The LD staff decided it was high time we all made health a priority. Enter Wellness Wednesdays, a series of weekly health challenges by LD writers (and editors!) where we commit to seven days of healthy habits and share the results with our readers. This week’s challenge: journaling.
This Week’s Participants: Julia & Katy
Julia: When I think about how much I write in an average week, I’m shocked that the most personal material to come from hours of typing and scribbling is my to-do list—and trust me, that’s anything but cathartic. I kept a journal for years, but since coming to college and beginning a part time job, taking the time to write for myself has become a luxury I can’t afford. I know I’m not alone. Amidst the chaos and demands of student and professional life, self-reflection is just about the last thing on most millennials’ minds. That’s why this challenge was both so difficult and so important.
Katy: I have always thought about starting a journal, but I’ve never succeeded. I think a combination of unwillingness to dedicate time, incapability to share emotions, and pure unadulterated laziness is what stopped me up until now. I figured this seven day challenge would give me a chance to see whether my endless excuses were well placed or not. I have always struggled with explaining my emotions, even to myself, so I also saw this as a personal challenge to overcome my mountain of crap that I try so hard to keep chained up inside.
Julia: I began this challenge on Monday evening, deciding that a little down time with my journal at the end of the day would be a great way to round out the first day of my week. Knowing I’d either get distracted by the pile of unread books on my desk or the nagging feeling that I should be writing two essays and a reading response if I journaled anywhere near my desk or computer, I decided to write in my apartment kitchen. It was approaching 9:30 and as I popped a K-cup into my Keurig, I mulled over everything I had to do before class the next morning. I set my phone timer for 10 minutes, blew the steam off my mug, and began writing. I was hardly two pages in when the timer went off. I’d barely gotten through describing my Saturday morning and cursed myself for my rambling tendencies. Resolving to pick up where I left off the next day, I scribbled a few more lines, returned to my room, and fired up my laptop.
Katy: I figured the first day would be the hardest. What would I say? How would I address the journal? What details should I leave in or out? Does this notebook of blank pages need to hear my life story, or do I just jump in with the current event? It wasn’t like anybody was ever going to read this explication of self pity and weird jokes, but it still felt like I was sharing my life with someone, which is not something that I find easy to do. I sat down with my journal in my favorite coffee shop and started in on my life.
Julia: The second day was harder. While I knew I’d only needed 10 minutes to meet my daily quota, I kept pushing off journaling until it was nearly Day 3. Social engagements, late meetings, two unfinished essays (at least no reading response), and a million other excuses made this small task seem impossible. At 11:00 I sat down to write at the kitchen table. Again I set a 10 minute timer and again 10 minutes came sooner than I expected. When I looked back at my entry, I realized it consisted of little more than an exaggerated to-do list. If it was even possible, I was more stressed than I was when I’d begun and thoroughly exhausted. Too tired to wrap up with anything more than “OK time’s up, I’ll write tomorrow,” I shut my journal and headed to bed.
Katy: I felt clumsy and awkward at first, attempting to write down the things that had been weighing heavy on me for weeks and that I had little desire to speak about out loud, even with my closest friends. I found myself wanting to pause many times to get a grasp on my thoughts. It was as if I felt pressure to seem eloquent as well as justify my feelings, even though the bound pages of journal were certainly not going to judge me. I fumbled through it, and at the end of the hour I spent writing, I felt a sense of relief getting everything that was hidden out in ink, even if only I could see it.
Julia: On my third day of the challenge I decided to journal in the morning instead of at night, hoping I’d feel much less dread if I wasn’t sacrificing sleep to self reflection. Almost miraculously, the content of my entry turned to deeper contemplations and introspections instead of the mundane list of daily activities that comprised my previous two entries. I had no obligations until noon that day, so instead of cutting myself off after 10 minutes I wrote nearly three times as much before stopping. Having given myself much more time to write freely that day, I wasn’t inhibited by a dread of fulfilling an obligation or knocking out one more task before bedtime. Instead, I felt simultaneously lighter and more fulfilled. I carried that lightness with me for the rest of the day, knowing I’d accomplished something for myself before taking on the demands of day.
Katy: The next few entries gradually became easier, an essential yet more effortless part of my day. It felt nice to take a break from screens, people, homework, and worries and simply be with myself, music, a pen, and some paper. I could talk about the things I was scared to say out loud, the things I had been avoiding thinking about because, hey, being sad sucks. I struggle a ton with vulnerability, and I avoid delving into my feelings as much as I can for fear of feeling too much.
Julia: So clearly mornings worked for me. After the success I’d had the previous morning, I decided that for the rest of the week I’d start my day by journaling instead of putting it off until I was too tired or distracted to write anything of substance. The problem with Day 4 was that I’d promised my friend I’d run with her before our morning class, meaning journaling had to begin no later than 6:00 a.m. if I wanted to give myself enough time to write, run, shower, and caffeinated before class. Writing this early was… hard. I yawned my way through each sentence, paused often to stare longingly at my unmade bed, and had trouble forming intelligent thoughts. Morning worked; 6:00 a.m. didn’t.
Katy: I value my composure and appearance as being “tough”, and as a result writing about my emotions was difficult throughout the whole challenge, even when I began to feel more at ease. I’m incredibly glad I did it, though, and even though I doubt I’ll make time to do it every day, I hope to continue making it a priority in my life, especially when there are things that I refuse to face head on in my life.
Julia: Sweet, sweet Friday. Having no class on the final day of the week, I decided to take my journal to a cafe before heading into the office for a few hours of work. Maybe I’d been reading too much Hemingway, but I felt a greater sense of purpose journaling in public than I did in my apartment. Similar to a couple days prior, I wrote less about my day-to-day involvements and more about my worries, accomplishments, concerns, and general musings. What’s more, I was proud of myself for having made it through the week and adhering to this challenge despite my school work and other obligations. After a fairly lengthy journal entry, I wrote a short letter to a friend and decided this whole writing for fun stuff was pretty damn wonderful.
Katy: One of the things I try to do every morning is unplug from looking at my phone, make a nice cup of coffee, and take some time to just enjoy breakfast and alone time. I’ll either listen to music and think, read a book, or listen to a podcast. In order to make sure I had time carved out in my day to journal, I used that time to write down my thoughts. It felt like I was treating myself to dome down time while also accomplishing something substantial in the early hours of the day. It was a nice way to start out my day with unloading the things that would otherwise have been weighing me down.
Julia: I mistakenly believed that my weekends would be much calmer than my week days. After allowing myself to sleep in on Saturday, I immediately became caught up in exercising, running errands, and going out for lunch. I finally sat down around 2:00pm and reset my 10 minute timer. At this point in the week I was eager to keep up my writing streak, but equally eager to spend my down time napping or catching up on The Office. After 10 minutes I scribbled a conclusion and logged into Netflix.
Katy: Some heavy stuff has been happening in my life lately, and a lot of it came into focus last week. Someone very close to me is going through multiple stage four cancer diagnoses, and it isn’t looking great. Every day I worry that she will pass on without me having the chance to see her and tell her how amazing the last six years have been, and how much I love her. I usually avoid discussing it in any way because it makes it seem more real, and writing about it was an extremely difficult but important release that I finally got around to in the final days of this challenge.
Julia: I resolved to make the last day of my challenge a grand finale—that is, unlimited journaling time, a Central Perk-sized mug full of coffee, a seat by the open window, and even some Spotify tunes in the background. At this point in the week I’d gotten into the groove of writing, knew how much or how little detail to include in my entries if I wanted to relay a specific anecdote from my week, and knew what I wanted to get out of it: a sense of accomplishment and the comfort of knowing I’d found value in non-academic work. 10 pages later I capped my pen and closed my journal.
While I can’t say my week of journaling was the picture-perfect experience—even a few days in, writing still felt like a chore—I can attest that I did acquire that sense of accomplishment I’d yearned for. Although adding journaling to my to-do list made it one line longer, this task was something I could be proud of knowing I was taking the time each day to find fulfillment in something that was for no greater purpose than my mental wellbeing. At the end of the day, that’s what Wellness Wednesday is all about: reminding even the busiest of darlings that there’s so much worth in putting yourself first and taking 10 minutes out of your day to practice healthy habits. Yes, this was a challenge, but on Day 8 I’m loath to break my streak.
Katy: Journaling challenged me emotionally, and helped me observe the things that have been weighing me down. It showed me the importance of delving into my emotions, even if it’s hard sometimes (more like all of the time). It challenged my assumptions about myself, and helped me face what has really been going on emotionally and mentally this past month. It’s so important to accept when things need to change, and I think this challenge truly helped me do that.
How do you make time for self-reflection and general wellness? Tweet us @LitDarling!
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