The Art of Journaling for Healing

Journaling is a practice I have engaged for many years. Twenty some odd years ago I lived with debilitating chronic stress & anxiety to full-blown panic attacks. For a long time I was afraid to leave my house, go shopping, drive, go to my own office, or hang out with friends. I felt the only safe place to be where “nothing could happen” was at home. Eventually, those nasty panic attacks found me at home and it was a scary time in my life. I went on for years living in fear believing something horrifying was wrong with me – I would have mysterious dizzy spells to blacking out.

I remember one evening at my aunt’s home for a Christmas party, I fell onto the hood of my car for no reason other than I became light-headed as we were all leaving that night. I spent many years feeling light-headed, dizzy, a sense of impending doom, breaking out in a sweat to simply feeling something was wrong inside of me. Oh yes, I would see doctors and one diagnosis I received was Meniere’s disease, for which I was put on the prescription drug Antivert. It did decrease the spinning sensation I would often experience but ultimately it didn’t work long term. I was then diagnosed with anxiety and put on Xanax, 3 times per day. After a while I felt like a zombie…totally not like myself and I was becoming depressed, extremely fearful, and was gaining weight. I was simply going back and forth to see a doctor only to have prescriptions refilled that weren’t helping me in the long run, and they certainly weren’t getting to the root of my problem.

One day I pleaded with a doctor to run more tests and I explained I wanted to get to the root of my problem. He laughed and said “I don’t maintain the car, I just fix it.” To this day I still don’t know what he meant by that! Feeling insulted and humiliated, as the old saying goes this was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for me. At that moment, I was DONE with conventional medicine unless I was dying and need emergency treatment.

Anxiety, Depression, & Panic Attacks are Often the First Early Warning Signs of Hashimoto’s

Fast-forward years later and it was found that all of these issues were found to be related to underlying autoimmune disease: Interstitial Cystitis was the first (although was also misdiagnosed as something else at the time), the second was Hashimoto’s, and the third was Celiac disease. I’m grateful to have finally discovered what was causing me such internal emotional and physical distress because I feel my joy and vitality as a young woman was robbed. At one point in my life I thought I was imagining not only the symptoms I’ve already mentioned but also mysterious & debilitating pain, GI distress, hair loss, inability to lose weight, inability to exercise, and was becoming an extremely negative person as a result. It really pushed me to the point one miserable day that I flirted with thoughts of suicide.

This is the dark side of many chronic health issues that go on and on for years. I experienced first-hand how it feels to be misdiagnosed and mocked by doctors, the ones who are supposed to know how to help their patients. Having said and experienced all of this, I’m disclosing in my new eBook why autoimmune disease is the best blessing I’ve ever received.

What I learned throughout all of my years of living in this state was the art of journaling. I learned there is healing in writing…it’s magical in a way, and very profound. Because journaling has had such an impact in my life and health, I often teach it to others especially when I recognize they are in distress or experiencing stress and anxiety. I’ve taught it to fellow nurses, patients, clients, family, friends and even my professors along the way. Every person who has embraced what I’ve shared with them has been overwhelmed by the positive impact journaling has made in their life. I remember one patient in particular who I cared for in a psychiatric hospital who was full of frustration and fear. I simply showed her (literally) how to journal using my approach and we practiced it together every week for about 3 weeks. One day she came to me early one morning wanting to show me how the previous evening she had done it all by herself. She cried and hugged me saying “why hasn’t anybody ever told me about this before?!” She was feeling so much better and was a very different woman than she was the first time we met. I am grateful for outcomes like hers because these are when I feel the most blessed. T

To help another learn coping mechanisms for their crippling fear and anxiety reinforces my own healing and wellness. It helps me to see how far I’ve come and that the impacts are real. Journaling is not a cure per se’ it is just one aspect of a host of coping mechanisms that when done well, leads to the ability to overcome and conquer life’s stressful events and negative thinking patterns. One great thing about it too is that it doesn’t cost a thing and you can pay it forward by teaching someone else.

Of course, as with most everything,there is a right and a wrong way to journal depending on what your goals and needs are. When I mention to my coaching clients the necessity of journaling (especially during my 12 week program) I often guilty of forgetting that this is an art that needs to be taught. Otherwise, people simply start writing down all of their negative thoughts first, e.g. their worries, fears, frustrations, and concerns. Or, they start writing down prayers centered on “me or I want” statements. In doing so, they miss the point.

So, without further Ado, this is my approach to journaling for wellness:

At bedtime:

  • First, take a piece of loose scrap notebook or plain paper
  • Write down everything you are worried about…your fears, frustrations, what made you angry that day, what you are stressed or anxious about and all of your negative thoughts. Pour it all onto this loose sheet of paper.
  • When you are done, tell yourself “Okay, I’ll worry about all of this tomorrow.”
  • Wad the loose sheet of worries, fears, frustrations, negative thinking, etc. and throw it away in the trash.
  • Next, follow-up by using a journal…either one you bought or one you made – choose something that is personal & beautiful – make it yours because this is what you’re going to keep – the good stuff!
  • Write down a minimum of 20 things you are grateful for…and every evening your 20 items for which you are grateful must be different
  • Save ONLY the statements of gratitude – discard all worries, fears, stress & negativity – can you see how this works?
  • We ALL have 20 different things to be grateful as we go to sleep at night

Over time, I promise that you will see improved coping skills that surface throughout this process. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel here. By engaging faithfully every evening before you retire in this simple process you will realize positive results in your emotional and physical well-being.

Can’t think of 20 different things every night to be grateful for? If that’s true, we need to talk…so Contact Me Here.