How Writing Can Reduce Stress and Uncertainty
Our news media and social media channels bombard us with negative prospects about the future, including a potential recession, a heated election campaign, and a new virus spreading around the globe. What you need are concrete ways to reduce stress so you can get through each day and stay healthy.
Here are some common questions that you may be asking yourself:
- Has the potential of a serious illness or disability crossed your mind? How would you handle it?
- What supports do you have to cope with a life-changing event?
- Could you handle the loss of a loved one?
- How could you keep your job and take care of a sick loved one?
Understanding Your Emotional State
Your emotional state certainly affects your health. If you are suffering from anxiety, you are joining a population of 40 million adults nationwide. Surprisingly, two-thirds of U.S. anxiety sufferers are women. We could argue that anxiety in and of itself is a widespread health concern that should grab more attention than a virus. According to research, anxiety treatment helps patients achieve better outcomes with heart disease and problems with the gastrointestinal tract as well as other serious disorders. Get relief from anxiety. Try writing because it's proven to relieve fears and stress.
How Writing Will Help
One population of women seriously at risk for clinical depression and other mental health disorders are mothers caring for chronically ill children. They spend much time at home and in medical facilities while their kids depend on technologies such as ventilators, feeding tubes, and IV machines for survival. These mothers need therapies to regulate their stress levels. Multiple studies found that expressive writing, also known as journaling, reduces stress and negative emotions. This kind of writing also helps people achieve better mental and physical wellness. Expressive writing is a component of programs helping this population of women and other adults with high stress or anxiety.
What Stress, Anxiety, and Depression Do to Resilience
If you're going to face a difficult event, such as illness, divorce, grief/loss, or unemployment, you need effective coping skills. Don't let stress, anxiety, or depression get you down. You must find ways to bounce back each day and stay positive. Negative thoughts could make you sick or drive you crazy. For example, you could have one-time fears, such as worrying about things that might happen in the moment, or you could have recurring anxiety, which means worrying over negative situations that might not happen, such as crashing during your daily commute. When you write down your fears, they will be there glaring at you on the page, but at least they will have a name. Known fears can be dealt with. If fears seem overwhelming, they can also be addressed in therapy.
Types of Writing
When I sit down with a client in therapy, I help them label fears and work on how to control them. Once of the most successful ways to deal with things is by writing them down.
This form of writing can be an account of your day, a creative work, a reflection, or a list of things that you want to resolve.
These tools help you organize your time and keep your appointments. You can also block off time for yourself to relax and to exercise.
These lists help you prioritize tasks at home and at work. You can pick one task to do at a time. As you check off each item, then you feel like a small weight has been lifted from your shoulders. You can breathe with more ease. If you have a long list, calm yourself first and focus on checking more things off so you'll have free time later in the day.
Writers use poetry, storytelling, plays, and novels to explore characters, events, feelings, and other themes. You can use writing to address issues in your life, work through past traumas, and deal with other social problems. You might also recount a friend or loved one's experiences in a fictional form.
This is a running record of your thoughts on a certain topic or a series of posts about your life experiences. For example, if someone is battling cancer, she could draft posts about the ups and downs of her struggle. You can also share the experiences of others.
Maintaining a Healthy Mind and Body
Your mental and emotional states are in a state of flux. Honestly, some people are born with higher resilience. They go through life with greater confidence and regulate their emotions with less effort. The rest of us are challenged to constantly work on our mental and emotional states so we can achieve our goals. If we let emotions or fears control us, then it's hard to accomplish our daily tasks.
When you feel overwhelmed, take out a sheet of paper and write about it. There are many theories among scientists about why writing is therapeutic. One theory is that expressive writing is a form of disclosure, or getting something "off your chest". Writing may help you process traumatic memories in your mind. You may have to complete this processing slowly, but remember working through such memories is essential to healing. The alternative is keeping negative thoughts, emotions, and memories inside, which means you aren't resolving them. They can keep causing problems such as anxiety, trouble sleeping, exhaustion, difficulty with concentration, and other problems. Don't let negative thoughts or emotions affect your general well-being.
As we live in a stressful world, we have a responsibility to slow down and focus on our priorities. There is only so much you can accomplish in a single day. Please allow yourself to take a break when your emotions are overwhelming. Your to-do list will still be there! Calm down and then regroup.