10 Benefits Journaling Provides Caregivers
From reducing stress, to having time for reflection — caregivers receive many personal rewards from journaling. Learn more about the top 10 benefits that journaling provides caregivers, from caregiver and author, Margery Pabst.
How Caregivers Can Get Started Journaling
Journaling can be a healing resource throughout life, and certainly was when I became a caregiver for my mom, then my dad, and then my husband. I return to journaling often now, as a tool that provides insight for my daily life.
I find that writing in a journal is like speaking with a trusted friend who listens and provides transformative respite. But, I understand that it can be difficult to get started, especially when busy caregiving. Here are some tips that you can use to begin journaling during this time:
Just do it.
Like the Nike slogan, it’s easiest to just begin. I find that a small, pretty book with an appealing picture on the cover stimulates the imagination and encourages me to write. Finding a soothing, quiet scene is also a preference.
Consider a medium that appeals to you.
It could be a small book or a large, trusty legal pad that has a positive association. Or, audiotaping or using the notes section of your computer may spark and stimulate your inner self. Whatever medium it is, consider the one that will encourage you to journal the most. Just like physical exercise, choose what works best for you.
Develop a ritual for journaling.
Choosing a particular time and place will help develop a mindset for your thoughts. Again, choose what’s right for you, whether that is a cozy nook or a busy lounge.
One size does not fit all.
Journaling requires no set amount of words or style. Write what you want to write, however lengthy or short. Sometimes, I enter just one word or sentence which can be just as meaningful as a lengthy piece.
Don’t evaluate the style.
From a grammar, syntax, or even a content angle, the words that fall on the page are purely yours, unedited and real in that moment of time. If I don’t evaluate, I find the flow of my thoughts are like water, first with only a few drops, but then steadily growing into an intense stream.
Re-read your work.
Review your journal entries from time to time, not with an evaluative eye, but with the intention of discovering personal meaning and memory. To my astonishment, I often discover that my journal has shown me the way out of a personal challenge. The answers and ideas were always there, deep in my subconscious, waiting to be written. My recommendation: review your entries about once a month to discover meaning.
Share… if you want to.
Occasionally, you may wish to share some of your journal insights with others; however, your journal is first and foremost your personal respite. I have only shared my journal learnings a few times, the most poignant being with my mom because she needed to hear about a resolution with a family member; my sharing brought joy to her life as she faced death.
Reap the benefits.
How can journaling be transformative to your life? Here are 10 key benefits from my experience and that of other caregivers who find journaling a useful tool.
- Reduces stress. A caregiver’s health and anxiety level have a direct impact on the person they care for. Caring for yourself by reducing your stress level will better enable you to be present for what comes your way.
- Provides respite. Caregivers report journaling slows them down, allowing time for deeper breathing and calm during a busy day. Time for yourself, event 10 minutes, can help a caregiver re-focus and re-charge.
- Deflects anger. Rather than shouting negative words, placing angry words on a page is a positive catharsis. As you write about anger, you will probably notice a decrease of emotion moving toward a calmer state.
- Provides time for reflection. Time to reflect is a precious commodity in our modern world and certainly for the busy caregiver.
- Develops self-worth. Caregivers realize the many things they are doing right by writing down daily events and thoughts.
- Develops personal insight. “Journaling helps me realize I am not a patient person. I need to work on being a more patient caregiver.” (From a caregiver’s journal)
- Provides clarity. When difficult situations present themselves, journaling helps identify the significance of events. The simple act of writing words on a page/computer brings clarity, a truth known in our professional lives but often overlooked as a personal tool.
- Enhances personal development. “Once my caregiving journey was over, my journal helped show me the way forward.” (From a caregiver’s journal)
- Clarifies values. “The real meaning of friendship came through often as I recounted my struggles with my siblings.” (From a caregiver’s journal)
- Reveals information and insights for others. While a journal is primarily meant for you, some discoveries and insights are meant to be shared with others. When my father was ill, I shared an important personal insight with a friend experiencing a similar family situation.
My hope for all of you is for more quality days that enhance your life and those of your loved ones. Journaling can be a key tool in your journey.
About the Author
Margery Pabst is eCareDiary’s caregiving expert and the author of two books on caregiving: “Enrich Your Caregiving Journey” and “Words of Care,” which can be accessed on her website, mycaregivingcoach.com or Amazon.com.
Margery hosts two radio shows for eCareDiary, “Caregiver and Physician Conversations” and “Caregivers Speak.” Live shows and archives are on both mycaregivingcoach.com. and ECareDiary.com. Margery Pabst’s work focuses on personal resources for the busy caregiver; she is especially passionate about the connections between the arts and illness and is the President-Elect of the Board for The National Center for Creative Aging.
Have you considered using journaling as a resource on your caregiving journey? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
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