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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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. 

Prompting Yourself to ‘Spring Forward’

We’ve gained an hour of sunlight (but I do miss that hour of sleep!). The earth still appears to be sleeping, but change is afoot.

In your journal this is great inspiration. Try a Springboard or a Clustering write.

Spring forward…

As a Springboard write, use the words as your prompt and follow your writing.

As a Clustering write, place the words in the center of a page and circle them. Then branch and sketch as it suits you.

Write for five minutes. When you are done, reread your writing and jot down a few follow notes based on what you notice, observe in your body or any to do’s that may be popping out to you.

Use Your Journal to Spring Forward, Farther!

Springboard and Clustering are just two of 18 amazing techniques I teach during Journal to the Self workshops. Learn more on the Workshops page (online and in-person session). Or, if you prefer to sample first, try a free technique, or let’s schedule a no obligation phone call to chat about how I can support your own change journey.

Clustering: On ‘Thesaurus Day’

Happy birthday Peter Roget (inventor of the modern thesaurus)! Okay, I did have to look this up. But I love that it’s a thing.

In honor of Peter’s love of words, I’d invite you to try the Clustering technique in your journal today. Clustering is a quick and simple technique that tricks your left (thinking) brain into taking a break, so your right (scenery) brain can write. This is consistently one of my students’ favorite techniques and they always get delightfully surprising and useful insights, in a fast and fun way.

Try it out. As a prompt, use whatever word inspires you in this year 2020. Or try:

My Priorities 2020

Write your word in a circle in the center. Then branch, doodle and scribble all the thoughts that emerge. As some point, you’ll just feel done. When that happens, review the diagram and describe in words the story it tells. Do the branches relate? Or contradict? Are there lots of short branches? Or a few long ones? What are the arrows, underlines or notes in the margins telling you? Note whatever trends, themes, insights you notice.

Now go back and skim your doodle again, as well as the words you’ve written to describe it.  Write a short reflection: whatever observations, surprises or ideas you have. This might be an emotional feeling, a sense in your body, or the seed of an idea you want to follow up on.

Clustering is just one of 18 amazing techniques I teach during Journal to the Self workshops. Learn more on the Workshops page (online and in-person session). Or, same page has info if you prefer to sample first, try a free technique, or let’s schedule a no obligation phone call to chat about how I can support your own change journey.

Take Aim – It’s Sagittarius Season

The season of Sagittarius reminds us to take aim.

Take a moment to try a journal-writing prompt inspired by the archer of the Zodiac. Try the Clustering technique from Journal to the Self ®:

simply write the inspiration prompt, “Taking aim” in the center of a blank page and circle it.

Take a few deep breaths as you reflect on the prompt. Then brainstorm whatever comes using branching, arrows, doodles or whatever strikes you. When you are done review your clustering and write out a few sentences to describe it in words, themes or insights. Finish with a reflection – how did it feel to write this? What are your ah ahs? What did you notice or observe?

May the confidence and strong sense of self of Sagittarius and your own insights on taking aim carry you forward over the next month.

Clustering is just one of 18 amazing techniques I teach during Journal to the Self workshops. Learn more on the Workshops page (online and in-person session). Or, if you prefer to sample first, try a free technique, or let’s schedule a no obligation phone call to chat about how I can support your own change journey.

Image by skeeze from Pixabay.