For many young girls, it’s a rite of passage to keep a diary filled with secrets, hopes and dreams. It feels good to have a private place to write down those things that are too difficult to share with another living soul. Looking back at it later in life, it allows you to discover details that have long since been forgotten. Unfortunately most of us stopped writing in those diaries that were locked away when we hit our teen or adult years.
For women who find themselves on the emotional journey that is breast cancer, it might be time to start journaling again. Studies have shown there are mental and health benefits to journaling. After all, journaling has been shown to improve your mental health, reduce stress and make you feel better physically. It’s also just a great way to document your recovery.
Although not many studies exist on the effects of journaling, WebMD.com suggests that writing can improve sleep, help fight feelings of fatigue, and provide an outlet for positivity.
Before starting a journal, here are five ideas to guide you:
1. Rule #1: No Rules
The only rule to keeping a breast cancer journal is that there are no rules. Treat yourself to a new notebook or pretty journal or download one of the many journaling apps that are available. Write for a few minutes or several times a day. You can draw, write your thoughts in poetry or take pictures and write captions about what you see. Anything goes.
2. Start Anywhere
It doesn’t matter where you are in your breast cancer journey, you can start a journal today. You can work backward on the path you’ve already walked and write down as much as you can remember or write going forward only.
3. Be Prepared for the Emotions
One breast cancer patient had big aspirations of writing in a journal throughout her journey. Unfortunately, writing about her tests and treatment brought out too many emotions and she put the journaling aside. Journaling can be emotional, but it can be therapeutic too. If it gets to be too much, stop for the time being, but make a date to pick it back up again and perhaps write in smaller chunks or skip a few days in between. Find what works best for you.
4. Make a Caring Bridge Journal
There are online websites that allow you to journal and share it with family and friends who want to keep up with your journey but who may not be able to see you. “Anne-Marie” started a CaringBridge account to share her journey. She wasn’t posting every day, but often enough that when she goes back now and re-reads the entries, she remembers details about things that she started to forget.
5. Use Your Phone
Maybe you prefer to use your phone to journal, which is probably with you all the time. If so, try a journaling app, such as Dabble.me, Day One, or Five Minute Journal. Some charge a fee for the download but can provide prompts to remind you to write.
Whatever you do, and however you do it, make sure it works for you. That’s really the ultimate test of any effort to deal with your breast cancer journey.