Photo credit by meddygarnet

[title text=”Guest blog by Laura Wood”]

Laura Wood - On Journaling for Caregivers

Laura Wood, caregiver and community member

A caregiver’s days are consumed by serving others and putting out fires. Yet they seldom receive warmth and reciprocal regard.

There is a critical need for peaceful, compassionate spaces for caregivers to relax, reflect, vent and process decisions in a logical rather than stress fueled, spontaneous emotional manner.

Is taking precious time out of an already stressed schedule to journal worth the time?

Online journaling has given me a place to regroup, outline, organize and express thoughts (including stressful ones), feelings, (including difficult ones) worries as well as memories both positive and negative.  Journaling clears cobwebs, and releases pain. It provides a place where problem solving and resolution flow naturally due, in part, to discoveries made during the writing process.

Writing in a journal (or online journal) is self-empowering, giving you perspective on formidable circumstances such as unrealistic expectations, unreasonable demands and your caregiver responsibilities. If left unrestrained, those demands and expectations lead to feelings of hopelessness, depression, anxiety, stress, fatigue and delude caregivers into believing we can manage situations that are out of our control.

Although it sounds counter-intuitive, journaling is a social activity.

Especially for those who spend much of their time confined and on autopilot. There have been times that I was so busy caring for my Mother that passing a mirror I thought, “who is that” for a minute so I was not even communicating with myself. So much time spent in isolation feels like a self-imposed witness protection program.  Journaling helps start the process of coming back from the abyss.

Your journal is a place to turn off autopilot, bathe in creativity, conscious awareness, and exercise parts of the brain that spend far too much time performing confining, perpetual, arduous and thankless tasks.

One of the payoffs of journaling is pure freedom, which gives profoundly beneficial stress relief, as it is one activity that caregivers may perform their way.  One may write a mini book one day, nothing the next few and two words the next– there are no hard and fast rules. It is your adventure!

I started journaling by employing the same cerebral props that are part of my natural process; mini breaks for the brain, if you will.  I think lyrically, therefore many times quote lyrics and/or the portion thereof that are streaming in relation to the topic, or that were during a stated situation.  As my signature bell and whistle, I frequently save space at the top of entries to compose

Journaling, What’s the Use for Caregivers? Freedom, Perhaps. - Photo by Grand Canyon NPS

Photo by Photo by Grand Canyon NPS

inspirational thoughts, gratitude lists or quote compositions written by others.  Keeping positive inspirational thoughts and gratitude as part of journaling aids in balancing even the hairiest entries and may lead to insight through positive and creative problem solving.

Sometimes I write a few words and go back to that entry several times before it is finished.  Might have a few minutes of down time several times a day to write and finish my thoughts later perhaps curled up at night with a nice cup of tea.

Journaling is like you without makeup (or before a shave, for you guys) and before a shower after a good workout.

It is real, raw, perhaps even a bit messy and smelly.  The payoff is a clearer understanding and one may reap immediate validation as well as future benefit.  Whether to share or keep the journal private it is a personal choice. Mine remains open in hopes that the content may help someone and honestly I love reading others’ journal entries for helpful insights and the feeling of camaraderie.

The Gift: Journaling is a gift that only you may give to you.  Your journal may be your metaphorical Tiffany’s box filled with anything you want it to be and any size you wish.  It is worth the time because YOU, caregiver are worth the time.  After a few months you may look back and be impressed by the speed of your progress and the beneficial improvements self-awareness has added to your life.

How has journaling helped you? Let me know in the comments below!
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Our sincerest thanks to Laura for being such an amazing community member and champion.
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