IN THESE DIVIDED AND STRESSFUL TIMES, we are experiencing a sort of collective trauma. Every day we read about or watch events unfold that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago: Nazis marching and chanting in the streets of the United States, cars plowing into crowds as a form of terrorism, high-level politicians condoning racism, and political/religious extremes becoming mainstream. And then there are the natural disasters. As I write, Hurricane Harvey is pounding southeast Texas with record levels of rain, bringing flooding and death with it.
Every person’s reactions to these events is different, from feeling a vague and persistent sense of anxiety to more serious signs of trauma, including nightmares and panic attacks. But, I think, to some extent, even if we are not in close physical proximity to these events, we are all impacted by what we see and hear.
As your stress level rises, it becomes more important than ever to take care of yourself. This may seem selfish, but it’s not. When you take care of yourself, you become healthier and more emotionally balanced. You are then better able to respond quickly and compassionately to others in stress and need. But how do you figure out what to do and how to get started?It's more important than ever to take care of yourself. Click To Tweet
Journal writing is an excellent way to process emotions and identify ways to improve your self-care. To get started, set aside ten to fifteen minutes, choose one prompt from the following list, and start writing.
7 Journaling Prompts to Process Emotions and Promote Self-Care:
- Free-write for ten minutes about your emotional responses to current events. Are you angry? Scared? Depressed? Prefer not to think about it? How do your emotional responses affect your daily life?
- Write three ways you could channel negative emotional energy into positive actions. What would it take to starting doing one of these?
- Make a list of all the daily activities in your life that bring you comfort. You may not be able to affect the political landscape, but you can walk the dog, read to the kids, weed the garden. Circle three of your favorite activities and be sure to do at least one of these each day. Performed with conscious intention, they can help bring a sense of balance back into your life.
- What are the ways you intentionally nurture and take care of yourself physically? Do you make healthy food choices? Do you exercise? Do you get enough rest? Write about ways you could improve your self-care. Then, commit yourself to making just one small, healthy change, such as going to bed fifteen minutes earlier, stretching or taking a short walk in the mornings, eating fruit instead of pastries — whatever works for you and is doable.
- Write about your social life. Do you spend quality, relaxed time with close friends and family? Do you have people you can talk to about your feelings? Do you spend a lot of time on social media? Write about the general quality of your social interactions. What are the ways you could spend more time with the people who matter to you and less time involved in negative interactions?
- Take a look around your personal surroundings — your home and work spaces. Are they cluttered? Do you really need everything you have? Do your surroundings reflect who you really are? Write about the meanings attached to your possessions and identify those items you no longer have an attachment for or don’t need. This can be a first step toward letting go and uncluttering your physical space.
- How much time do you regularly make to spend time alone or in creative activity? What are you passionate about doing? Write about how you feel when you engage in those creative activities. If you haven’t been making time for yourself and your creativity, what could you give up doing in exchange for more time for your passion? What would it take to get started?
Once you’ve written about your feelings and identified a few ways to improve how you take care of yourself, commit to at least one small action for today.
What will you do today to nurture yourself?