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Student Journaling: a Coping Technique

There is a pervasive and deeply disruptive sense of loss that has gone alone with Covid-19 and the associated protocols that have deeply affected the community. The loss that penetrates most, if not all, aspects of life: loss of schedule, control, normalcy, jobs, in-person conversation and enrichment, and feelings of personal safety, to name some of the most pertinent in my life. In combination with the lack of certainty regarding the number of active cases, it makes things like going to the gym or getting groceries tremendously more dangerous. Now, if that is compounded with mental health issues that are manageable with habits like a regular sleep schedule and daily exercise, it is understandable that many people are struggling through this pandemic without the normal coping techniques they use to stabilize and ground themselves. Indeed, pre-pandemic, I used to start my mornings with the gym, and if I had a long day, I might even go twice that day, but since case numbers are so high, I, like many others, am staying home and going stir-crazy.

Time spent showering, putting on makeup and doing your hair to picking out your outfit may have consumed a large part of the time before C-19, but online classes and working from home for most individuals have removed a lot of the need to spend so much time grooming yourself. Suddenly the time you spent getting ready in the morning is halved by throwing on a sweatsuit and stuffing your hair in a hat, but now on the other side of things, you have an excess of time on your hands with which you now have to fill. Lucky for you, journaling is a habit that can help kill time AND is customizable to fit into your life however that may look.

Journaling is an easy, relatively cheap and extremely beneficial means of spending time, and it can be incorporated into your day in a way that suits your life. Whether you write daily, do a weekly or monthly check-in or simply write whenever you think of it, there are benefits to making it a habit. There are various options for the type of journal as well: worry journal, habit tracker, mood journal, exercise journal, a stream of consciousness on plain paper, planner, a notebook, a sketchbook, or even your notes app on your phone. There are so many kinds of journaling that I recommend you google types of journals yourself for more options; the sheer number of different kinds and ways of journaling is overwhelming, and for that reason, I have no doubts that if this article piqued your interest, there is a journal type for you.

Forcing yourself to slow down and synthesize your thoughts can help clear your head to feel less busy or overwhelmed, get things off your chest and help you process all that has gone on in your day, week or month. To write in general also helps with self-reflection: for example, when you write about events of that day, you are essentially given the ability to write your own story how you choose to see it. When writing about a specific event that happened to you, you give yourself the ability to reframe the story and recapture things more objectively or positively. Indeed, by re-telling the story in a way that makes sense and pleases you, you are often able to understand better the events themselves, as well as gain an understanding of why you handled them that way. Furthermore, the mindfulness of journaling allows for deeper self-reflection than simply thinking about the day’s events because there is less repetitive circling back to the same thoughts, and it can get you thinking about how those habits affect the future. By journaling about the way that events transpired, you can often gain insight into your own behaviours and determine whether you want to maintain them or do things differently next time.

Once you have a journal or thing to write on/in, have a realistic goal for yourself in terms of what you are willing and able to write, and commit to it, you will have a collection of your own thoughts over time. You can more easily identify patterns in your life by looking through old entries, and you get the unique benefit of comparing how your writing and thoughts have changed over time.

During the pandemic, I think the main benefit is that it helps create a continuous narrative, a sense that life continues and that it is moving forward, even when feeling stuck and isolated. It’s increasingly easy to feel that time has paused, so creating and contributing to something that shows the progression from yesterday to today to tomorrow can bring a sense of hope and momentum. When many of us have been feeling powerless, the very act of bothering to write down your thoughts is a way of showing yourself that you matter, your thoughts and feelings are valid and that you are inherently valuable. How many hobbies can you say do that, huh?

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