My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Psalm 45:1
As I began this series about journaling and caregiving, I shared how important writing my thoughts and feelings is for me. In Part 1, I gave a variety of ways to journal. Today, I want to share why journaling can be good for your well-being.
There are many benefits to journaling. A journal does not argue with you nor talk back. They allow you to vent, release bottled up feelings, relieve stress, and can clarify thoughts and ideas. They give voice to things felt inside such as guilt, anger toward yourself, the care receiver, or even family members. Journals can hold your frustration, heaviness, and can take some of power away from these feelings. They allow you to rationalize some your required decisions, see both sides of them by writing down pros and cons. In a journal, you can list or organize events of the care recipient whether physical, emotional, or mental, symptoms noticed and behavioral changes, doctor visits with the outcomes or listing the questions needed to be asked prior to the visit. Notes can be made of other appointments, medications taken and any changes in medications, plus any noticeable changes of the care recipient when trying a new drug. Records of eating habits and changes in habits can be duly noted. Journals work for bills needing to be paid, or tasks that need doing, or just making a grocery list. If you are a paid caregiver, keeping track of tasks you do, but family may be unaware of, may help with future pay increases.
Journals can be a place for both positive and negative issues, concerns, habits. They can be a record of events, memories, appointments, changes. They can handle questions you have for the family, for God, for yourself. Thoughts can be finished in them, thoughts you began during a moment of quiet. Journals give unconditional acceptance and they offer silence. You may be able to gain a new perspective, restore a bit of sanity too. Journals offer a balance to this life when things seem and are hard. It is a place to find joy or gratitude in a moment. Praying can be calming and can be a reminder as to how and when God answered those prayers. Writing poetry can be a creative outlet that may be much needed. Even writing down recipes can give the family something new to try around the table.
Studies have found that journaling reduces anxiety and stress by giving some relief, allowing the journalist ability to handle some of life’s stresses far better. They have found that there are less doctor visits, improved lung and liver function, lowered blood pressure, even a relief of some symptoms of asthma and Rheumatoid arthritis. It can even lessen depression, and placing one in a better mood.
“Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.” And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” Matthew 13:51-52
Jesus spoke to the scribes who became His followers. The word scribe here refers to a clerk, public servant, secretary or recorder, possibly a teacher of the law. As a scribe, and as we understand His word, the storehouse is filled with the treasures of this new creation that we continue to become, plus it can contain God’s truth, grace, salvation, and love. We can draw from all as we write before our Creator!
If the mind of the care recipient still holds memories and they are able to communicate, let them write thoughts and feelings. Journaling just might be good for them. If they cannot write, but can tell you stories, you might be able to write their words as they tell you about their past. If they ask over and over what day it is, you might have them journal every day the day of the week, the date, the weather, and even some of their feelings in a word or a few. When they ask again what today is, draw them back to this journal. Possibly with recall, they will be able to find this information on their own. Using a journal to draw, scribble, or doodle can also be a way for them to release that creative spirit, even enjoy themselves for a few minutes (and give you a break as well). I recently did a workshop on journaling and caregiving during National Caregivers’ Month. We gave new, blank journals out to all there. A caregiving wife gave her husband one of these journals and doodled some swirling lines on one page, then handed him a few crayons. He completely lost himself in this activity. As I wandered around the room after I finished talking, I saw that she had written on his completed page, “G… really enjoyed himself.” She saw what this small activity had done for her husband and could possibly help her when she needed a few moments for herself or other duties.
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Revelation 21:5
These are precise words to a prophet with a specific assignment, yet God can commission His children to write for His purposes. God could have communicated with mankind in any way He pleased. One way He chose is the written word. Even if no one else ever sees the words you write, He may be using them for your edification, for your learning, to show You His love for you. Do not shy away from using this tool. Be open to His voice as He speaks to you through His Word and the words you place on the pages.
Father, as You walk with us through this journey of caregiving, show us why it is so important to express ourselves through the written word, through coloring or doodling. I pray that we are able to place our lives in Your hands as You guide us to open floodgates or open pinholes of emotion, stress, duties, or familial relationships. May our minds be set upon You as we lay the pen to the tablet. Etch Your Words before us so that we stay close to You. In the Name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.
I would like to share a few other resources with you. Some may help with the journaling and others are may be a benefit in giving you islands of calm amidst chaos or stress:
Brackey, Jolene, Creating Moments of Joy for the Person with Alzheimer’s or Dementia: A Journal for Caregivers, Fourth Edition
Boss, Pauline, Loving Someone Who Has Dementia: How to Find Hope While Coping With Stress and Grief
Carter, Rosalynn, Helping Yourself Help Others: A Book for Caregivers
Free, Betty, Quiet Moments for Caregivers – Devotional and Worship Ideas for Care Givers and Care Receivers
Out of print but available online through used bookstores; excellent devotional.
Hughes, Holly J., Editor, Beyond Forgetting, Poetry and Prose About Alzheimer’s Disease (http://www.beyondforgettingbook.com)
Levine, Carol, Living in the Land of Limbo: Fiction and Poetry about Family Caregiving (anthology of short stories and poems about family caregivers written by renowned authors and many others)
Mace, Nancy L. and Peter V. Rabins, The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss, Fifth Edition (**I highly recommend this book for reference and important information.**)
Newmark, Amy and Angela Timashenka Geiger, Chicken Soup for the Soul-Living with Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias, 101 Stories of Caregiving, Coping, and Compassion
Rosenberger, Peter, Hope for the Caregiver: Encouraging Words to Strengthen Your Spirit
Sheehy, Gail, Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos into Confidence