Journaling Your COVID-19 Experience to Keep Your Spirits Up
Before the global storm of COVID-19, which has now staggeringly affected 4.7M individuals worldwide, with 315K deaths as of May 17, we Canadians were busy making springtime and summertime plans. After all, we were almost at the tail-end of winter when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus as a pandemic on March 11, and it was only natural that we were dreaming of enjoying elaborate gardens, amusement parks, outdoor cinemas, food festivals, and carnivals.
Now almost three months after, our big spring and summer plans have been laid to rest even as some cities begin to ease on the restrictions on non-essential businesses and have started the process of reopening. Physical distancing will be a norm for the time being, which means that large gatherings won’t likely be part of our vocabulary until things get back to what they were.
Being confined to our homes shouldn’t be seen solely as a disadvantage. Now we can set aside time to gather our thoughts and perhaps prompt ourselves to write them down, via a journal.
In fact, journaling during these times is highly encouraged by the likes of Catherine O’Donnell, one of the co-founders of A Journal of The Plague Year: A COVID-19 Archive. Currently, O’Donnell is building a substantial archive of COVID-19-related materials, from invites to cancelled events to photos of empty grocery shelves.
Scribbling about your experience will not only help archivists and historians, it will benefit you in the mental health department, as Karen Blair, an assistant professor of psychology at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S. says, “There’s a lot of research that shows us that writing about traumatic experiences is beneficial for us and that it helps us to process that stress while it’s actually happening.”
Whether you want to share your journals is up to you, but what matters is you remember these pointers on how to make journaling a fulfilling activity in these challenging times.
Select the medium that you feel most comfortable with.
Despite the name, journaling doesn’t have to be strictly limited to pen and paper. After all, we all have our own preferences when it comes to note-taking during classes. We can go for the old-fashioned scribbler and notebook, or we can go for journaling apps like Daylio Journal or Diary with Password. Websites like WordPress and Tumblr are good choices too. Whatever you’re most comfortable with, opt for that.
Don’t overthink, just think.
When writing papers for school, we always have to keep grammatical and spelling rules in mind, otherwise, your grades might be affected. But in journaling, remember to throw these rules out the window. Write whatever it is on your mind and don’t put restrictions on yourself. Start with a conjunction or end with a conjunction if you want to or do both.
Schedule a time to journal.
Your schedule must be more flexible now more than ever, but that doesn’t mean your daily tasks are less. You still have your commitments and deadlines so keep to a schedule for journaling as much as possible until it has become a routine. And if you’ve set a time and place, be sure to follow it as if someone is checking you do it.
Be creative and resourceful.
No one’s checking if you have the right spacing and font size when you’re journaling so there’s no reason not to be creative and resourceful. If you think you will better express yourself by including a lyric from a song or a verse from a poem, then do so. It’s important that you’re exploring creative avenues to jot your thoughts down and if you need more than words to do so, like a painting or a cartoon from a magazine, then include that in your journal as well.
These are uncertain times, and keeping a journal may be the last thing on your mind. But journaling can help you acquire a different perspective. In the process, you may be able to better cope with the challenges brought on by the pandemic.