I Know This Sounds Stupid, But…Keeping a Journal Helped
Ugh, journalling. That concept irked me so much throughout my life when it was suggested to me. I have tried it a few times before, but I never could stick with it and always found it frustrating to do. This year, for one reason or another, I decided to keep one. I started with a folder filled with word documents on my computer for each entry.
At first, I was experiencing my normal issues with keeping a journal: frustration quickly took over as I wrote the story of my current thoughts, feelings, issues, and observances. Everything felt like it simply dragged on. However, I realized I could just bullet point my thoughts instead and found it to be easier, but I still had trouble keeping up with it.
About halfway through the year, however, I heard “grab one of your old notebooks from the filing cabinet and use it for a journal” in my head. I proceeded to go down into the basement, grab one of the old 1-subject notebooks I had sitting in my file cabinet, and began keeping a journal. Since then, I have been keeping a journal much more frequently.
TrainerKelly’s Journal Keeping Tips
- Pick out a format that works for you. By that, I mean figure out the best way for you to journal: a physical notebook? A word document saved on your computer? A blog that you keep private posts on? A voice recording app on your phone? If one doesn’t work after a month, try another;
- If you go with a physical notebook, find one that will actually make you want to write in it. For me, it has been the plainest, cheapest 1-subject notebooks I can get at whatever store I am near (which happens to be my current workplace) with the plainest cover (solid colour and some information about the notebook) I can get. I have used fancier notebooks in the past, but they are more distracting to me, so I pay more attention to the covers than writing. However, if fancy-schmancy notebooks are your thing, go for it!
- If you find writing paragraphs upon paragraphs like you’re writing a novel frustrating like I did, try bullet-pointing your thoughts!
- Ask yourself questions as if you were another person talking to you. I know this probably sounds confusing, however, I found that this worked for me. My favourite question to ask myself is “how are you doing today?”. For example, I might respond “I’m so happy today! I really can’t believe all the good, especially because yesterday was so blah.” From there, I will follow up with “What made you happy today?” and continue;
- When you start, aim for 3-pages a day to form a habit, but don’t be too hard on yourself. I found that on most days, I wrote more than 3-pages. Once you have formed a journal-writing habit, you can write as much or as little as you want whenever you want;
- On the flip side, if you notice that you’re writing for too long (like I often do! Somehow, my quick journal entry that should only take 30 minutes becomes 3 hours…), set a timer;
- Write the date AND the start time somewhere on your journal entry. The date is probably obvious, but the start time? Why the start time? To help give what you are writing context. I suppose if you wake up and go to sleep in the same day, it doesn’t matter, but if you’re the type of person who goes to bed at 1 AM and wakes up at 8 AM, putting down the start time could be useful. It lets you know that when you say “today” on your January 1st, 2019 at 12:50 AM journal entry is actually referring to your own day that started on December 31st, 2018, if that makes sense.
Meditation Helped Take the Reins
My mind LOOOOOOVES to run off…including into very unhelpful directions, such as an infuriating, but mostly pointless conversation from two days ago that I already mentally sorted out or a high from someone complimenting me.
I took up a somewhat regular meditation practice and found that it: 1.) helped me call my mind back when I needed to (harder than it sounds), 2.) I became calmer and overall happier (mainly because I could now look at issues right in the eye without obsessing over them and I was calmer), and 3.) I had better control over my emotions.
When I more or less stopped after I moved, my issues prior to meditating came back. I became less calm, more irritable, and my mind continue to run in unhelpful directions until something kicked it off course.
TrainerKelly’s Tips for Meditation
- Use a guided meditation to start with. YouTube has a ton;
- RELAX FIRST!!!! Most guided meditations have a relaxation portion right in the beginning. However, if you’re doing this freestyle, you can try my quick relax: Breath in through your nose, imagining energy flowing from the very top of your head all the way to your toes, reaching every single part of your body. When you exhale, imagine all tension from every part of your body being released with your breath and being neutralized by the air around you. Repeat at least 2 more times;
- Remember: Meditation is NOT about emptying your mind!!! The best way to describe it is to just let things flow without being attached. For instance, while you are meditating, a memory of an irksome thing your friend said two years ago pops up. Instead of obsessing over it, let it pass by like a car on the street;
- Do your best to make it a regular practice, even if it’s only once a week;
Yoga Helped Me Focus, Relax, and Release
When I began trying to do a somewhat regular meditation practice, I had difficulty because I couldn’t easily fit it in anywhere. I needed something to go before it that would be helpful.
I ended up with a mental “download” of a particular kind of stretch. I didn’t think it was yoga, but I decided to check anyway. Since I was already checking, I decided, hey, why not do some yoga? It was literally like…the only thing in gym class I actually liked. I thought too that yoga could help with some of my aches and pains that I was experiencing from my job.
Sure enough, it did all that! I found that yoga helped lead me into meditation pretty dang well. It also helped relieve some of my aches and pains.
TrainerKelly’s Tips for Yoga
I actually don’t really have any tips, if I had to be completely honest.
Oh, and I found an actual yoga mat to be helpful, rather than my Japanese-style futon, which was too padded.
Frequently Going to the Land of Torment and My Own “Inner Worlds” Helped Me See What Was Wrong and Deal With It
Since 2015, I’ve used my Queen persona for my Year Goals posts. However, that shifted at the end of 2017, where I felt one part of me – the Truth – was reaching out to the half of me filled with half-truths and outright lies and asking to see the Truth and become one. It’s what ended up prompting me to draw my fused Queen and Creator persona, with wings, with the Queen taking the lead with her Sword of Truth.
In my head, I saw the metaphoric place we were going was to the “Field of Torment” where things from the past and present will affect the future if we didn’t deal with them. We specifically were going to this “Field” to take down the “Tormentors,” which at first kind of appeared like creepy shadowy figures.
In a way, visiting the Field of Torment (which I eventually realized was actually a LAND of Torment), was like a guided meditation, except I was doing some very heavy work on myself within it and it was more akin to coming up with a fictional epic. A fictional epic with effects on my reality.
Through fighting through the Field of Torment, eventually entering the more intense Forest of Torment, I learned to hear my different inner voices and identify them. I learned how to separate myself from the self-sabotaging, troubling voices that threaten to hold me back and ruin me and look them straight in the eye and ask them who they were and take them down. There are literally issues I’ve been dealing with for a long, long time now that have either lessened their grip or completely gone away thanks to this adventure I’ve been taking in my head.
TrainerKelly’s Tips for Entering the Land of Torment & Working Through It
- Know yourself, not only how you see yourself, but how others see you. This is literally the most important thing to know before heading to your own inner land of torment. That way, you can determine if this is actual right for your own healing or if you need something more conventional (or to be used in conjunction with something more conventional), like therapy;
- Be able to understand the fantasy aspects (for instance, your most idealized form and the monsters you face), the real aspects (the issues you are dealing with), and the metaphoric aspects (the issues the monsters are representing, the weapons you are wielding and why). You may feel like you’re coming up with a fantasy epic, but I’m telling you, when you travel to the Land of Torment, that “fantasy” epic is a metaphoric epic for your own healing;
- Learn to separate your thoughts from you. This is especially important if you are having thoughts that can lead to anxiety, depression, and self-sabotage. I found the most helpful way to do this is to catch myself mid-thought and see myself “cast it out” of me. I “see” myself throw my arm forward and have the thought appear across from me. I then look at it straight in the eye. Sometimes, these look like strange shadowy figures. I’ve had at least one look just like me before, just far more psychotic…it was creepy. However, it’s being able to look at it detached from me that has helped me move on. They are no longer apart of me;
- Don’t jump into this right now, unless you’ve been working on yourself quite a while and you can tell this is something good for you. If you’re trying this out of desperation to get better, I don’t recommend this. It took me a long, long time to get to this point where I could make this journey and trust me, it’s not easy;
- I think my last tip for this is self-responsibility. When you take your journey through the Land of Torment, you are relying on yourself. That is because you and ONLY YOU are responsible for your own healing. Literally every SINGLE PERSON in the world is USELESS in your healing…unless you take responsibility to heal yourself. It’s only when you make the effort to heal yourself from the inside out that people can help you. You can reach out to friends, family, acquaintances, therapists, psychiatrists, doctors, and more all you want, but no one will be able to help you unless you are willing to HELP YOURSELF FIRST FROM THE INSIDE OUT! If you are not willing to help yourself from the inside out first, whether that is by stepping up and attending therapy no matter how scared and humiliated you feel by the feelings and being brutally honest with your therapist or leaving it because you are fully well aware that you need to venture out on your own to fully heal, despite what everyone else thinks, or something else entirely…take full responsibility for yourself because literally no one else will, even if they want to.
Honouring the Depression & Anxiety, When Needed. Or Ignoring When Needed.
Yes, I did both last year and continue to do so this year. And yes, that sounds conflicting: how could I honour the depression and anxiety, but also ignore it? In what context?
So, it took me a long time to get to this point, but it ultimately comes down to knowing yourself so well that you can identify the “type” of depression and anxiety it is. They seem the same, but there are differences.
Most of the time, my depression and anxiety is from SOMETHING. What that something is varies. Very rarely is it something I cannot identify. For instance, I most recently realized most of my daily anxiety came from spending too much time on social media and YouTube. I’ve long identified that my depression is often linked to not getting enough of my work done.
Okay, so, what does this have to do with honouring or ignoring the depression?
How do I explain this…
So, I have enough of an understanding of myself on how to respond back to my depression and anxiety.
The first thing I always do is check in with myself and “poke around” to see what kind of anxiety and depression it is. For instance, the anxiety may be from being on social media for WAAAAAAAAY too long and the depression may be from burn out.
Once I identify what kind of anxiety or depression I am experiencing, I determine what the right course of action is. Using the last example, if I am experiencing anxiety due to social media, I consciously tell myself “no” and shut it off. I may find myself trying to go back to social media a few times, but after telling my unconsciousness “no” about going onto social media, it does appear it gets the point.
Burn out depression, on the other hand, involves another step: determining how to best deal with the burn-out. A lot of time, my mind wants to do something else. It could simply be switching to another project, playing a video game, reading, or going out somewhere for fun. Sometimes, it’s I just need to lay in bed and do nothing and maybe sleep.
What are the times I need to ignore the depression and anxiety though? Well, the easiest ones to identify are the ones tied with self-doubt. Y’know, those pesky “I’m not good enough” sort of thoughts. Yeah. Those ones. Typically, I need to take a moment to affirm to myself that I just need to write or draw the dang thing and I totally am doing it and…oh, look at that. I got it done. (It took me a long time to get to the point though to be able to do that. It took a lot of acknowledging I don’t feel good enough and actually identifying where I am not actually good enough and need practice and where I am good enough to get things done).
TrainerKelly’s Tips on Depression & Anxiety
- Know yourself. Get to know yourself. Even if you already know yourself, get to know yourself more. You’re probably deeper than you think you are;
A Note On Nuance
With all these practices, I do want to talk about nuance. Nuance are things that are difficult to describe, yet make a huge impact. Nuance is a word that keeps popping up in my head not only about what I wrote above, but also what other people write. It’s difficult to write about the nuance of doing these activities to heal or even regulate.
When you read about people journalling, doing yoga, running, meditating, dancing, eating healthy, or anything that involves healing, there is always something subtle about why it worked that individual. Yes, you may have science to back up some stuff, but that science doesn’t always translate down to individuals.
The subtle difference in the person who tackled those things could be a whole host of things. I know for myself, it was the sheer determination to get better as a result of all my experiences up to this point and actively “diving deep” to pull up problems as I identified them, as well as trial and error on how to make things work for me and how they work. I’m sure using kinder language these past few years has helped do wonders too.
Subtle differences, the nuances in the person whose life has been helped via these actions have helped them use it effectively.
Journalling, meditation, yoga, and working through a metaphoric journey in my head and separating myself from parts that no longer serve me made the biggest impact in 2018. I suspect it to continue in 2019.
Thank you for reading!