Take care of yourself, especially if you take care of others. It is as essential as breathing. Because caregivers spend every spare minute driving to medical appointments, stopping at the pharmacy, cooking, answering questions, paying bills, and helping with matters that used to be private, they often lose site of that fact. They feel trapped in an endless loop.
Journaling relieves stress.
Imagine you are on an airplane. An oxygen mask drops in front of you. You are told to place it over your own nose and mouth and breathe normally before sharing it with anyone. Journaling works in the same way. It lets you breathe before offering help.
Journaling is a caregiver’s oxygen mask.
I began journaling steadily during my first year of “Mom Care,” a name I invented when my mother refused outside help. Journaling let me vent, process, and keep my mouth shut at critical moments from 1994 through 2001. At first, journaling kept me moving forward. Later, it kept me sane.
Journaling gives perspective and restores sanity. It is a lifeline as well as a record. Experts have documented that writing saves lives. Do not underestimate its power.
Use the privacy of a journal to vent, delve into issues, and untangle messes. Analyze and celebrate. Finish a thought without interruption.
Journaling eliminates mental toxins and deepens awareness. It enables you to strip away the daily crap and lets the strong, sane, safe, healthy, hopeful parts of you emerge.
What do you do if you think you have nothing to say? Start anywhere. Look around the room for an image or a sensory detail—the way the sun makes a path on the carpet, the way steam rises off a cup of coffee, carrying the aroma of morning with it. Listen to the high pitched whirring of an omnipresent machine, the tick of the kitchen’s black-and-white, kitty-cat clock—any image at all.
Be specific. Include sights, sounds, movements, smells, and the feel of the air. Describing the immediate environment will start your writing. Go wherever an image takes you. Explore fearlessly.
When you write in your journal, it can be all about you. The journal validates your right to be who you are and honors your worth as a caregiver. There is no wrong way to keep a journal. Write anything. Write often. Write every day if you can.
One participant in my first Journaling for Caregivers workshop said, "Writing from the heart seems to be all that is needed." She is exactly right.
Ready to get started? Here are two resources:
You Want Me To Do What? – Journaling for Caregivers is a four-week workshop, conducted by group e-mails. To find out how it helps caregivers process stress, e-mail for information. (Lgood67334@comcast.net) Put “Journaling” in the subject box.
A book, tentatively titled You Want Me To Do What? – Journaling for Caregivers, offers encouragement and over 200 sentence starts. It will be available towards the end of 2008.
Journaling relieves stress. Give it a try.
B. Lynn Goodwin is published in Hip Mama, the Oakland Tribune, the Contra Costa Times, the Danville Weekly, Staying Sane When You’re Dieting, Small Press Review, HeArt’s Desire, Dramatics Magazine and numerous e-zines. Her book, You Want Me To Do What? -- Journaling for Caregivers will be out in the fall. She writes reviews and author interviews for Writer Advice, www.writeradvice, and edits the zine.