Coping COVID-19

Coping with COVID-19 – Tools from our Journals

In the past four weeks I’ve worked with over 45 students in online journaling workshops as each looked for ways to process the impact of the COVID-19 crisis individually and as a learning community. Nearly 75% of the way complete, it’s fascinating what we’ve shared together. And the lessons I’ve learned. My big takeaway comes down to four coping categories, and eight simple journal techniques.

As groups, we’re using journaling as a means to cope with this crisis. But the categories apply no matter how you approach self-care. The important thing is to do what feels right for you — and do something every day, just don’t overdo it.

Key Lessons from our Journals

From rocket scientists to sleep experts I’ve been chronicling the benefits to journaling, especially right now, here on my blog. I’ve also been keeping tabs on the leading thinking coming out of places like the Mayo Clinic and the Center for Disease Control. But it’s my students who had the wisest, most simple wisdom to share from their examples:

Be Present. Present to Emotions, Uncertainty, Gratitude.

Routine. Do something basic every day to Boost Immunity, Sleep Consistently, Journal.

Release. It’s hard enough to take in so much change and so much bad news at once. Let alone to process it. Release in the way that feels right to you through things like Hobbies, Books/Music, Moments of joy.

Connect. At this time of separation we need as many ways to connect as still possible. Focus on Loved Ones, Helping Others, Nature, Faith.

And through their own courage to learn new ways to connect with their journals right now, these students have reminded me of the most simple and effective tools for this moment.

Journal Tools in the Time of COVID-19

Based what I’ve observed with my students these past few weeks, the best approach is to try something simple, with the intent of addressing at least one of the four categories every day. (Colored fonts below indicate a link to additional resources on most techniques.)

Be Present:

  • 5 Minute Sprints – Set a timer for 5, add “What’s going on?…” as your prompt. Write.
  • Reflection Writing – Whatever you end up writing, reread it (aloud if you want to), take a breath, write for one more minute about whatever comes to you. You are your own best coach and advocate.
  • Stream of Consciousness – Take a long walk, focus on your breathing for 3 minutes or daydream for 5. Then open your journal. Write.

Routine:

  • Topics du Jour – Find seven topics that mean the most to you right now. Select one topic per day of the week and assign each to its own page in your journal. Do one quick write on each day’s topic. Repeat each week. For example: Mondays – ‘Managing Stress’, Tuesdays – ‘Healthy Habits’, Wednesday – ‘My Kiddos’, etc.

Release:

  • Clustering – Write a focus word in the center of a journal page and circle it. It could be an emotion you wish to process, a word that represents something that brings you joy, or inspires you. Take a few deep breaths as you consider your word. Then doodle and sketch with branches with whatever comes to mind. When you finish, describe your doodle in words.
  • Dreams – Many of us have been dreaming more often, and we’re remembering more of our dreams, and they are more vivid right now. Dreams are the subconscious mind’s way to process what happens during our day. A journal is a beneficial way to complete that processing.

Connect:

  • Character Sketch – Think of one special person in your life and observe fully in your mind what they mean to you emotionally, as a physical presence, the lessons they have for you, any inspiration or memories. Sit and be present with them for a few moments. Then use your journal to record a vivid description. When you are done, pick up the phone, send a card, or hop on a Zoom call. Share the highlights of your write, or just enjoy the interaction. If this loved one is no longer with us or inaccessible right now, find a ritual to share the highlights — perhaps whisper them to the first star you see in the evening sky.
  • Captured Moment – Let a joyful moment come to mind and then experience it again in your mind using all five senses. Linger for a moment. Then record it in your journal.

Remember the Overall Wisdom

I hope this framework for thinking about coping and self-care is helpful in this moment. Remember to keep it simple, but do something to support yourself each day. Being present, finding routine, releasing and connecting are powerful tools whether your work on them through your journal or in other ways.

 

All of these techniques are presented in the Journal to the Self workshops I teach. Given the current situation, I’m running only online classes right now and finalizing a schedule. Please contact me as I may be able to open a class for you!

 

Photo by Lisa Fotios, Pexels. 

LOL in Your Journal

Reflective Journal writing is so simple to do — and brings amazing insights. I also love those times when my journal absolutely makes me laugh out loud. It’s often when I need a humor break the most, or as I’m making some sort of delightfully profound connection — blowing away an obstacle that had been weighing me down.

It’s really fun for me to share a recent humor example that I think will stay with me forever. I’m reading Writing the Natural Way by Gabriele Rico. One of the activities is to use the Clustering technique as in Journal to the Self®with the prompt word

Afraid

I have to admit I wasn’t overwhelmed with the exercise. But I sat down and began by adding words about the big, bad, scary things related to being afraid. And then I added a protective lower ring I called the ‘safe zone’. And I finished with a core that wrapped around and highlighted the powerful parts of being afraid (like learning and experimenting). I felt done with words and sketched a few lines to contain and highlight the groupings.

I put my pen down, again feeling underwhelmed. But then I shifted the page just a touch to review my Cluster.

And I laughed out loud.

Journal to the Self Online

 

Spontaneous ‘Afraid’ sketch above. Brain diagram summarizes my recent reading. Notice how thinking, emotional and safety/instinct words line up. Even a stem! (Albeit wrong anatomically).

Here’s the sketch that emerged from my Cluster, as well as an image that represents the brain reading I’ve been doing lately about our reptile brain, why it’s programmed to think negatively (to protect us) and how people can use journal writing as a work around.

Darn it if I hadn’t just sketched a whole brain! When I finished laughing I did the next writing step, to describe what happened in the Cluster. In just mere moments I combined items related to my personal goals and business vision, readings and research I’ve been doing lately, and topics I’ve been discussing with a friend. Talk about the time savings, good laugh and next steps all packed into one journal write.

Journal to the Self Online

Hope you have fun watching for the humor in your own journal! Whether you make yourself laugh, or inspire yourself with how super-smart you can be, I hope you can join me soon for a Journal to the Self workshop. It’s a fun and amazing experience of personal discovery. My next online class begins March 12. Apply coupon code ‘Envision2020’ for a discount.

Brain image source: World of Lucid Dreaming