Managing self-care through self-reflective journal writing

Wednesday, July 24, 2019
by Erika Tan (she/her)

Life is a balancing act and sometimes it can really test our perseverance. We are constantly juggling and multitasking a number of different things from work, assignments, plans with friends, personal downtime- you name it. There can be so much on your plate that it’s hard to prioritize your mental well-being. When this happens, it’s time to take a step back and practice some self-care strategies.

Two journals and two pencils on a white desk.

What does self-care mean?

Self-care means taking action to improve one's own health. This action can include doing things that make you feel relaxed and calm. Going for a walk, meditating, and even watching Netflix are all apart of self-care because they work to ease your mind and make you feel better. You can do whatever allows you to unwind and makes you feel lighter inside.

One thing that allows me to cope and practice self-care is journal writing. It’s a useful tool in helping me sort out my anxieties and document the highlights of my day. I recommend trying out journal writing to see if it’s a self-care activity for you! Start by picking your favourite journal and writing utensil (mine is a thick ballpoint pen), then letting your inner thoughts and feelings pour out on the page.

Video of person with flowers blooming from their head, which turns into butterflies.

How does journal writing help?

  1. Generates more positivity

By making daily practice of journal writing, you can generate more positive thinking. Write about something that made you excited throughout the day, no matter how small. It’s important to celebrate the little victories in life. According to Hal Elrod, the author of The Miracle Morning, he stated “Writing in a journal each day, with a structured, strategic process allows you to direct your focus to what you did accomplish, what you’re grateful for, and what you’re committed to doing better tomorrow.” Writing down the highpoints of each day can help you find a way to acknowledge the bright side of even the toughest days.

  1. Lets you unplug and recharge

Taking a step back and allowing your brain to recharge should be as natural as sleeping or eating. It’s a necessity! Our brains are always on 24/7 so it’s natural to need a break and let your mind purge some of these thoughts. Giving yourself this release lets you have a chance to reflect and process moments in your life that had an impact on you. A recent brain study done on volunteers even showed that by writing your emotions on paper reduces the activity in the part of the amygdala (in your brain) which controls the intensity of your emotions. Soothe your mind by sitting back, relaxing, and journal writing.

  1. Allows you to release emotions

Being honest and open about your emotions is important because it helps you to pinpoint the things in your life that you may not have given yourself time to recover from. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about yourself and explore your identity. According to the University of Rochester Medical Centre, “you get to know yourself by revealing your most private fears, thoughts, and feelings.By taking the time to sit and process on paper, you are able to take a second look, gain insight, and gain self-awareness of your motivations.

  1. Awakens creativity and self-expression

Creating gives you the freedom to express your truth and build a healthy outlet that brings you peace of mind and contentment within yourself. Journal writing also allows you to revel in your own healing, joy, and success. It feels good to put time and energy into journaling when you get to see the results that come from it. Bottom line is that it makes you feel good inside when you put all your effort and passion into anything you do!

Video of girl who lifts her head and a galaxy background fills the screen.

What are the different styles of journal writing to try?

  • Free-writing
  • Creative/poetic expression
  • Meditation writing
  • Bullet journaling
  • Daily writing prompts
  • Affirmations

Self-care starts with you allowing yourself to be vulnerable and honest. Through self-reflection, you can finally let out everything you’ve been holding back. Your journal is your own personal platform where you can document your worries, stresses, and successes. You can sit back, relax, and write to your heart’s content.

       If you need to speak with a professional your thoughts and feelings, you can make an appointment at the University of Waterloo’s counselling services, which are available on-campus and are free of charge. The UW Campus Wellness a safe space and support for students. Book an individual appointment or visit their drop-in hours from 10:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays.