As a caregiver, we understand the stresses and challenges that come with providing care for others. One effective way to relieve that stress for caregivers is through journaling. This form of self-care is vital to maintain your own health and well-being while being there for your loved ones.
The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study highlighting the "importance of writing about what is really getting you down". The message of the study was that while writing about what really hurts can be difficult, it can also have a positive effect on both the physical and emotional health of caregivers and those who are ill.
Writing in a journal is an inexpensive, effective tool to reduce stress and anxiety and can be done for 5 minutes or longer depending on your time, and best of all it can be done anywhere. Finding a relaxing quiet place and time to journal is just as meaningful to your self-care as the process itself.
There are no "rules" to journaling, but here are some helpful tips to get started.
Helpful Tips to Start Journaling
Use an inexpensive journal notebook, loose paper, or go digital by typing your journal onto your computer or mobile device. Whatever form you choose, keep it private so you don't worry about others reading what you wrote.
Set aside a time and place for journaling. Depending on your personal schedule, find a quiet time that works for you. This could be first thing in the morning as you have your coffee, or later at night before going to bed. Setting the time and place for your writing establishes a routine of self-care that has so many benefits.
Write about a major stressor or challenging event in your day or current situation. This can be about a particular event that occurred that day or a general topic of how your life is currently. You'll find that the more you write your daily journal, the more topics, ideas and events will become easier to articulate and may even shift to more positive attributes and highlights of the day.
Write without stopping. This stream of conscious thought is more effective in "getting it all out" than if you had to worry about what to write, spelling or grammar. It doesn't even have to be in sentence form! make it your own.
If after a few days, you realize that journaling is causing your more harm than good, stop. Journaling may not be for everyone, so give it a try and if it's not for you, then stop and think about other ways that you can connect with yourself and the events in your life.
Health Benefits of Journaling for Caregivers
1. Reduces caregiver stress Writing about your emotions, sadness, anger, or frustrations is a therapeutic way of releasing the tensions that occur with these feelings. After releasing those emotions and tensions, you will feel calmer and more relaxed.
2. Improves your health One study found that when people write about emotionally difficult events or feelings for just 20 minutes at a time over 3 or 4 days, their immune system functioning increases. The relief gained by writing also improved the body’s ability to withstand stress, infection, and disease. Additional benefits of journaling include decreased blood pressure, improved sleep, less need to visit the doctor, faster healing, greater mobility in people with arthritis, and more.
3. Finds solutions Journaling can also be used for problem-solving. Writing your thoughts out on paper or digitally can create ways to de-code what the real issues are and help you to resolve them.
4. Makes caregiving easier
As a caregiver, journaling helps you to see patterns in different situations. Writing down daily events or challenges will help you to see patterns or triggers to your loved one's behaviour, explore ways to prevent challenges, and gives you the ability to find things that could be improved, simplified, or eliminated to make life run more smoothly.
5. Resolves arguments with others Writing about arguments or misunderstandings helps you keep from re-living it over in your mind. It might even help you see the other person’s point of view or figure out a way to resolve the conflict.
6. Provides moments for self-care Oftentimes, as caregivers, we don't take the time for ourselves and our own health. It's easy to lose yourself in the service of others, especially elderly loved ones. Journaling will help you clarify your thoughts and feelings and give you the necessary time and techniques to feel more relaxed and at ease.
So, go ahead. Find a quiet, comfortable spot and take a few minutes to write down your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It may be one of the best ways to relieve your stress and gain clarity.
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