Many of us go through life with very little intention. We become so familiar with our routines that we often just go through the motions without being fully present.
As a result, we may become dissociated and struggle with unpleasant feelings such as sadness, apathy, or anxiety.
But we don’t have to live like this.
Over the years, and born from necessity, I have developed a number of strategies that help me to protect and maintain my wellbeing. These tools allow me to go inward and connect with my inner Self, to check in with my mental state, and to preserve stability and optimism as much as possible.
In this blog, I’ll be sharing these methods. Remember: they’re not just for when we’re struggling. These tools are for prevention rather than cure, and the best results come from dedication and consistent practise.
For many people, especially busy business owners, the word “journalling” might elicit a picture of a young child writing “Dear Diary…” and be dismissed as something childish. However, journalling is a practise for everyone – and its benefits are enormous.
- Getting things off our chest
Writing things down means they’re out of our head and on paper (or on our screen, if we prefer a digital journal). This means we no longer have to carry them around – we can quite literally put them down. The simple act of writing (or typing) is a way of processing in itself. Formulating the sentences means we’re taking time to understand what’s on our mind, and closing the journal (or the laptop) when we’re finished means we can cut ties with unhelpful or heavy thoughts.
- Tapping into uncomfortable feelings
It can be difficult to process uncomfortable feelings, especially when we have a business – and perhaps a family – relying on us and demanding our attention. Journalling is a great way to set a small amount of time aside every day to check in with ourselves. If we struggle to talk about things or find it hard to communicate verbally, writing things down is a way to tap into deeper feelings we might otherwise find difficult to access.
- Connecting to the Self
Journalling encourages mindfulness. It’s a pause; a chance to take a breath in an otherwise busy and hectic life. How many times during the course of our day or week do we take a break to check in with ourselves? Sprinting rapidly through our to-do list without ever consulting our inner Self is a recipe for disconnection and allowing negative feelings to fester. Setting time aside to journal – even as little as ten minutes a day – means there is a dedicated slot in our routine that is just for us. It means we’re acknowledging our feelings and experiences and not just sweeping them under the rug. When we do the latter, these feelings we’ve ignored only manifest themselves in other guises.
Looking back on old journal entries is a great way to track our progress and see how far we’ve come. It helps us to notice patterns in our behaviour – are there certain times of the year when we notice our mental health slipping? Perhaps these line up with particularly busy periods in our business. Having this self-awareness allows us to put a plan in place to help us during these times – extra support, communication with our staff and our family, and a little more patience for ourselves. Observing which issues and feelings keep cropping up can provide us with a map to the root of our issues. It might not be an easy journey, but getting to the root cause of why we feel certain emotions is vital in breaking them down and protecting our future selves.
- Holding ourselves accountable
We are each the captain of our own ship. No one else is responsible for steering us to calm waters. We are more than capable of charting our own journey, we just need the tools and the direction to do so. Journaling provides this. All of the above points: getting things off our chest, storing them so that we can use them as material for deeper reflection, connecting with and getting to know our inner Self, and understanding where negative feelings come from will equip us with a greater understanding of who we are and how to get to where we want to be.
- Finding clarity and purpose
Journalling can help quiet the noise in our busy brains. When we don’t check in with ourselves, our heads might feel like a jumbled mess of thoughts that are impossible to make sense of. Taking the time to write down what we’re feeling can iron out this chaos and provide clarity. In turn, this allows us to develop a deeper sense of purpose: when we better understand where we are now, we can identify what needs to change.
Intention is about having an aim or a plan. If we’re in a period of poor mental health, our aim might be to simply feel better. Our plan is how we’re going to get there.
Having goals to work towards makes it easier to do all things with intention. However, when we’re running a business, sometimes we simply don’t have the time or the luxury to slow down and consider how something will impact our mental wellbeing before we do it. Some business decisions are unavoidable and need to be done. In these cases, self-care like journalling becomes all the more important.
Despite this, I am sure that many of us simply don’t prioritise being intentional, creating healthy habits, or checking in with the Self – especially those of us that are busy running businesses. But doing so encourages us to feel motivated about our goals, to cultivate meaningful habits that promote our wellbeing, and to build resilience against stress and adversity.