Journaling Isn’t Just For Teenage Girls. And Yes, It Really Can Help You Heal.

Posted: October 13, 2020








Mental Health

Journaling isn’t just for teenage girls. And yes, it really can help you heal from a cancer diagnosis. 

“The hardest part of my cancer experience began once the cancer was gone.” -Suleika Jaouad, Cancer Thriver. 

Recovering from cancer comes with uncomfortable feelings. A lot of them. Whatever you’re feeling right now is definitely normal, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need to be expressed. Entire research studies are dedicated to demonstrating how suppressing emotions is physiologically harmful. Muscle tension, high blood pressure, high risk of heart disease, and so many other negative health consequences can be mitigated by being honest about your feelings. 

Burying your emotions won’t help you heal, bud.

Journaling is a safe way to work through your trauma, during and after cancer treatment. 

Expressing your inner world through written word is an easy way to explore the major events that have led you to where you are right now, and to reflect on where it is that you’d like to go next. Journaling may even lead you to new discoveries about yourself and your beliefs along the way. You don’t need to write exclusively about your experience with cancer to see the benefits, though.

And benefits there are! According to Positive Psychology there are about 83 benefits of journaling in total (!!), but we won’t list them all here. These are the highlights: 

  • Improved mood 

  • Greater sense of well-being 

  • Better memory

  • Less anxiety before an important event (like that check up you’ve been dreading)

  • Better coping with depression, PTSD, and panic attacks

You don’t need a fuzzy pink notebook, complete with plastic lock and heart-shaped key to get started. (Unless you’re into that! This is a no judgement zone.)

“The word [journal itself] often has that connotation for adults: the sense that it’s for young people who are trying to figure out who they are and deal with raging hormones and middle school drama. While it can certainly be helpful for those purposes, journaling is not exclusively for girls, teens, and tweens—it’s for anyone who can write! It is a form of self-expression that can lift and empower people to understand their complex feelings and find humor with it.” - Courtney E. Ackerman, MSc.

It doesn’t matter if you use a cancer-focused journal, a series of notes on your password- protected device, or an old notepad locked in a secret location so no one will see. It’s even okay if you erase or destroy your writing as soon as you’re done, as Jon Paul Crimi of Breathe With JP, recommends. The act of journaling is a cathartic and constructive way to work through that heavy fog cancer leaves behind in its wake. 

Just “brain dumping” your thoughts about cancer can feel like setting down a heavy load. If you’d like to take a more structured approach to journaling, though, you’ve got a few options. 

  1. The Isolation Journals are a series of 100 daily journaling prompts put together by cancer thriver Suleika Jaouad to encourage a sense of community during the social isolation many people are feeling in quarantine. The prompts don’t center on the subjects of the COVID-19 pandemic or cancer recovery. Instead, they’re a collection of ideas from diverse, inspirational people. You might find that 6-year-old cancer patient Lou Sullivan’s prompt really speaks to your soul, or that the prompt from Priya Parker, author of The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters makes you feel more connected to others than ever before.

According to Suleika, “The goal of this [project] is not to write the next King Lear or to churn out publishable masterpieces. It’s an opportunity to pause, take a few moments to exhale and reflect, and to expand our creativity as a community during this extremely challenging time.”

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