Journal your way sane – or at least less insane. A recommendation from experience.

Coping, Journal Writing, Tips

Getting those buzzing bees in your brain down on paper might just get them out your head. At least for a while.

That, in turn, will give your body time to breathe.

My previously published “Coping in Self-Quarantine: 13 Things to Do Hunkered Down” included #5: Start Journaling! Though I only gave it a few sentences there, I’m seeing vast waterfalls of worry out there – almost every drop deserved – so I’m giving this proven self-help idea a more detailed gung-ho.  

I’m a lifelong journaler and a believer in its remarkable healing effects. It alone will not get you through stress and trauma – all tools of mind and spirit you’ve built up ‘til now should be at hand. But it’s a darn good tool, and, if you want to raise concerns while lowering blood pressure, among the best.

Julia Cameron, author of creator inspiration guide The Artist’s Way (highly recommended) says: “When we write by hand, we connect to ourselves. We may get speed and distance when we type, but we get a truer connection – to ourselves and our deepest thoughts – when we actually put pen to page.”

She’s right. It’s liberating to step away from the screen and scritch.

You do not have to be a “writer” to be a good journaller or get something out of it. You do not have to have good handwriting. (Hello, doctors!) You don’t have to know “your” from “you’re,” but while “you’re” at it, please DO. (I’ll be here all week.)

Write like you talk, scribble like you think, one sentence after another, one worry after another, one win after win, one paragraph at a time. Or maybe there are no graphs. Maybe it’s a rambling run-on. Buzz on, bees! Take this, paper! And this! Curse. Yell. Negotiate. Document. Write.

How many pages a day? Julia says “3.” Agree. Some days, it’s a plod to 3, some days you will leave 3 in your rear view mirror.

You do not need fancy, really nice journals to be a journaller, so of course, I have this affiliate link for fancy, really nice ones (Cha-ching!)

 I love humble school notebooks, or, for even more unfiltered, let-it-loose thinking: legal pads. Randy gifted me used ones from her corporate days. These slimmed-down beauties take ideas like, well, a pro.

As for new, mint-condition legal pads, Earthwise is affordable – check current price – and is 100% recycled. The stock has a good “hand feel,” but not so nice you’ll have that “oh, this paper is so nice, I can’t mark it up” feeling.  

How to begin? Grab the closest pad and a favorite pen. Write this sentence: “Wow, I cannot believe this day.” (Expand on that.) Or here’s a better one: “I have a lot to be grateful for, I guess.” (Like what?) Or be not that high-minded. “You know what makes me mad? Drivers who don’t use turn signals!” (This one is personal for me.)

A historian on Twitter last week also recommended journaling, but he had a loftier lens and more academic focus. “In these extraordinary times, write down what you are seeing, hearing, feeling,” he said. “Future generations will want to read every word.” Hmmm. I dunno. I believe in the future – yay, go, future – but in my journals I am not writing for prosperity. Egads, no. I would have to start using words like “egads.”

I throw my journals in a closet, and then often, scandalously, into recycling. I don’t care. Those are my first-first-first drafts. If an idea is worth preserving, I do know how to type. Watch: sjie5 sjo38745 hkjj!

“Hey, Walt! What’s this journaling ‘mental health benefit’ of which you speak?” Bottom line: I find that journaling makes me feel 17.5% better every day. 17.5%was also the commission advertising agencies used to charge in the 1980s. Coincidence?

Don’t tear anything out until tomorrow!

I do feel compelled to put a non-jokey warning here. In your writing, you might reach a catharsis. You might hit a point where you put down the pen and cry. Good. Tears are good. They are a release. That’s called grieving. It’s human, it’s real and it’s necessary. It’s the “keeping it in” that is driving you crazy.

Overall, of course, your mileage may vary. But if you could do something that might make you feel 17.5% better (at least eventually) and, if so desired, preserve your thoughts, would you do it?

My late Mom thought so. She was profusive journaller of every family visit, every lunch, every trip to River Roads Shopping Center. I have boxes of her journals in my basement. Heck, I think we all do.

Wait a minute! This has been an idea from my Mom all along!

Well then, there you have it. Take it from her, take it from me:

Mark your marks on the world.

Write stuff down.

There you go.

Coping in Self-Quarantine: 13 Things To Do While Hunkering Down

Coping, home office, Productivity, Tips
Walt Jaschek says, “This Essential and Showcase comic book collection won’t read itself.”

Home, sweet home. It’s that sweet (and smart) spot many of us find ourselves lately, either because we’re now working remotely; because we always worked at home (like me, a freelancer;) because we’re blissfully retired, like Randy; and/or because we’re, well, quarantined. Staying occupied is quandary for some, I’m hearing, including sports fans who no longer have games to watch. To those seeking suggestions, here are 13 Things To Do When Hunkered Down.

1. Walk!

Let’s take this situation one step at a time. And six feet apart. My wife and I trek a couple of miles through suburbia every day; only recently have we seen other humans (keeping a nice social distance.) Not a walker? Don’t know where to go? Put on good shoes. Walk in one direction for 10 minutes. Stop. Walk back home. Congrats, you walked for 20! Allergic to the outdoors? Walk the steps to the basement and back. Hey! Carry some laundry with you!

2. Assemble a household emergency kit.

Not trying to be alarmist; quite the opposite. Last week I calmly assembled items for a household emergency kit, as outlined by DHS on this page: https://www.ready.gov/kit . This task is not necessarily virus-related, but it helped me to direct energy and find self-comfort. Plus, it’s crazy we didn’t have this stuff before. How did I get by without a hand-cranked weather-radio/phone-charger? I luuuuuuurve it.

3. Read those books.

Those histories / biographies / how to’s / YAs / mysteries / bodice-rippers won’t read themselves. You know how we normally say, “Oh, books, I would read you, but I have someplace to be.” Now we don’t. Me? I’ll be sticking with the classics, as pictured above.

4. Write those books.

More generally: create. Make art. Share stories. Hit the loom. Record that song. Blog about beer. There’s a creative tribe in my life whose engines churn when they can stay in place and make. I can’t wait to see the stuff they’ll have to show for it.

5. Journal.

I read advice on Twitter from a historian to start journaling, if you aren’t already. Write down what’s happening. It will be of interest to future generations (the historian said,) and it’ll crystalize your thoughts and make you feel better (I say.)

6. Create a group text.

Open up those pipes of communication with the ones you love. Keep the conversation flowing. Share good information. Make jokes. Private group-texts spur more engagement, in my experience; not everyone is on the same social platforms. Also, it’s interesting to see what family members are drinking.

7. Clean up your contact lists.

Had to do this to create those group texts. I’d clean up my contacts further if I had another 8,000 hours.

8. Garden.

If you already garden, let this early Spring urge you on. Prep those beds. Plant those bulbs. Throw wildflower seeds to the wind. If you’ve THOUGHT about gardening, but doubt you can do it, start. If I can, you can. All you need is sunlight, good drainage and water. Why buy basil, spinach and cilantro when you can get ‘em from your yard? (Or patio.) And really, what illustrates “hope” better than a sprout magically emerging from a seed?

9. Send a letter.

My Dad’s senior living center is on lockdown, which is smart, and he is in good spirits. In a recent a brief phone call, he reminded me, “The mail still works.” True! So I dashed off a page of news and updates, dropped into the mail. I wonder, will recent events bring back letter-writing?  And the post office? And Elvis stamps?

10. Organize that sock drawer.

Or garage. Or medicine cabinet. Is putting energy into organizing something a way to distract yourself from worries? Yes, but it works, and when you’re done: organized sock drawer! Last week I did some strategic purging in our basement storage room, and now this room says to me, “possibilities.” Or maybe, “Peleton.”

11. Scrabble.

An eight-letter word for “fun.” The Amazon exclusive edition SPINS and has grooves to hold tiles. Check current price on Amazon.. I get 4% if you buy one at this link:  Or you could just go get yours off the shelf.

12. Do your taxes.

I’ll admit, “do your taxes” is more a note to myself.

13. Make a list.

Okay, now we’re getting meta.

That’s my 13 Things to Do Hunkered Down. More to add? Leave a comment! Thanks,

Walt