by Sunny Simon
Whenever Amanda walks in my office the first thing she does is pull out her constant companion, her journal, and bring me up to date on what transpired since our last session. I admired my client’s dedication to journaling. The process of chronicling her thoughts and insights on daily happenings works well for her.
People journal for a variety of reasons ranging from improving focus and mental clarity to experiencing a sense of accomplishment in recording achievements. I rarely recommend journaling to my clients although I probably should. It can be a viable stress reliever, used to catch insightful thoughts and creative ideas, but frankly, journaling is not my thing. Why don’t I journal? It’s a process I don’t enjoy. Suffice it to say, different strokes. What works for Amanda doesn’t necessarily work for me.
But keep reading, as I do have one important singular exception to my personal journaling outlook. You can journal whenever you like, or not, but when a stressful situation results in a multitude of negative thoughts bouncing around in your brain, I recommend you sit in a quiet place and take pen to paper or tap away at your keyboard.
According to studies at UCLA when participants wrote down their negative emotions, versus verbalizing, activity in the alarm center of the brain (called the amygdala) decreased. In layman’s terms, brain scans proved committing your feelings in writing stopped the madness. Once you quiet those gremlins in your head tranquility sets in and you can calmly begin to sort the problem that had you bouncing off the walls.
Stop and think about a time when a stressful experience occurred that you did not handle very well. No doubt you stayed inside your head and held negative thoughts captive. Without a pathway to clear those pessimistic feelings, you ended up reacting to emotion and making poor decisions. Perhaps you blurted out things you regret or acted impulsively.
Of course it’s too late to rewind what’s said and done, but never too late to employ this particular journaling strategy. The next time you feel overwhelmed by a boatload of stress take a time out to steal away and capture all the pent up negativity on paper. No judging and no editing anything out. Remember, this is for your eyes only. Write until you feel totally empty of all those bleak thoughts. Then take some cleansing breathes and calm yourself. At that point, you will be able to rationally and successfully deal with the issue. Sunny Simon is the owner of Raise the Bar High Life and Career Coaching and the author of the blog www.lifeonthesunnyside.net