There’s little doubt at this point that the catastrophic circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying quarantines and economic devastation will leave a black mark on this period of history. While much of the unfolding scenario may feel out of your control, the disaster can still be combated in one crucial way: through the faithfully journaled word.
There’s no question that journaling has a plethora of benefits. From helping you de-stress to processing inner dialogue and even helping your physical body heal, writing down your thoughts and experiences is a powerful activity.
During times of crisis, the impact of the personally written word only becomes much more powerful. As human beings live through extraordinary circumstances, journaling provides a balm for the weary soul, solace for exhausting emotions, and a welcome reprieve from all-around uncomfortable times.
Here are two different yet equally important reasons why you should be journaling now more than ever.
Journaling for Yourself
The primary and most immediate benefit of keeping a journal manifests within yourself. Fleshing out your thoughts into the written word is an incredibly freeing exercise that has benefited humanity for thousands of years. It has mental, emotional, and even physical benefits.
Mental and Emotional Benefits
When it comes to your mind and its associated feelings, writing — and especially journaling — is a well-known tool to combat depression, anxiety, and stress. These are common mental struggles with all age groups but are particularly poignant amongst the younger members of Generation Z. Members of this fledgling generation of digital natives have grown up in a world where they are constantly barraged by notifications about gun violence in schools, ugly political quarreling, and even unique social pressures from new forms of technology including social media.
Writing for stress management provides a welcome escape, especially for Gen Zers, who are suddenly finding their laundry list of concerns ballooning to epic proportions due to the once-in-a-lifetime situation created by the coronavirus.
While the mental and emotional benefits that come with journaling are easy to spot, there are physical attributes to keeping a journal that are also worth considering.
Writing about current or past trauma can help you process what you’ve gone through. It can allow you to come to terms with your experiences and can consequently increase the quality of your sleep and overall stress levels. Combined with anxiety medications like Ativan, journaling may also help a person understand and address their anxieties as well. But the benefits don’t stop there. In one study, it was discovered that writing directly about your most traumatic experiences can help you physically heal faster.
It doesn’t matter if you’re recouping from a nasty bout of COVID-19, or you’re simply looking for a balm on the emotional scarring that a few months in quarantine can create. Journaling your experiences during historic moments can be a wonderful, personal exercise that provides incredible healing virtue for both mind and body.
Journaling for Posterity
The other side of the “journaling during a crisis” coin is the fact that, in a small way, you can be aiding future generations. As Matt Berg from The Boston Globe put it, “Written accounts of events, especially during times of turmoil, have proven crucial to historians as they seek to grasp a full picture of a time period. And during the current pandemic, physical documentation from ordinary people is as important as ever.”
The article goes on to point out that “Personal journals helped capture the struggles and horrors of history.” These accounts are critical as historians attempt to piece together how greater geopolitical events and natural disasters looked like as they unfolded on the ground.
In other words, the simple act of writing down your own thoughts and experiences may help to guide the historians of future generations. It can provide invaluable information as they attempt to understand just what exactly happened when the world shut down in a panic due to a virus in early 2020. Another factor to consider is the short and long term aspects of this historical journaling impact. Within the next century, your words could have a deep, meaningful effect on your own descendants as they parse through your personal belongings after you’ve passed on.
Your journal can continue to have a lasting impression. Consider the tremendous impact that Anne Frank’s diary has had on the global perception of the Holocaust. While it would be foolish to directly compare a 21st-century journal during a quarantine to that of Anne Frank, the greater point still stands. Your own words can be invaluable in the future as historians attempt to puzzle together what it was like to live through the historic, world-changing events of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some Tips for Journaling During a Pandemic
Journaling is important, both on a personal and on a humanitarian level. The knowledge that your words may be read by others in the future can make keeping a journal feel a bit like a performance. In order to avoid this reaction, it’s important to put yourself in the right mindset as you go about recording your thoughts, feelings, and adventures each day. Here are a few suggestions to help ensure that your journaling efforts are authentic and inspired:
- Use a real journal — not just scrap paper — that you’ll feel encouraged to actually maintain.
- If you’re less of a text-driven person, try using music and sketches to help ground you in the moment and get those creative juices flowing.
- Decide if setting timers and scheduling time to write, or if carrying your journal around with you at all times (or both!) works best for your situation.
- Don’t force yourself to write unless you feel you have something to say.
- Create a list of open-ended questions that you can answer in your journal each day.
Journaling During a Pandemic
Depending on what you’re going through, the subject matter may not be the most pleasant at the moment, but the mere act of writing down your experiences may be precisely the prescription that you need to help overcome your challenging situation. And who knows? You may even be helping future historians while you’re at it.
Frankie Wallace is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She writes about a variety of topics and spends her free time gardening.
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