Over the past two weeks, I have found myself increasingly overwhelmed by alarming news, horrific statistics, and the endless stream of cautionary tales from countries crippled by the effects of the coronavirus. The more time I spend cocooning in my apartment, the more I find my thoughts and mood entirely dictated by what I read in the news.
I reconnected via video calls with friends I hadn’t spoken to in years and pestered my mom with images of my failed attempts at her baking recipes. Yet the only person I spend every second with is also the one I feel completely disconnected from: myself.
I’ve tried to learn how to journal at different times in my life to help me deal with a breakup, deal with stress in college, and refocus my ambitions in my career.
But now, more than ever, I revel in the benefits of journaling, doodling in the Moleskine that until a few days ago lay at the bottom of my purse under a pile of receipts and lip glosses.
I used to write in my journal in neat calligraphy with the occasional dreamy illustration in the margins. This latest writing adventure began with a clinical account of my feelings about current affairs, written in clear, neat handwriting.
For a second, I wanted to believe that a historian would use it one day. However, this quickly deteriorated into a panicked style of conscience in which I wondered if my grandchildren would ever see the outside, or if I would even think it was ethical to have children. At least I think that’s what I wrote; it was too illegible to read again.
Messy reviews seem appropriate given the state of disarray the world is in anyway. And although at first glance you might think that I only fueled my internal panic and exacerbated it, it actually helped a lot!
After just one writing session, I felt like I was looking in the mirror for the first time in weeks and thinking, “Where have you been? I had been so absorbed in the collective state of panic in the world that I forgot to check in with myself.
Journaling was the closest thing to a breath of fresh air since quarantine began.
Besides the obligation we have to record this time for future generations, journaling could be one of the few ways to maintain our sanity while we self-isolate. Psychologists and health experts have reported several surprising benefits of journaling for 15-20 minutes each day.
The benefits of journaling include:
- It reduces stress-related diseases. Studies have linked daily journaling to lower blood pressure and improved liver functionality. Isolation takes its toll in many physical ways, which might help reverse some of the damage.
- It boosts immune function. According to studies, those who keep a journal regularly also report strengthened immune cells and claim that their wounds heal faster. This can help prevent contracting the disease during quarantine.
- It keeps the memory alive. While we all struggle to get through our days with hours of mindless online scrolling, journaling can help keep us entertained and alert. It has been connected to cognitive processing and helps increase memory capacity.
- It helps regulate emotions. Expressive writing helps us deal with adversity and encourages us to maintain a positive outlook. It’s so important right now to avoid being overwhelmed by negativity in the media.
Reconnecting with your goals and priorities is what I needed to stop letting this situation dictate every waking second. It helped me feel invigorated and reminded me that I am my first priority.
So if you’re struggling with journaling, here are 10 writing guidelines to get you started:
1. What would you do if you had no fear?
2. What are the 3 biggest lessons you learned in quarantine?
3. What was your childhood dream? What happened to him?
4. What did you learn from your most painful past experience?
5. What do you miss in life before quarantine? What will you change in your life afterwards?
6. Who and what are you most grateful for in your life?
7. List all the things you like about yourself.
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Alice Kelly is a writer with a passion for lifestyle, entertainment and current affairs.