How Journaling Provides Self-Care for Caregivers
Caregiving comes with a great deal of stress and emotion – particularly when caring for a close friend or family member. Paradoxically, it can be difficult to prioritize or even justify self-care as a caregiver, yet sacrificing your own mental and physical well-being makes it nearly impossible to care for someone else.
Self-care can mean a lot of things these days. In the era of COVID-19, some self-care options — such as grabbing a coffee with a friend or going to a yoga class — have been more difficult with social distancing. Other options, like getting a massage or taking a weekend away can be expensive. But keeping a self-care journal offers a safe, free method of self-care. It’s part confessional, part storytelling, and part self-exploration that offers reflection, growth, and healing. All you need is a pen and paper or a laptop.
Ways A Self-Care Journal Benefits Caregivers
Keeping a self-care journal can provide great benefits to caregivers in processing their own emotions and taking time for themselves. Here are some ways journaling can be effective in the caregiving process.
- Exploring your feelings without judgment.
At times, it’s easy to feel stressed, sad, or upset without recognizing the reasons behind your feelings. Much like behavioral therapy, journaling allows you to say anything you want to say without fear of bias or judgment. This is particularly important for caregivers, who often face guilt and other complicated feelings throughout their journey. The ability to communicate those feelings in writing, even when no one else is reading, helps you release and explore emotions in a therapeutic way.
- A quiet time to reflect.
Dedicating time to a self-care journal allows you to consistently take quiet time each day. Life gets very busy managing an illness, and it’s often difficult to find time to sit with your thoughts. Developing a schedule to prioritize journaling can provide a timeout from the day-to-day to escape and reflect. Pick a quiet time in the morning or a break in the middle of the day—or even save journaling as the last thing you do before bed. Just keep it consistent to ensure that you develop the habit.
- A daily log that you can look back on.
It’s been said that self-care journals are contracts with yourself. Documenting how you feel on certain days may help you identify patterns — healthy and unhealthy — that gives you a larger picture of yourself and your path. Noticing what life events triggers which emotions in you makes it easier to embrace or avoid certain situations and increase self-awareness.
- Measuring gratitude.
Many people use journaling to pinpoint areas of gratitude to remind themselves of the good around them. This can be especially important when dealing with an illness or caring for a friend or family member. Writing down three to five positive things that happened on any given day promotes a healthier outlook on your journey through life—past, present, and future.
- Better health outcomes.
Studies show that writing in a self-care journal can lead to better mental and physical health. Spending just 20 minutes a day for 3-4 days a week has been shown to boost the immune system, decrease blood pressure, improve sleep cycles, and more.
- No rules.
Journaling doesn’t have to look a certain way. Anything goes. You could write poetry, a letter to yourself, a recap of the day—all without editing yourself or focusing on spelling and grammar. Writing (or even doodling) in a self-care journal offers a certain freedom of self-expression that allows emotions to flow without restraint.
Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care helps patients create a Life Journal to pass on their experiences and advice. To learn more about the Crossroads Life Journal program, please call 1-888-564-3405.
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