As we close the book on the tumultuous year that was 2020, many people continue to experience a great deal of stress. While the COVID-19 pandemic persists, there are a variety of reasons to feel anxious. Uncertainty about a vaccine, worries about exposure, and isolation are among the most common.
Because chronic stress is linked to health issues ranging from headaches and weight gain to diabetes and heart disease, it’s important to learn healthy ways to navigate tough times. When you don’t have positive ways of coping, unhealthy behaviors are more likely to develop.
Many people find regular journaling eases stress. It can be a productive way to sort out your feelings, focus on your blessings, and keep grounded. In fact, University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker believes regular journaling may even improve your health.
Journaling your feelings and fears helps you find solutions and peace. It can strengthen your immune system, increasing your odds of fighting off infections and staying healthy.
How and Why You Should Journal
One study highlighted the importance of journaling about what is really getting you down. Researchers found that 47% of patients with a chronic health condition experienced improvement in their physical and emotional well-being after writing honestly about what was impacting their lives. In contrast, people who journaled solely about everyday activities only had a 24% improvement. The bottom line was writing about what really hurts is difficult but meaningful.
If you’ve never tried journaling before, here’s some advice for getting started:
- Your journal doesn’t have to be expensive or particularly beautiful. While something nice to write in might entice you to journal more, even a spiral notebook will work.
- Journal at least four times a week to document your fears and hopes. Twenty to thirty minutes at a time is optimal for many people.
- Write without stopping; don’t worry about spelling and grammar. Just keep going.
- Write this for your eyes only. You’ll be more inclined to be open and honest if you don’t worry about what others might think.
- If writing about something makes you too upset, stop. Take a break and try again another day.
The Therapeutic Value of Journaling When You are a Caregiver offers more tips on journaling for better health. While written for family caregivers, much of the advice can be applied to anyone.
Heritage Responds to the COVID-19 Pandemic
At Heritage Senior Communities, we understand how fearful people are of being exposed to the coronavirus. Older adults are at highest risk for serious health consequences if they develop it. Coronavirus Precautions has tips to help you reduce your chances of being exposed, as well as information on our communities’ prevention measures. As conditions change, so will our response.