How can I use journaling to cope with stress?

When life's challenges seem overwhelming, women often find that talking about their stress helps them put it in perspective. However, there's another great way to maintain control of your thoughts and decision making throughout each day: journaling.

Journaling is the simple act of regularly jotting down your life events and feelings on paper -- or even at your laptop, desktop, or typewriter. Your journal can help you refine your daily living skills. It gives you the opportunity to reflect on the experiences and events you've recorded.

You can use journaling to help you deal with stressors you don't feel comfortable sharing with others. Stress psychologists have shown that journaling enhances immune function and can alter the course of chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. Here are some tips to get you started:
  • Subject? Focus on current stressors. Writing about stress helps you step back and consider your options more clearly.
  • Technique? To improve health and decrease stress, journal entries should include two things: First, write what happened -- the facts about the objective experience. Second, write your feelings about what happened, what you feel and why you feel it.
  • Content? Don't hold back! Write continually for about 15 minutes with no censoring, until you feel you get it all out.
  • Tone? Don't worry. Just let it all hang out. Don't stress over spelling and grammar. Let it flow and enjoy the process of communicating important feelings on paper.
  • When? Write whenever you want or feel you need to.
  • How much? Try it for 15 minutes a day, every day.
  • Should you share? It is wise to keep your journal to yourself. If you write thinking you may share it, you may be tempted to write for that person. A journal is about you and your self-care.
  • Hate to write? Try recording your thoughts. It can be just as good.
  • How will I feel? Some feel a sense of relief; others feel depressed for a time after writing. This will go away, though, as you gain a better understanding of yourself and your life.
  • Remember: Writing thoughts and feelings is not a replacement for professional therapy. If you think you might be depressed (if your sad or overwhelmed feelings don't go away or they interfere with your daily functioning) or if you are suffering from a trauma or other mental health problem, seek help from a licensed professional. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.