Journalling through a Time of Corona 1

‘I’ve started journalling again,’ says my husband, as we talk about the world events causing our world to turn on a sixpence. As someone who prefers the immediacy of the spoken word, he has been an intermittent journaller. But times are changing.

Many of us are facing increased time alone, self-isolating to stay out of harm’s way. A change of life’s season can precipitate a desire to write, from bereavement or difficult diagnosis to an expedition or holiday of a lifetime. Perhaps that sense of wanting to write – and having the space to do so – is emerging in you.

Of course, for our health workers there is less space now than ever. Perhaps one way we can support them is to look after ourselves wisely, so we keep well and do not add to their burden. 

In this, a journal can be a valuable tool. It is not the same as a daily diary – though it helps to write it regularly. A journal does not have to itemise all we do. Activities and events can certainly be included, not least because of their personal significance and impact on us.  

Why write? 

Amongst other things, we can use a journal to 

  • Be a record to work on or look back on
  • Help us find words for our feelings and thoughts
  • Make plans and set priorities
  • Ground us in a rhythm of the day 
  • Check in with ourselves and how we our doing 
  • Clarify problems and explore solutions 

Where do we start? 

We simply start with something to write with and on. It may not an option to nip out and buy materials at the moment, but you may be surprised at what unused notebooks you may discover around your home. And there is always the computer screen.

Think about where to write. Is there a suitable quiet spot in your home, or even just outside as the weather warms? Think about when to write. It can help to establish a regular time of day, perhaps even with your own personal settling ritual – a cup of coffee, a lit candle. 

And what to write? It is absolutely up to you. At the moment I am writing how I feel about events and shaping plans for what I want to focus on in such unprecedented days.

If in doubt about what to write, start small and structured, as in the exercises suggested below:

Set a Watchword

Rather than become overwhelmed by what to do, think about who and how you want to be. Perhaps there is someone you admire who has a trait you would like to develop in yourself. 

Choose a one-word quality or intention to set as your personal watchword and backdrop to everything you do – for example, Patience, Focus, Energy, Courage etc. The possibilities are endless!  

Write a few sentences about this quality in your journal. What does it look like in action? How would you describe it? What makes it important to you? Be as specific as you can. 

Use this as a basis for journal entries: At the start of the day, write about where and how you might apply your intention; describe yourself exercising it; access it from a different perspective by writing about yourself in the third person. At the end of the day, write about how your intention worked out. How did you express your watchword? What difference did it make? If things went awry, just name it, don’t shame yourself for being off-track. See this as a learning process rather than a target to hit every time.

You can set a watchword for a day, a week or even longer. Have a look at  here  for more ideas on words to choose, or join with others who set one-word intentions for a whole year. 

Create a List

A list is an accessible and structured form of writing. It can be a springboard for valuable insights.

A list helps us get things down quickly, giving us material

  • to add to
  • to re-order and prioritise
  • to categorise
  • to record information (freeing up our memory and attention)
  • to use to solve a problem  

Current events challenge us with issues around the limits of what we can contain and control. Stress increases when we feel tings are out of our control and we have no options.

Make a list of all the things you currently experience as out of your control. These might range from pandemic to pants left on the bathroom floor, to anything in between! Aim for 10 items.

Against each item, write down how have been responding to the situation e.g. losing your cool, wearing yourself out picking up everyone else’s clothes. Then brainstorm and write down any other ways of responding you can think of that might be more helpful for you i.e. taking a deep breath to stay calm etc. 

Finding room for manoeuvre with some healthier choices can improve our wellbeing. We may not have the control to solve a problem, but we do have choices in how we can manage it. Journalling can help us identify some of these choices. 

Over the days, write about your experience of putting any new strategies into practice, celebrating the successes, accepting the stumbles and exploring what led to them. I look forward to hearing how you got on. Meanwhile, stay safe.

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  • About Julia


    From writing stories for my younger brother, to penning poems for the School Magazine and filling a growing pile of personal journals, the written word has always been part of my life’s journey.

    I started out as an English Teacher and subsequently retrained as a Counsellor. I have counselled in a GP Surgery and worked with various Employee Assistance Schemes and Charitable Trusts alongside seeing private clients.

    Although I have done some freelance journalism and written four non-fiction books, creative writing has become my main focus in recent years.

    My poems have appeared online on sites including Amaryllis, Silver Birch Press, Clear Poetry, Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis, Riggwelter and Ink,Sweat and Tears. I have been published in Curlew and Bucks Mill Magazine, and anthologised in Our Hearts Still Sing. My first poetry collection, Chester City Walls, came out in 2015.

    Read more about Julia
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