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Journal all the way

Christmas can be a stressful time of year…

There are so many pressures from outside forces, whether that is social media, family, friends, the media generally, to create the perfect Hallmark worthy Christmas. We increasingly feel the pressure to have the perfect decorations, piles of presents under the tree, matching Christmas pyjamas, hot chocolate stations, elf on the shelf… the list is never ending. 

While all these things are wonderful, if that’s what you strive for, they are far from what this time of year is all about. If you ask most people, they will say that it isn’t about the presents or the decorations, it is about the people you spend time with, about enjoying quality time together. Instead we often spend days dashing around making sure everyone is properly dressed and sitting in the perfect festive scene. None of that matters.

What can you do to support your mental health at this time of year and make sure that everyone enjoys this festive time?

Well, the most important thing is to focus on the important things. As long as you have something to eat and you are together then that is the most important thing. It is important to keep this focus. Everything else is a luxury.

Making sure that you take time to breathe, even if you are basting the turkey or peeling potatoes while you do, will help you to keep your stress levels manageable too. There are lots of things you can do to be more mindful, you can read more about those here, but in for now I want to talk about how journaling can help you at this busy time of year.

I know what you’re thinking; “the last thing I need is something else to do!”, and I get it, I really do. But believe me, you can spend just 5 minutes a day journaling and the difference it will make to your day is mindblowing. It is honestly worth every minute.

There are so many journal prompts you can access, so you don’t have to go into this habit without support. I send out a prompt with my newsletter every week, I also have a Pinterest board with lots of Journal prompts that I have saved, which you are welcome to look through.

So now you know where to find a prompt, what do you do with it?

festive journaling

How do I journal?

Journaling is just a type of writing. So you will need something to write with and something to write on. It can be a brand new beautiful journal and your favourite pen, or the back of an envelope and one of the kids’ twistables! The important thing is that you are writing. If you prefer to use a digital writing form that’s fine too, although there is research that shows that your brain processes things differently when you write by hand, so if at all possible, please try to handwrite your journaling. Once you have chosen your prompt you can get started. This is how I journal and I find many people benefit from using these rituals too. 

Before I start I make sure that the place I’m sitting is comfortable and that I am warm enough (which often means a blanket and fingerless gloves at this time of year!). Then I light a candle. There is something magical about candle light and I find staring at a candle helps to calm me ready for writing.

Then I just sit and look at my candle’s flame and I take a few deep breaths and really ground and centre myself. I find this really helps me to write meaningful things. Without this step my journaling often becomes a to do list of things I need to get out of my head. Which is ok, and sometimes that is a necessary thing to do, but if you know that you have a lot of things on your mind and you need to write a to do list, sit and do that before you start journaling. 

Christmas journaling

Now you are ready to write. Read through the prompt you have chosen and write it at the top of your paper. Then, and this is the important thing, you are just going to write whatever comes into your head. No filtering, no stopping. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, handwriting, just write. 

If you are short of time set a timer before you start, but otherwise I would recommend writing for at least 5-10 minutes (longer if possible). If you run out of things to write, just write “I don’t know what to write” over and over until it is replaced by something else. It is after this point, when you think you have written everything you can think of, that the real magic will begin to appear on the page. 

When you write without filtering your brain is able to tap into thoughts which you may not consciously have acknowledged before. It can be a very profound experience and very healing. 

Of course when you work with a journal therapist, they will encourage you to dig deep and use this writing time to really explore those thoughts and writings. If you would like support with your journaling practice please do get in touch, there are lots of ways to work with me, depending on your needs, time and budget. 

The act of sitting and writing is in itself calming and lowers your blood pressure, but when you journal in this way, it is proven to benefit your mental health. Interestingly, it is also proven to boost your immune system, what more could you need at this time of year?

Grab a notebook and pen and get writing. You won’t be sorry and your family will thank you. 


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