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  • Writer's pictureSimone Grove

How journaling can help to reduce fear, anxiety and overwhelm

My cancer wellness membership is all about reducing the fear, anxiety and overwhelm associated with cancer and other life-limiting illness – and one of the most powerful and accessible tools I encourage members to use to support them with this is journaling. Writing has long been used as a cathartic, therapeutic and creative way to extract some of what is going on within and help us to make sense of it – and now it’s become a self-care practice in its own right which is recommended and even prescribed by some therapists and doctors.


Throughout my personal and professional life, I have witnessed the positive impact of putting pen to paper first-hand. Journaling has rescued me many times when I’ve been dealing with a difficult situation, or have struggled to gain clarity on my thoughts and feelings. Here I’m sharing some insights into how journaling can help you on our wellness journey, along with tips and techniques to help you get started.


What is journaling?


Journaling is the practice of regularly writing down your thoughts, feelings, experiences, and reflections in a personal diary or notebook. It is a form of self-expression and self-reflection that can take various forms and serve different purposes – whether you’re keeping track of your wellness journey or want to work through some difficult emotions.


Journaling is a flexible and personal practice that can be adapted to suit your individual preferences and needs. It can serve as a therapeutic tool, a means of documenting life or a way to gain clarity and insight into your thoughts and emotions. Journaling can be carried out in a structured or unstructured way - some people may choose to focus on specific topics or prompts – others use their journal as a freeform space for self-expression.


Why is journaling beneficial for health and wellbeing?


The act of putting our thoughts down on paper can be incredibly cathartic, and many people find that it helps them to cope both with daily struggles and more serious situations they encounter in life.


When you’re dealing with a long-term or serious illness, it can feel overwhelming to make sense of what you’re thinking and feeling. Constant thoughts of the past and how things have changed and worries of what the future may hold can keep us from enjoying the present moment. People who are living with long-term or life-limiting conditions also tend to be more prone to developing anxiety and depression. Whilst journaling focuses on supporting our mental and emotional wellbeing, this has a direct impact on our physical health due to the fascinating mind-body connection. In a similar way journaling can help us to reframe some of the negative or unhelpful thoughts we are dealing with and adopt a more positive perspective on our health and wellbeing, allowing us to better manage how we feel about a condition or health challenge. 


Journaling is also a useful tool for reflection and for seeing how far you’ve come. You might like to skip back to old entries and see how your outlook and perspectives have changed – maybe in the interim you’ve cultivated some healthy new habits or have adopted a fresh mindset.


Tips to help you get started with journaling


One of the things I love most about journaling is that it’s open and accessible to everybody. You don’t need a fancy notebook or favourite pen to get started – although some people find that helps! Simply start to record your thoughts and feelings in the way that makes most sense to you – whether that’s digitally in the form of notes on your phone or emails sent to yourself, or in paper form in a notepad or your favourite diary.


Most of my members don’t have much difficulty putting pen to paper for the first time – in fact, once they start they find it difficult to stop. But it’s keeping up the habit that becomes challenging for most. These tips can help you to journal on a more regular basis and experience some of the many benefits it can bring.


Carve out dedicated space and time: We tend to journal best when we are in a safe, quiet surroundings where we can focus fully and won’t be disturbed. Some of us can scribble quick notes on the go or before we get out of bed each morning, but for others, making a ritual out of journaling helps them to maintain a regular practice and get the most out of their journaling sessions. You can set up a dedicated space at home for journaling – whether it’s a comfy armchair in the warmth of the morning sun with a cup of tea or a candlelit bath with a glass of wine. If you work better away from home, take yourself to your favourite coffee shop or restaurant and order a special treat. Creating a ritual around journaling can encourage you to do it more on a regular basis. Some people also find that setting an alarm or calendar reminder helps them to remember to make a regular journal entry.


Make use of journaling tools: A blank space can be daunting for some, especially if writing was never your forte at school. Journaling has seen an explosion in popularity in recent years as it’s become a trending topic in the wellness space. You can now find dedicated journals for specific areas of focus in your life or health, from weight loss and health-focused journals to dream journals and gratitude diaries. Some encourage you to make bullet notes, others include specific prompts around a topic or theme to help you to dive deeper on a certain area of your life.


Buddy up: Journaling together with a family member or friend (or holding one another accountable) is a great way to keep up your journaling practice. If you feel comfortable enough you might even like to share and discuss some of your journal entries with your buddy or a therapist to explore what’s come up for you further.


Start small: Many of my members find that when they first start journaling, they may only make weekly or monthly entries – or jot down irregular notes from time to time. There’s an expectation that writing a journal should be a daily activity, and for best results a consistent practice is beneficial – but at first especially don’t put pressure on yourself to write when you have nothing to say. This is your journaling practice, so it only needs to make sense to you.


Be gentle and let go of the need to be perfect: Nobody is going to see your journal entries – they’re just for you. So don’t worry if your spelling and grammar isn’t perfect, or your handwriting looks messy! If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Perfectionism has held a few of my members back from fully embracing their journaling practice at first, but when they allow themselves to just be and recognise that their journal is a tool to enhance their wellbeing rather than a task to be completed without mistakes, it eventually becomes enjoyable and more effortless. Relax, and let your journal practice be just about you. 

If you would like to find out more about my membership The Cancer Wellness Path then click here.







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