Find Long-Lasting Self-Help at Your Fingertips
Today's elder-caregiver is turning increasingly to a simple yet surprisingly effective age-old tool to help them with their daily challenges: journaling.
The process is really very simple; you don't need special tools or abilities to benefit from journaling. Yet keeping a journal -- simply recording feelings and events in a private or online log -- can turn into a long-lasting self-help tool leading to healing and empowerment for caregivers. And, according to studies, the time-tested practice also offers physical health benefits to caregivers.
A notebook or blank journal and a comfortable writing instrument are really all you need to begin down the cathartic path of journal writing. Allow yourself the freedom to write when you feel heavy with worry and burdens or when you are joyful about a particularly uplifting event. Caregiving carries enough demands without feeling pressured to write on a daily basis. Rigid structure isn't required to reap the benefits of this down-to-earth yet powerful tool.
Finding time to write can be a challenge for anyone, let alone a time-stretched family caregiver. The next time you are waiting at the doctor's office, consider using the time to update your journal. Journaling may even cut down on doctor visits, according to research.
Additional research from the University of North Dakota found that journaling reduced symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis when individuals wrote about traumatic events. Starting your day a half hour earlier or staying up a half hour later is another way to find time for yourself. Journaling before bedtime may even offer a more restful night of sleep. Caregivers who use respite services can dedicate a small portion of that time to writing.
Guided journals are available that contain topic starters to help journalists get started writing. Marion Karpinski, registered nurse and author of A Guided Journal for Caregivers, says journaling gives caregivers an opportunity to express anger without hurting anyone and provides a way to release difficult emotions.
Another popular journaling option is the web log, or blog. A blog is a website in which authors post thoughts and photos that can be read by anyone who happens to find it on the Internet. This type of journal is interactive because there is usually an option for readers to email the author of the blog. Most blogging services are free and easy to set up.
There are endless possibilities to fill the pages of a journal. It can be a space to record simple joys, things you are grateful for, inspiring quotations, or favorite recipes. The pages of a journal may serve as a map for goals or a place to connect with a higher power through written prayers or meditations. Creativity is an area that is often neglected because of the daily demands and duties of caregiving. A poem or song may emerge that has been waiting for an opportunity to be expressed. Drawing or sketching in the pages of a journal is another way to express creativity. Consider recording nightly dreams. This practice can offer enlightening information about what is going on in within the subconscious.
Composing a letter in the pages of a journal or on a blog is a technique that can bring emotional release and closure. Photographs can serve as visual prompts to encourage therapeutic writing.
Try finding a quiet place and a few minutes to spend with your journal the next time you're feeling overwhelmed or on the brink of burnout. You will probably feel quite liberated and uplifted by the experience. You will also have a record to reflect upon as your caregiving journey progresses.
Lori Ritchie is a freelance writer living in Wolcottville, Indiana. She is an experienced elder-caregiver in the Alzheimer's unit of a long-term care facility and a nursing student.
Make journaling work for you by checking out these additional resources:
In the library:
- Adams, Kathleen (1998). The Way of the Journal: A Journal Therapy Workbook for Healing. Sidron Press.
- DeSalvo, Louise A. (2000). Writing As a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives. Beacon Press.
- Karpinski, Marion (2004). A Guided Journal for Caregivers. Healing Arts Communications.
- Pennebaker, J.W. (2004). Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma and Emotional Upheaval. New Harbinger Press.
- Archive of journaling exercises for caregivers.
- Weekly updated journaling exercise for caregivers.
- Free blogging site.
- Visual image prompts for journaling.
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