6 Easy Ways to Journal for the Exhausted Mom
There are lots of people talking about journaling, and justifiably so. It could be the one thing that allows you to make a significant change in your mental and emotional health. It is because of my journaling that I have been able to make great strides in my mental health. We are going to take this a step further and consider the possibility that this one thing could be the lifeline not only to self-care but thriving through motherhood.
Journaling is a powerful self-help tool that is being promoted and pushed by coaches and therapists to help their clients. It is incredibly easy to journal in just a plain notebook, but it can be done is a variety of ways. However, all journaling has one thing in common- writing.
So if you hate writing or don’t think you are a writer hang on to your seat because we are going to hit on several ideas and then go deep with my favorite way that has taken me from an emotional mess to having more good days, and only hard days around “that time of the month.”
Drawing pictures or sketching
From simple to elaborate, any kind of picture that expresses your emotions and situations will help. After you’ve drawn the picture, you can label and annotate it. If you have a blank page opposite your drawing, then you can come back and review it later and jot down any additional thoughts, emotions, and responses. Quite often, this simple method will get you writing quickly.
It is a method that I have seen psychologists use to help children express themselves when they have had a traumatic experience. If it is helpful to children, it can certainly help us.
Also, to make it prettier, use different types of pens and pencils. I love colored pens and have quite a collection.
If you are journaling about a problem, then you might consider using a diagram such as a mind map or a decision tree. This type of journaling is something I use not only for breaking down big problems but also to help me with my business planning. I start with the main idea, and then around it writes down the essential items. From there, I write smaller details around the significant items. It has allowed me to break down a more substantial problem into something more manageable.
Diagrams are powerful because they are visual and help you to see patterns and make connections more easily. If you are trying to decide, then you can illustrate the different outcomes and results to help you formulate the best decision.
Adding color not only makes this more attractive, but it can help you quickly make connections. Like all these small things, go with the more significant portion, and they don’t get confused with someplace else when the mind map grows beyond what your piece of paper can hold.
Journaling prompts how I got restarted on journaling, but the funny thing is that it is also the reason I stopped writing.
When I was a senior in high school, we had to write in a journal daily during our English class. Each day, someone could write a topic on the board, and we had to write about it. Well, on this day, a classmate wrote the word deodorant. What do you say about that?
So, in true smarty-pants attitude, I wrote, “I like deodorant. It helps keep people from smelling bad. I know several people who could use more of it.”
My teacher gave me a ZERO on that. It wasn’t that she was correcting my grammar or anything like that; she didn’t like what I said. For me, this was the final straw that made me think I couldn’t be a writer. It didn’t help that in my freshman year, my English teacher bled all over my paper with his red pen stating that I didn’t have an ounce of creativity and shouldn’t ever consider writing, because no one with any sense would waste their time reading what I have to say.
I guess by you reading this; you are helping me to prove him wrong. That was an interesting tangent.
Using a simple prompt such as a word, deodorant, or a question can help break the blank page syndrome and inspire you to unburden yourself onto the empty page that is in front of you. You don’t have to write a lot of even full sentences. The act of journaling must relate to your needs now in time, and this may vary day by day.
I have a journal that I have written beautiful questions. When I use this journal, I don’t go in the order the questions are written, I flip through until I find something that I feel I need to write about at that moment.
Journaling is about you and fulfilling YOUR needs, not what someone else thinks you should write. While you could consider purchasing a journal designed for the specific use you need, you will find many of them either repeat the same questions over and over or go in a direction that you don’t want to go right now.
But if you want to purchase one, then the Getting to Good: A Guided Journal by Elena Welsh, Ph.D., is the one that I highly recommend.
If you are like me and just want journal prompts, you can find them all over Pinterest for free, but HERE is a list of my favorite prompts that have helped me on my journey.
Create a Collage
When I was a kid, we called these Smash books. In this journal, you will find magazine clippings—words, phrases, paragraphs, or even articles that relate to how you are feeling. You can add stickers and make sure to leave space so you can express how you feel and make it personal. Make sure to leave a blank page so you can come back to it later.
As for a smash book, these are more like the modern-day scrapbook, but in a smaller journal form. I have seen people who do a lot of traveling do this and add pictures of places they have visited and what they thought about those places.
I have a journal that is full of notes people have sent me over the years. My grandma used to collect cards in boxes all over the house, and when she died, it was fun to see all those notes. That’s when I decided to create my book. When I am having a hard day, I pull out this book, and it reminds me that I am not alone, and I am loved.
Writing with a pen on paper is the most potent method of journaling, you can also use dictation software such as Dragon. Doctors use this all the time for medical dictation, but it is excellent for any form of journaling.
I was sitting in my car last night and did a brain dump into my phone via dictation. My hands weren’t free to type, so I talked to my phone. Yes, I was parked, but I was also eating. Hey, no one else must hear me talk with my mouth full, so it isn’t rude- right?
You could also do this on your computer with a microphone. It may be easier to start your journaling journey by speaking to the computer and imagining you are talking to a friend. The software will “write” what you say and can save the document for later review.
BUT be aware that just like autocorrect, what you say may not always be typed correctly. If no one else is going to read this, then no worries, otherwise you might want to read over what you said.
You could decide to keep your journal electronically in which case you can review it later and add in any thoughts that come along the way. Or you may decide to print it out and keep it in a binder. By doing this, you are free to embellish it with additional notes, stickers, and doodles.
I have several different journals that I have used over the years, but the one that I have been most consistent with is my Gratitude Journal. While I have changed things up a little, gratitude has always been my highest priority.
Gratitude journaling is a popular tool used by coaches, therapists, and consultants who are helping people to improve their mental and emotional health. The University of Rochester Medical Center has a fabulous article that shows the benefits for your mental health
Gratitude journaling is little cost and as simple as you want to make it. You will need three things: writing implements, a notebook or journal, and time alone.
Pens, markers, and pencils
As I said earlier, I have a problem when it comes to colored pens. Maybe I just have a stationary/ school supplies problem, but we won’t talk about my post-it notes issue today.
Different colored pens not only brighten up your page, but they can give your page texture. These pens turn your gratitude journal into more than just a record of thanks but make it a creative endeavor.
Cheap notebook or buy a journal
While you could use a piece of paper, keeping a special notebook for your gratitude journal ensures that you will keep it all together and lets you look back on what you wrote before. Your notebook can be simple or decorate it with stickers (I told you have I have a stationary problem. I grew up making sticker books.) or you could splurge and buy a more expensive one. Most of mine have been picked up at Michael’s, TJ Maxx, or Burlington. I like my journals to have quotes on the front.
By decorating a plain notebook or even make a book from scratch, you are making a more significant commitment to the project and yourself. Your notebook will mean more to you, and you will feel a greater connection to it when you use it. If you are writing positive thoughts inside of it, you also want to feel happy and proud when you see it.
This one may be the hardest part, but it is the most crucial part. By taking time out away from all distractions, you are giving yourself space to think, relax, and write. You’ll also find that you enjoy the experience more. The gratitude will flow more quickly since you don’t have to deal with things around you.
For me, this happens the first thing in the morning. The first thing I do when I sit down at my desk is to pull out my gratitude journal. No one else is usually up, so it is God, me, and the quiet. It is a time of reflection for me.
For this to work, you need to be emotionally engaged in this. There is no point in just going through the motions of journaling without creating a positive, meaningful experience.
Instead of just creating a long list of things you are grateful for, put some real thought into it. Take time to write about an event and describe in detail why you are thankful for it. Remember to record how you felt and why.
Try to include people you are thankful for as much as you can and not just events. By including specific people and the reasons you are thankful for them, you will create a more considerable emotional impact. You will be putting their name before God as someone special.
Gratitude leads to Joy
In the book, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, you are taken on a journey of how to live entirely right where you are. This book came into my life when things began to go crazy.
We had just moved from Pennsylvania back to Indiana our home state. I was pregnant with a rainbow baby, and one of the pillar people of my life was dying. I was an emotional mess, but this book became part of my routine. I read it slowly, absorbing every word.
The biggest thing it taught me at that time was to live fully in the moment. When my grandpa could no longer attend worship services, we would take our family there and have one with him and grandma. I was at my grandparents’ house several times a week. I was soaking up the moments.
It is because I was so present that when we had thanksgiving at my house that year, I was able to convince Grandpa to play the guitar. While he said he couldn’t, we all knew better. Thankfully, someone was aware enough to grab a picture that we all now treasure.
When I am missing a particular family member, I will think of a favorite memory and write it down. It not only takes me back to the moment but reminds me to be thankful for those moments. While they are now only a memory, I am thankful I was able to experience them.
It is these memories and being grateful for them that has to lead to real joy in my life.
Start Today Journal
Most people have heard of Rachel Hollis and the start today journal, but if you haven’t, let me briefly explain it. In your journal, you are going to write down five things you are thankful for that happened in the last 24 hours. These can be BIG things, but I prefer to focus on the small things, like finding out there was just enough sugar left for my cup of tea.
Once you have done that, there are ten spaces where you write your top 10 goals for your life. If you purchase one of her journals, she will teach you how she does this, or you can listen to her podcast, The Rise Podcast episode #72, and she tells you how you do this.
The last thing you are going to write is the one thing you are going to do that will get you closer to your goals.
I have been doing this for almost two years now, and the changes I have seen in myself and my business have been tremendous. I finished the courses that I had started. I finished and published my book. I emptied my house so we could have someone come and kill the bedbugs that my son’s friend brought when he came to spend the night. Now, I am on to other things.
Journals and more journals
These are just a few examples to get you started. There are SO many more options out there. Don’t think you just have to settle on one idea and stick with it. I certainly haven’t.
I have a journal where I do the homework my therapist gives me.
I have a journal where I do the homework my John Maxwell Life Coach gives me
I have my version of the Start Today Journal, where I added something for the end of the day.
I have a Mother-Daughter Journal with my oldest daughter.
I have a prayer journal where I record my prayers and how God answers them.
I have a Common Place book.
I have a Thank You God journal, where I am actively thanking God for things that I need and believe He will bring into my life.
I also have a Listening Journal.
I have a meal planning journal.
Journaling can become a way of life that will not help you learn how to thrive but will give your children something to look back on. They will be able to read it and see how mom was just like them, human. By reading your thoughts they will be able to find the solutions to the problems they are facing as well.
For me, by journaling, consistently I have been able to work through my emotions and realize what I want for myself and my life, but it has been the best form of self-care possible and help me create the best version of myself daily.