This piece is presented as part of our partnership with DailyCaring.com.
For many caregivers, stress is a constant companion. One effective way to reduce caregiver stress is to write in a journal.
Getting your thoughts and feelings down on paper and out of your head is surprisingly therapeutic. Studies have even found that journaling improves health and well-being.
Chronic severe stress has devastating effects on physical and mental health. That’s why it’s important to find stress reduction and coping techniques that fit your busy schedule. They’ll help you stay as healthy as possible while you care for your older adult.
In addition to writing your thoughts, we’ve got 5 other ways you can use a journal to reduce stress and improve health.
1. Keep a gratitude list
When you’re tired and stressed, it’s easy to get caught up in negative thoughts.
To reduce those bad feelings, focus on the things you’re grateful for. This gets you into the habit of noticing the positive things that happen. Gratitude helps you shift perspective and see that the world is not 100% terrible.
In your journal, make a list of things you’re grateful for. Keep adding to this list, daily or whenever you think of something. When you’re feeling negative or discouraged, read through your list to get a dose of positivity.
2. Track your accomplishments
Caregiving involves many thankless tasks and exhausting battles. Those struggles overshadow the times when you’ve been successful.
To help you remember, write a list of your accomplishments and successes, big and small. For example, you might have gotten mom to take a bath without a big struggle. Or maybe you finally got the hospital to correct their billing errors.
Whenever you’re feeling beaten down, look at your list to remind yourself of all the things you’ve achieved as a caregiver.
3. Give yourself wise advice
If you’re struggling with a big decision, something’s bothering you, or there’s a problem you haven’t been able to solve, write about it using the third person.
Writing in the third person gives you distance from what’s happening because it focuses on facts. That changes your perspective and helps you reach important realizations or find solutions.
For example, if you’re struggling with your dad over taking medicine, you might write “Bill (your dad) refuses to take his medicine. He says the pills are making him sick. After he takes them, he often isn’t hungry at lunchtime and wants to lie down. When Mary (that’s you) told him that the pills were good for him, Bill got mad and said she didn’t care about him.”
Writing that scene in the third person removes the emotion from the situation. Without the frustration you were feeling in the moment, you might wonder if the medication has negative side effects — he seems to feel unwell after taking the pills. That might be what’s making him refuse.
Now, instead of feeling frustrated and helpless, you have a plan to call the doctor and ask about side effects.
4. Make a list of things that lift your spirits
When you’re in a negative mood, it can be hard to remember how to get out of it.
Make a list of things you enjoy, activities that relax you, or music that always boosts your mood. When you’re feeling down, take out your list and do one of your happy things.
5. Enjoy more nature
Spending time in nature is one of the best ways to refresh your senses and relax your mind. You might not be able to get outside on a regular basis, but you can keep some of that nature in your journal.
Write about being outside in a favorite location — describe the sky, the weather, and the landscape in detail. Record how being there makes you feel. When you need a boost, but can’t get outside, read your descriptions and imagine that you’re there.
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