Managing feelings through journaling

COVID-19 requires that we continuously explore new ways of relating to others, new ways of working, new habits and new routines. These changes in habits are akin the experience of culture shock which is a disequilibrium caused when an individual’s internal capabilities are not aligned with the demands of the new environment. For years, I have researched, taught and practiced reflective journaling as a way to cope with the emotional demands of culture shock, make sense of novel situations and, learn new ways of being and behaving. These tools can be helpful in this unprecedent pandemic. In this post, I discuss how to use journaling to sooth emotions. For a reflection process on learning, see this post.

Journaling can help us deal with feelings of loneliness, anxiety and helplessness, by providing a space to focus inward, become aware of and label feelings, which deactivates the part of the brain that initiates a stress response

The simplest way to journal to sooth emotions is to find a quiet space and write every arising thought or feeling without judgement or concern for writing quality for about 15 minutes. You may focus on how you feel at the moment or about an emotional situation you experienced during the day. As you do that, name your experience as it arises: bored, worried, concerned. Don’t try to change anything, just honor what comes up. Describe your emotions in detail, drawing on a resource such as the Feelings Wheel or Feelings Inventory to identify words to describe how you feel. As you write, notice how these emotions feel in your body. Notice the desire to avoid or control emotions, and breath into these sensations.

Just by labeling these feelings, you may find that they become more manageable. To take this reflection to the next level, consider tools from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy as explained in this article to help you manage difficult emotions in these challenging times.