“Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.”—Christina Baldwin
Are you a family caregiver?
If so, how does caring for an ill loved one make you feel?
Do you feel lonely?
Do you feel fearful and uncertain?
Do you feel grief, which is the opposite of joy?
You are on an emotional rollercoaster.
Caring for an ailing loved one can be overwhelming, thoroughly exhausting—stressful, and rewarding.
“I do not complain. I am a caregiver to both my wife, Ann, age seventy-three, and my dad, Walter, age ninety-four, and I consider it an honor and privilege to serve them both.
“My wife had had a collapsed lung and had suffered a heart attack, and I almost lost her. When the hospital released her to come home, I can recall seeing her sitting back on the bed with an air of resignation and sadness in her eyes. She said, ‘I can feel the spirit leaving my body.’ I stared at her. My heart was too heavy for me to respond.
“My dad had had a stroke. One side of his body was almost paralyzed. His hearing had faded out, but he was a fighter and still hanging on. But when I looked at him when he would be wincing in pain, I could feel the gaping hole in my chest where my heart used to be. My dad was so skinny I could see his ribs pressed into his thin pajama shirt.
“Of course, they both need help wiping. However, I feel fortunate that both are in hospice at home, where I have access to service whenever I need it and can call the 24/7 Hotline in an emergency.
“But Dad is declining quickly.
“It hurts me to see Ann and my dad this way.
“How can I feel happy and upbeat when they are in such a situation or pain?
“I can’t be happy and cheerful all the time. And I’m so tired.”
Doug is grieving and could be nearing depression because of his caregiving responsibilities for his wife and father, causing him deep sadness and fatigue.
What can help Doug at his lowest point?
How Did Journal Writing Begin?
A journal can be a trusted companion and an empathetic friend in an unsympathetic world.
A journal “allows us to leave a collection of still life that records our personal journeys,” says writer Christina Baldwin.
In ancient times, the Greeks recorded daily the movement of stars and planets.
The Romans who conquered Greece included practical value by adding regular community events and public interest events called diarium, which comes from the Latin dies, meaning “day.”
However, it wasn’t until the seventeenth century that journal keeping became a critical document when Englishman Samuel Pepys, an administrator of the navy of England and Member of Parliament, kept a record of daily events (or diary).
“The detailed private diary that Pepys kept from 1660 to 1669 was first published in the nineteenth century and is one of the most important primary sources for the English Restoration period because it provides a combination of personal revelation and eyewitness accounts; of great events as the Great Plague of London.”
From that point on, journal writing became increasingly popular.
Ten Benefits of Journal Writing
In this article, I’ll discuss ten ways to keep a journal that is good for you.
Some family caregivers feel frustrated.
Some believe that caring for an ailing spouse or other loved one is a thankless job.
But others feel it is a privilege.
I felt grateful for caring for my husband before he passed away. I had the strength and felt the love, tenderness, and compassion to honor and care for him during his final days and hours.
No matter where you, as a caregiver, fall along within this range, this is a cruel and unsympathetic world.
We commend caregivers for their heroics and selflessness in often terrible conditions.
Even so, family caregivers can suffer extreme stress and overwhelm.
But journaling can bring relief.
Your journal will help you to:
#1: Deal with emotional pain. Many caregivers suffer from anxiety and other emotional hurts. A journal can become a place to reflect and reveal your weaknesses and strengths. And perhaps work out solutions to problems.
#2: Manage stress. Think about Doug mentioned in the opening of this article. Self-expression and writing down your feelings help you cope with stress. Scholars and scientists agree that you feel calm, and it is good therapy for journaling. (And *free*; no money for a therapist.)
#3: Keep things in perspective. Sometimes everything seems like a crisis when caring for a loved one. Jotting down in your journal precisely what’s going on can help you see more clearly where you can make adjustments and focus on real issues.
#4: Develop self-worth. You are doing an excellent job caring for your loved one! In your journal, you can reflect and innumerate the many tasks you completed successfully during the day that brought comfort to your caree—and gave you pleasure.
#5: Satisfy the desire for self-expression. We all have notable events in life. For instance, you received some good news about your loved one’s treatment—that they were successful! Writing down this event can help you relive those precious moments. Tell your story.
#6: Talk to one’s self. You feel free to express your feelings about anything and everything in your journal. Did the family get on your nerves? Did the home health worker do his job as required? Are you running out of money? Whether good or bad, gripes and complaints, you can freely express your feelings in your journal—a helpful tool for managing your mental health.
#7: Create memories. Capture the moments and experiences small and large with your loved one and relive these in the future.
#8: Minimize conflict. As emotions are often off the charts with family members, writing about your feelings can provide an outlet and time to consider resolutions to specific problems or situations.
#9: Clarify goals. What do you want your future to be at the end of your caregiving journey? What will be your life purpose? How will you find it? Where will you see it? Is it feasible to begin to plan now?
#10: Express gratitude. Some people keep a “Gratitude Journal.” If you feel in the dumps, one sure way to pull yourself forward is to “count your blessings.” In this life, things can usually always get worse. Writing down what you are grateful for each day will make you feel good—guaranteed!
I could list many other ways a journal will benefit you; this is just the beginning.
Know that journaling is a healthy way to express yourself and deal with overwhelming emotions.
How to Start Journaling
- First, find a quiet place and a journal or notebook that you’re comfortable with or use the computer. Write in an area that’s relaxing and soothing.
- Begin writing. Don’t stop to correct spelling or grammar. Use what’s known as stream-of-consciousness writing. Just let the ideas flow freely.
- Ask yourself questions. The key: is honest, spontaneous, and straightforward. Ask: Whom did I see? What’s going on with my loved one? What are my goals and dreams? What do I fear?
- Write as much or as little as you like. And you only have to write when you want to. You don’t wish journaling to become a burden.
- Keep your journal secret.
Your journal may help you observe and study your attitudes and behaviors, just as a scientist may find and record changes in nature that he is considering.
Your journal will allow you to know yourself better as you write without inhibition.
Your journal will reveal your joys, pains, sufferings, weaknesses, and strengths. And it will improve your ability to express yourself to others.
Your journal can be a trusted companion and an empathetic friend in a cruel world.
No matter what you write or when you write, be assured that you will feel better after you do it.
Keeping a journal helps you create order when you feel like your world is falling apart.
Remember Doug, whom I introduced at the beginning of this article?
He could have benefited greatly from the companionship of a personal journal.
Doug could have found solace in revealing his innermost thoughts, fears, and desires through his writing.
And Doug could have undoubtedly felt peace and joy through the “voyage to the interior” of his soul.
Journaling is good for your mind and your body.
Remember these ten benefits of a reliable and trustworthy friend—your journal.
Please, get started now! Don’t wait!!
Source for this article: A Family Caregiver’s Guide: 7 Secrets to Convert Negative Triggers to Positive Emotions (2019)