Journaling involves a process known as free writing. In free writing, people express their thoughts without any self-editing, letting their ideas flow directly from their mind to paper (or computer screen). Experts recommend journaling as a great way to release your innermost thoughts and emotions, reducing stress and improving health.
One of the biggest keys to journaling is that it is private. By casting your thoughts into words, you free yourself from the burden of keeping feelings locked up inside you. It’s a method many family caregivers have used to deal with isolation, guilt, anger, sadness and other feelings and issues that can arise when a loved one’s health crisis upends their own life.
How Is Journaling Different Than Other Writing?
Most of us have read an epistolary novel or seen movies in which people from past eras write long letters expressing their feelings on one thing or another. The difference with these letters, no matter how heartfelt, is that they are intended for someone else to read, just like your emails and texts today.
In contrast, journaling is meant just for you. You don’t need a structure to your writing. You also need not apply any type of filter or edit yourself. Journaling gives you the opportunity to “say” exactly what you feel without worrying someone else will see it.
Benefits of Journaling for Caregivers
Journaling is a powerful and liberating tool for caregivers. It can help you dig deeper into your emotions and find the reasons behind your feelings and even your behavior. It also can help relieve the stress of caregiving, a benefit every caregiver can use.
Other benefits of journaling for family caregivers include:
Improved health. A recent study published by the Cambridge University Press found that “writing about traumatic, stressful or emotional events has been found to result in improvements in both physical and psychological health.”
Solve challenges. Writing down your thoughts can help you come up with solutions to problems you might not have otherwise considered.
Ease your burden. Much like solving problems, writing about your day-to-day life can also help you find ways to make your caregiving duties run more smoothly.
Resolve arguments. Writing about a recent argument can help you see more clearly what led to the conflict.
Clarify your feelings. It’s easy for caregivers to get lost in attending to the needs of others. Journaling allows you to get in touch with your own thoughts and feelings.
Family Caregiver Free Writing Techniques and Tips
Certainly, the benefits of journaling sound wonderful. But how to get started?
The first rule for journaling is that other than the need to write, there really are no rules. You don’t have to use pen and paper or write at a certain time each day. You don’t have to have a special journal book, although they are nice. Any old college-ruled paper notebook will do. You can use a laptop or even the notes on your smartphone. Just make sure whatever you use is accessible only by you.
For caregivers who are experiencing a wealth of emotions, a good place to start is to write about how the diagnosis of your loved one impacted you. Don’t feel guilty! This is the place to freely write down your true emotions about the situation. Typically, it leads to a good place, as many caregivers realize that the situation has led them to grow in important ways.
Another useful tool if you are having a hard time starting is to use a writing prompt. They include phrases such as:
- Today I want…
- Today I need…
- Today I wish…
- I remember when…
- What I really want to say but haven’t been able to is…
- My greatest fear is…
- I feel happiest when…
- What I would do if I knew I would not fail is…
Journaling is a healthy, beneficial activity for everyone. As a caregiver, you can especially benefit because it allows you to spend time with the one person who likely is not getting enough care and attention: yourself. Put free writing techniques to use and see how they improve your day-to-day mindset.