affirmation or prayer and taken a couple of deep releasing breaths, now it’s time to get down to business. With pen in hand and as comfortable as you can get, write down a few words, but be sure to write down the ones that are coming up the strongest for you.
I don’t want you to go off on a tangent – at least not just yet. I want you to simply write down a few words that you are feeling in the moment. Let them flow – do not think too hard, just let it come forth. No long drawn out sentences. No blaming and no “he said this or she did that.” Just words – one word at a time in a list form.
- Don’t filter
- Don’t judge
- Don’t make your list right or wrong
Do the words angry, tired, and frustrated ring a bell? If you are a caregiver, chances are the answer is yes. If so, then this is a good thing – believe it or not.
By writing these words down, you release them from your being.
Feel Your Feelings: Let Them Be
Next – I want you to just sit with those words for a few minutes – look at them, spell them out loud, say them in your head. BE with those words. Choose one word at a time. For example, let’s start with angry.
Feel angry without thinking or focusing on WHY you are angry. Just BE with the feeling of being angry. Just feel the feeling then write it down something like – I’m livid right now. I feel so angry.
Now – Write down a statement that does not involve any particular person. For example, write down – I feel angry right now because of the situation with mom. Or, I feel angry right now because I feel I am not being heard. DO NOT take on the role of victim, and do not bring anyone else into the scenario. Being angry is a feeling – not a solution.
Give Yourself Permission to Feel
Allow yourself permission to feel whatever it is that you are feeling. Do NOT make your feelings right or wrong. This is a guilt-free zone. Feel and express those feelings now in writing. Start writing down whatever comes to mind. Write complete sentences – let that expand to entire paragraphs. Let it flow freely – there is no right or wrong way. Be raw, vulnerable, and honest. Start with a sentence or two and then let it ride. Keep writing until you feel you have been spent.
Make it a Timed Writing
Buy a small kitchen timer, use your cell phone or buy yourself an old-fashioned sand timer. No matter what you do, this is an important step – put a timer on your feelings and your writings about your feelings.
Giving yourself a certain amount of time to feel, think, and then to express your feelings on paper is a clear way to signal to yourself that there is a limit to how long you are going to sit and stew amongst those feelings. Sometimes there is no solution in the current moment and you just have to continue to breathe in and out until the divine presents the optimal solution for all beings involved.
Move into Acceptance
Take a look at the words you began with. Do you notice how strong those words probably were? Then take a look at how much stronger those words became when you turned them into full sentences and then into paragraphs. Do you notice the connection???
These words gained momentum the more you wrote about them and the longer the sentences you created around them. It’s the same way in reality. The more you think about being angry, the more you focus on feeling livid, the more these feelings will expand and grow – just like in the sentence exercise. These feelings went from simple words to all out sentences and then paragraphs. It’s like a giant snowball of negativity aiming right for your soul. And, if you are not careful, it will bowl you and everyone else in its path over until the damage is irreparably done.
Accept that these words are part of your life right now, but you get to choose exactly how long they stay with you for; accept that there may not be a solution, but at least you can know one thing for certain – being angry doesn’t last forever – unless, that is, you choose it to.
The Power of Three
Write down something to the effect of, “I accept that this is something that makes me angry in my now, but I also appreciate and am grateful that it doesn’t have to be this way forever.
I trust and have faith in God that He will provide an answer, a solution that is perfect for all in His timing.” Reread it three times – especially before you go to bed. Three times can represent the father, the son and the Holy Spirit.
Trust Him enough to know that He will provide the tools and the equipment for you to resolve all things on your own behalf and that He is also working it out for your greatest good.
DO NOT say that “so-and-so” MADE you so angry. Believe it or not, NO ONE can MAKE you angry – you can only CHOOSE to be angry. This practice takes time – quite a bit of time; however, if you revisit it and practice it over and over, you will begin to realize that you and only you are responsible for your feelings. They are YOURS – you own them and you get to choose how they will or will not rule your life. Feelings are a guide post not a continual way of being.
Now is a good time to put those words to use for real. It is important now to take a few more breaths. Look at the word list and on each word you wrote down, breathe in while looking at the word and breathe out while releasing it. Breathe in while looking at the word angry and then close your eyes and release the word angry.
It is important to release being angry from your mind, from your body, and hopefully your soul will soon follow. Take it just moment by moment. Don’t expect to no longer be angry when you wake up in the morning, an hour from now.
ENJOY being free from anger in this one moment and then build on another moment and then begin to string those moments together. See the futility of being angry and the energy expended – now is your opportunity to use that energy to focus on creating a solution rather than staying stuck in feeling/being angry. Learn how to use that anger as the fuel to solution.
Let it go – even just for the night. It doesn’t have to be a problem resolved, but it also doesn’t have to be a source of pain either. Let it go and take back your power. As you release the word, even just for a night of rest, give yourself the gift of peace. That is the gift that God intended for us all along. It’s a gift – don’t return it unopened.
Turn it inside out
There’s more work to be done here. Take that feeling of anger and write down all the different ways you can recreate it. Write down some questions:
- How can I recreate anger
- What is the opposite of anger
- How can I use anger to my advantage
Next to each question, write down what comes up immediately. Don’t overthink it. Can you recreate anger as motivation – motivation to take action in an area of your life that is not working? AHA moment. Maybe I can use that anger and turn it into assertiveness (without being nasty). Maybe I could turn it into power for a situation that has gone on long enough. What if I were to get a team together to work on this problem together powerfully instead of angrily.
The opposite of anger is …write it down…what comes up for you? Does peace come to mind; or calm? What is it for you and your situation that you want to create instead of anger? Is it motivation? Create that and then be that. If you WANT peace in your situation, then you have to FIRST BE peace. Do you get it?
NOW, write it down in time and in space and RE-CREATE it to show up differently. Write down something like, “I want to create peace around this subject.” Or, “I am creating a new way of being – calm.” Better yet, how about, “I am going to powerfully but calmly deal with this situation to the best it can be resolved.”
Now that it is recreated on paper and in real time, go for it.
SEEING THE SHIFT
Are you starting to notice the shift here? Simply writing down thoughts on paper is not enough. When you put something in writing, it becomes real in time and in space. When you recreate it and rewrite it, you can to shift it in space and in time, as well.
You now have the power to make it happen and to show up differently.
Thank it, Bless it, Wish it Farewell
Again, sometimes in life there is no real solution. These journal exercises are food for thought – actually food for your brain. It’s a way to shine a light on a sometimes dim subject and give you a way to see it from a different perspective.
If you are feeling angry and just cannot recreate it no matter how hard you try – or even if you are fine one minute and it comes back to revisit you the next – thank the feeling for its service. Thank the anger for pointing out what does not work in your life or for what you need to further explore.
Consider it a blessing. Feelings are guidance directors; simple traffic directors to tell you when you’ve reached a dead end or there is a detour. Don’t just sit and stare at the fork in the road, take action, go on a different path, follow the road – whatever you do, don’t just sit there.
There are no wrong choices – just action or indecision. Do the best you can in the moment in which you stand.
When the feeling (let’s say anger as we used in our exercise) no longer serves you wish it farewell. Let it make its way through you and not get stuck in you. Write it down, accept it, let it ride, feel it, breathe through it, turn it inside out, thank it, bless it and wish it farewell.