Journaling for Reflection in a Pandemic

Reflecting on your life and what matters to you can turn the Covid-19 pandemic into a time you look back on as a personal turning point.

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How often do you take time to reflect on your life? At the end of each month, each year or when something dramatic disrupts your normal life? Our lives have been disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and may never be the same again. The speed and extent of change have shattered beliefs about what is possible. Even if the impact on you has been devastating, reflecting on your life and what matters to you can turn it into a time you look back on as a beneficial personal turning point.

Free expressive journaling from prompts is an easy and effective way to reflect on your life and explore your inner world. As a flow activity, it offers complete absorption – a respite from anxiety about an uncertain future. Simply write fast from the prompt as though you know what your response will be. Don’t think, just write. Allow any words to flow; you are writing for yourself, not for an audience. If your words falter, rewrite the prompt, or write, ‘I feel…’, or ‘I remember…’ to restart the flow.

What aspects of lockdown have you enjoyed?
How has the pandemic changed your perspective on life?
How have your priorities changed?

Lockdown has exposed the quality of our relationships. It has highlighted our need for both healthy relationships and time spent in self-nourishing solitude. Some friends have felt more comfortable in relative solitude than they felt in their former active social lives. We now have a broader evidence base for choosing our social habits.

Healthy relationships are…
Solitude is…
Which social activities are you looking forward to?

Our lives are constantly evolving as we adapt to changing circumstances. We are generally good at adapting to change, even if it takes us a while to accept the need for change and our adaptation is slow. In times of major changes, we can either live in limbo waiting for normal life to return or adapt to make the best of our current circumstances.

How had your pre-pandemic life changed over the last 10 years?
My ideal post-pandemic life if there is no cure and no vaccine for 2 years…

Resilience and creativity help us to adapt to change. The limitations imposed by lockdown are an incentive to find creative ways to meet our needs and desires. The semi-meditative nature of journaling helps ideas to spark and they are immediately captured in your journal.

List your unmet desires…
How can I meet my need for…?
How can I meet my desire for…?

Dramatic changes in our circumstances both test and can build our resilience. Learning to cope with a life-changing accident has made it easier for me to cope with lockdown. I am confident that I can and will adapt. Life will be different: better in some ways and worse in others. We can never know how our lives would have turned out if only… Coping now will give us confidence in our ability to adapt to major life changes.

Resilience often depends upon a willingness to ask for help and the foresight of people who anticipate and meet your needs.

How do you feel about asking for help?
Offering help…

Major life changes involve losses. There may be losses of loved ones, of lifestyle, of livelihood and of a planned future. Grief offers us a quiet time to reflect on those losses and on our life. We need time to rest and recover. Some of us have had time to discover, or rediscover, the joys of restful and rewarding activities like home baking, sewing, and gardening. Journaling (like doodling with words) is a calming flow activity which is free from goals, expectations, and judgments. Reading is vital to our writing lives. While suffering from the virus, my brain was shrouded in a pea-souper fog. I could only concentrate on engaging, easy reads like Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories.

What are your 5 most effective restful activities?
Comfort reading…
What genres of books sustain you through difficult times?

Most of us have had our balance of work, rest and play disrupted. Its joyful to see friends who have been overburdened, looking rested and relaxed. Meanwhile, health and care workers are being mentally and physically drained by their work.

How effective is your ‘normal’ balance of work, rest and play?
What is your ideal balance of work, rest and play?

Our writing lives meet some of our needs for work, for rest and for play. Journaling gives me a sense of purpose and is both my source of creative ideas and my creative outlet, where I play with those ideas and explore my inner world. As a ruminant, I use expressive writing to download my anxieties: to restore my peace of mind and a broader perspective.

List the benefits, to you, of writing…
Playful writing…
How has writing helped you to cope with the pandemic?
How has the pandemic affected your writing life?

It can be disheartening to unexpectedly have the free time to write your book (or progress a project) and then discover that you spent the time in other ways. I haven’t finished my book – Dr Julie Journaling: Quick Start. Reflecting on your reasons for not prioritising a desirable project, can offer valuable insights. Perhaps your dream project has most value to you as a dream. Perhaps progressing, or completing, it would not have met your primary needs at a time of uncertainty and anxiety. Perhaps you were procrastinating. Or you might share my excuse that the virus addled my brain. My brain’s recovery is recorded in my journal; my writing transformed from bland to creative.

Why do you want to write your book (or progress your project)?
If you only had a year to live, how would you feel about progressing your book (or project)?
What are the internal obstacles to writing your book (or progressing your project)?

Stay safe. Journal. Flourish.

Navigating a river of travelogues, whirlpools of free-writing journaling, and plunging into the ocean of fantasy short stories.

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