Journaling is everywhere.
From bullet journals to prompt books to writing apps- we have more ways than ever to engage in the process of written reflection…
and research shows us that reflection works!
Journaling has been proven to manage anxiety, reduce stress, improve work performance, and help people gain self awareness and self confidence (I’ve posted a few references below!).
I, for one, have kept a journal almost my entire life and it has always been a place for me to process new experiences, work through difficult emotions, and connect with who I am and who I want to become.
The journal space has been especially important for me as a Black woman working in Higher Education.
In March of 2019, I facilitated my first journaling workshop at the American College Personnel Association Conference in Boston Massachusetts titled “We Journal, We Resist: Utilizing Journaling for Healing & Empowerment.” Though the presentation was open to everyone, I centered my presentation on the experiences of people of color and discussed how journaling can give people of color a literal “safe space” to work through identity based microaggressions and other stressors in the workplace. Since then, I have done many of these workshops for different organizations that are seeking to provide their employees with journaling and social justice training.
Below, I’d like to share 3 journaling exercises that you and/or your students can use to practice self care and re-ground yourself! **These exercises are meant to supplement, not replace, professional help. Lean on mental health professionals for extreme amounts of stress**
THE OCTAVIA DREAM EXERCISE
A few years ago, Huntington Library published a few journal pages of the late, great author Octavia Butler, a science fiction writer best known for her books Kindred and Parable of the Sower. These pages revealed numerous affirmations about Butler’s dream to become a bestselling author. Affirmations like “I will find a way to do this! So be it!” and “My books will be read by millions of people!” dotted the pages and eventually came to fruition as Butler wrote book after bestselling book before her death in 2006. The concept of “claiming” or “calling out what’s yours” is definitely something that feels very close to me culturally as I often heard these affirmations from my Grandmother and other Black community members growing up.
When you’re practicing dream affirmation, think first about what you want or how you want to feel. Then, write down what it would feel like to have that thing in the present tense. I find that it’s helpful to affirm how you’d like to feel in the workplace. For instance: “I am at work and though I’m feeling stressed today, I know that I got this! I am strong and powerful.” Sometimes just putting out the intention can help you to feel more in control of your emotions and reactions.
This is one of my favorites exercises! I started making brave lists a few years ago during a period in time when I was struggling with social anxiety. At the time, I was too afraid to raise my hand in class and would get heart palpitations when I had to speak in front of people (even though I love doing public speaking!). So: I turned to brave lists! I kept a running tally of wins that I accomplished every day. I counted times I raised my hand in class, times I reached out to a friend or colleague when I needed help, etc. and each time I celebrated these little wins, I felt even more encouraged to take bigger risks and make bigger decisions in my life. I affirmed my bravery and was able to overcome stress and anxiety at that time as a result!
Make a list of all the ways that you were brave today. What are the things that you deal with on a daily basis that require a lot of courage (crisis management, employer relations, confrontational conversations with students or colleagues)? Who are the people that you are continuously brave for in your life and work? In what areas do you surprise yourself in every day? I would suggest leaving a few pages at the back of your journal for your BRAVE LIST so that you can easily turn to them when you need inspiration and affirmation. Example: I was brave today because I discussed the issue I was having with my supervisor. I was brave today because I protected my time and health even when I felt uncomfortable doing so.
WHY I STAY PROMPT
On busy days, it’s easy to forget why we keep doing the work we do. When you get burned out, it’s even easier to move into a space of ungratefulness and frustration. That’s where re-grounding comes in! When you are having a freak-out moment and you are struggling to keep moving forward, take out your journal and try out this tool.
Ask yourself first: “Why am I still here (at this company, with these people, doing this work)?” Then list three opportunities, people, or that are keeping you where you are. If you’re really struggling to find 3 examples at the time, then write the easiest examples you can think of. The point is to get those feelings out, and find reasons that can support you in the tougher times. Though work can be stressful, one thing I have written and rewritten in my journal is that I stay in higher education to provide access for the students who need it the most! I stay at my institution because I know that there are students who need what I have to offer. What’s your reason?
If you’d like more information about my presentation or other ways that you or your staff/students can use journaling in the workplace, please contact me HERE.
Question: Do you have or want to have a journaling practice? Have you ever utilized journaling to process through difficult or stressful events?