3 ways to use journaling to cope with coronavirus

grayscale photo of man walking on tunnel

Photo by Yohann LIBOT on Unsplash

I use journaling to face just about any problem in life. It’s my first go-to solution, and it has worked for me for years. I use journaling to focus on my personal growth, my mental health, and my professional growth to name a few areas. I also use it for my ever-changing hobbies. 

Last few months have been hard for everyone. We suddenly found ourselves in a strange world. We found our global world retreating within stately borders. While we’ve all been in the same pandemic, we’ve not experienced it the same way. Some people have lost their loved ones, others have lost their livelihood. Some people have discovered new hobbies, others have found more quality time with their families. People’s experiences have varied from extreme ends of positive to negative spectrum, and everything in-between. But even if you haven’t suffered any personal tragedies, if you are like most people, it is impossible to ignore tragedies happening around us. It is impossible not to think of some messed-up dystopian future when you step outside of your home and see people wearing masks?—?and view the world as what we are now calling “the new normal”. 

It’s too soon for “the new normal”. Our memories are not that short. We may have gotten used to the lockdown and staying at home, washing hands more than usual, and taking precautions when we go out, but many of us still long for the world where we didn’t worry about any such thing. Where a global pandemic was something that existed either in history or in fiction. 

But it is our present, and while there is not much I can do about the state of the world, I can do something about the state of my mind. And I can also help you do something about the state of yours. Just grab a journal and a pen and get started. These three exercises are incredibly effective.

But before we get into the exercises, set yourself up properly. Sit comfortably, and somewhere you won’t be disturbed. Grab your journal, or if you don’t have a regular journal, grab a notebook. I highly recommend writing by hand. If you want to know why, check out this post on hand-written journaling versus e-journaling.

Then start writing. 

Mind dump 

This is free writing at its best. Set a timer and just write. I recommend setting a timer for 7 minutes. It’s just short enough to not feel daunting but long enough for you to get into the flow. At the end of those 7 minutes, you may find that you still want to keep writing. Keep going. 

Mind dump means writing rather than thinking. Your paragraphs don’t have to make sense. Your words don’t need to be spelt perfectly. Just let the words tumble out. Write with your heart. Write your worries, your fears, your hopes, your dreams, even the petty argument you had with your loved one. It doesn’t matter what you write about. Let your subconscious dictate that. This is about the emotional release and letting out the frustration. 

Depending on what you are focusing on, you may feel a number of different emotions. You may feel a sense of relief as if you have just vented. You may feel down if you have focused on painful memories. You may feel relieved if you have written things down that put things into perspective. You may feel happy if you wrote about the positive things happening in your life, or just in your mind. Some problems are genuine. Others are fixable by changing perspective. But this exercise is not about fixing anything. It’s just about letting it all out. 

Make a list of things that are worrying you

During this time, this is important. Collectively, we are all worried about coronavirus and its impact. But on an individual level, people are worried about many different things. We are not going through an identical experience. Depending on where you live, who you live with, how much money you have, what other challenges you face, what job you have, and numerous other factors, your experience and your worries are unique to your situation. So make a list of things that are worrying you. But be very specific. Don’t just say “I’m worried about coronavirus.” Why are you worried about coronavirus? Are you vulnerable and at a higher risk? Are your loved ones? Are you worried about coronavirus’ impact on your child’s education? Are you worried about losing your business? Whatever it is, be very specific. 

The point of this is to burst the bubble of vague fear. There is so much negativity in the media that it’s impossible not to be worried about everything and feel like the world is going to end. But we are here, and life continues. So instead of focusing on a big cloud of fear that just follows you all day, break down your worries, make them specific. 

You may find then that some of those worries are small things that perhaps you don’t need to worry about. It might identify some worries that you can fix. For example, if you are worried about being made redundant, perhaps you can start preparing and brush up your CV. Maybe you can start thinking of ways to make small money on the side. 

That is not to say that all your worries are baseless. They are not. But this list should help you identify which worries deserve your mental energies and which ones don’t. 

Gratitude 

It’s important to end on the positive. Especially when you are surrounded by negativity and fear. 

For this exercise, make a list of at least 10 things that you are grateful for. If anything, coronavirus has reminded us that things many of us take for granted, like health, are not available to everyone. If you are healthy, you’ve something to be grateful for. If you are healthy and have a safe roof over your head and enough food, you are very lucky. If you have all of that, and people who love you, you are massively fortunate. Appreciate that. 

Yes, problems are relative. Just because you have those things doesn’t mean you have to be content with your lot in life. You are still allowed to want more things, strive for things, complain about things. But during this exercise, just focus on what you have, rather than what you don’t have. 

Make that list. Say “Thank you” out loud, after you write each point. Just be present in that moment, as you thank god, the universe, whatever for each of those things. It will make you feel better. 

Action you can take today

What are you waiting for? Go do those exercises. And if you are really committed, do them at least once a week. The gratitude one, I recommend at least 3 times a week.