Self-care is an essential part of the college experience — especially during a pandemic. Whether you’re adjusting to social-distanced classrooms, spending countless hours attending online classes from your bedroom, or a combination of the two, it’s more important than ever for college students to take some time to care for their mental and physical health.
While things like unplugging from electronics, eating well, and exercising are good basic self-care activities, there’s one option that often gets overlooked: journaling. Here are a few of the best reasons why college students should proactively incorporate journaling into their self-care routines.
Affordability and Accessibility
First and foremost, journaling is easy to do. All you need is a pen and paper or even a blank document on your laptop and you’re good to go. On top of that, you can journal practically anywhere — in bed, at your desk, on the porch. It’s even an activity that you can take with you when you travel or move between locations.
It’s also extremely affordable to maintain a journal. At most, it requires a few dollars to purchase pens and paper every once in a while. If you journal on your laptop, it’s free.
This combination of easy access and extreme affordability makes journaling a wonderfully effective self-care activity for cash-strapped college students who are stranded on the homefront.
Journaling is an excellent way to manage stress — an emotion that has not been in short supply in 2020. There are a plethora of different stress triggers that come with the college experience, in particular, from grades and exams to a lack of sleep, financial worries, and even FOMO. When you add the stress of keeping your internet and communication applications working in order to attend online classes every day, the stress can be downright overwhelming.
Journaling provides an ideal outlet to write through the stress. You can use a journal to provide structure and predictability by identifying triggers, spelling them out (literally), and even creating “to do” lists to address them in the future.
College can be discouraging at times. So can being quarantined during a pandemic. Dealing with both at the same time is downright depressing. If you’re a student struggling with depression, journaling can be an ideal way to work through some of your negative thoughts.
A journal provides a place to process quietly, track emotional progress, remind yourself about positive things, and even find closure at times.
Another harrowing emotion that plagues many college students is anxiety. This can be triggered on campus due to the immense pressures that come with the college experience. From navigating working with different professors to staying healthy as you interact with others to managing on- and off-campus relationships, there are plenty of reasons to feel anxious while you’re at school.
Once again, journaling can come to the rescue. Along with helping you process emotions and cool down from anxiety attacks, a trusty journal can be a great place to set goals to help you address your anxiety.
Ideally, these should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based) goals. For instance, “stop worrying about your relationships” is not a SMART goal. It’s vague, open-ended, and impossible to measure. Instead, something like, “Take an hour each evening to communicate with friends and family,” is a good SMART goal that can genuinely help you find some relief from those anxious thoughts.
Journaling can help you process through many external thoughts, emotions, and circumstances. However, it can also be a source of innovation and creativity all on its own.
The simple act of honestly writing down your thoughts and feelings on a regular basis will help with things like self-reflection and capturing ideas. It can stir up new thoughts, spark new interests, and help you formulate solutions, as well.
College is a fast-paced environment — even online. Everything is about transferring knowledge, studying textbooks, regurgitating information, giving presentations, and making deadlines. It can be difficult to slow down and just be in the moment.
Fortunately, journaling is a great tool to help you do so. Writing down how you’re feeling, what goals you’re aiming for, and what you’re going through can help you become more mindful.
Journaling enables you to release negativity and declutter your brain, organically freeing it up for more present thoughts and emotions. This can also improve your overall emotional intelligence as you consider the state and relationships of those around you.
Cultivating Your Compositions
Finally, there’s the practical aspect of journaling. Whether you’re typing or writing by hand, every time you sit down to journal you’re honing your writing skills.
On top of the aforementioned fact that you can spark inspirations and creativity, journaling also simply helps you practice and improve your ability to write, in general. Whether you’re conducting a round of freewriting, you’re creating a structured “to do” list, or anything in between, journaling is a great way to keep your writing chops in tip-top shape while you’re in school.
Incorporating Journaling Into Your Self-Care Routine
Writing is a powerful tool, not just for your academic career but for your self-care routines as well. From processing powerful emotions like depression and anxiety to sparking creativity, mastering mindfulness, and improving your writing skills as a whole, there are plenty of reasons to journal in college.
The important thing is that you establish a clear and consistent schedule in which to do so. Otherwise, journaling will become little more than that activity that you do once every few weeks or months when you get completely overwhelmed. So take a look at your current class schedule and consider if you can fit a short personal writing session in once a day. If you can’t, aim for every other day or even once a week.
The ideal thing is that you create a consistent schedule to ensure that you actually get around to journaling on a regular basis. If you can do that, you’ll be able to benefit from its effects throughout the rest of your academic career and even on into your professional life.
Frankie Wallace is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She writes about a variety of topics and spends her free time gardening.