8 Ways To Use A Journal For Self-Care And Beyond

Journaling is a wonderful way to keep track of your thoughts, memories, and many other things. I was surprised at just how many different ways there are to journal. I chose eight of them to share with you here, but there really is no limit to the way you can use a journal.

Gratitude

A gratitude journal is commonly suggested in self-help and mental health circles. Keeping a journal focused on gratitude is recommended for anxiety and depression, as a part of a mindfulness practice, and for anyone looking for more peace and happiness. You can approach this journal in a few ways, but a popular way is to sit down each evening, and write what you are thankful for that day. For more info and ideas try 5 Steps For Creating A Gratitude Journal and The Ultimate Guide To Keeping A Gratitude Journal.

Dream

Tracking dreams is another common way to use a journal. You keep a dream journal next to your bed, and write your dreams as soon as you wake up. Keeping a record of your dreams can help you find a pattern, and perhaps help you understand why you are having those dreams. Check out Why You Should Keep A Dream Diary  and 7 Tips For Keeping A Dream Journal to learn more.

Reading

Are you a big reader? Keeping a reading journal allows you to do more than keep track of the books you’ve read. You can list out books you want to read, reflect on your thoughts and feelings about them, lessons learned, and more. How To Keep A Reading Journal lays out the steps concisely. You can also print out The MMD Printable Reading Journal for some easy customization.

Travel

You don’t have to be a big traveler to keep a travel journal. Whether you keep an ongoing journal for all of your adventures, or just keep one for a single very special trip, this kind can help you keep your traveling memories all in one place. Travel Journal Ideas: How To Hold On To Your Memories has fantastic tips and suggestions to get you started.

Group or Family Journal

This journal is kept as a group. Perhaps each person writes something everyday, or maybe you take turns. 55 Shared Journaling Ideas has a good explanation and lots of ideas, and I love the approach at How Our Family Journal Started. A Communication Journal For Home and Classroom shows how a group journal can be a wonderful parenting tool. Creating A Family Journal has some lovely ideas too.

Use a Journal for Planning

As I’m sure is obvious, this method has a broad use. Like any planner, you can use a planning journal for daily use, weekly, monthly or yearly. You can also use a journal to plan specific events. For examples, check out bullet journals. They have great layouts for daily, weekly, and monthly.

You can also plan out your garden, keeping track of what works (or doesn’t), or the seasonal changes you see in your garden/neighborhood. Why A Garden Journal Is Your Most Valuable Tool goes into wonderful detail. How To Start Your Own Family Adventure Journal shows one take on a nature journal.

Keeping track of any kind of projects (home improvement, crafts, redecorating, hobbies, etc.) is a great use for a planning journal. Having one place to keep track of your ideas, plans, receipts, successes, and mistakes is really handy. In addition, if you need to look back for any reason, you will have everything right there to see. This YouTube video lays out one way to do it and is a nice example.

Specific Time Period

Instead of having an ongoing journal, you can use one for a very special event/time. Some possibilities I could think of were: wedding, birthdays, senior year, college, and pregnancy. Any event, or time period, that you find important enough to record is perfect for this journal.

Bullet Journal

This is my favorite of journal and the kind I keep. A bullet journal can be any and all of these types all wrapped into one with an index to help you find what you are looking for. Bullet Journal is the original site, but lots of people have their own take on it all over the web. The Bullet Journal, Minus The Hype, Is Actually A Really Good Planner and How To Bullet Journal: The Absolute Ultimate Guide have lots of info. Pinterest has oodles of creative ideas for a bullet journal done anyway you could possibly want.

Basically, if there is anything you want to remember or track there is a way to journal it. The only limitations are that of your creativity or searching skills. Feel free to link below if you have written about your own journaling and would like to share. 🙂 I’d love to hear how you use a journal.

Want to keep a journal on the computer or your phone? Check out my post 7 Electronic Alternatives To A Paper Journal.

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

 

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12 Signs You Have Low Self-Esteem

I was all set to write about self-confidence. Then I got into the definitions, and realized self-esteem was actually what I had in mind.

Self-confidence: a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment.

Self-esteem: confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect.

See, I want to talk about self-esteem. I want you to know deep down that you are worthy of love and respect. Since self-esteem develops over time, it isn’t something you can just read a multi-step list or “one mega secret” article about and fix. Self-esteem is a long-term goal. Still, I included a few things at the end of the post that you can do to start building yours up.

So, how can you tell if you have low self-esteem? Here are a few possible signs.

12 Signs of Low Self-Esteem

Indicators of low self-esteem

Inability to accept compliments: Do you find it hard to just say, “thank you” when someone offers you a compliment? Are you suspicious of their intentions? Is the idea of deserving praise foreign to you?

Accentuating the negative: When asked about yourself, can you list your strengths, or is it only your weaknesses that jump to mind? If you think of how life is right now, do you think of positives and wins or only struggles?

Being overly concerned about the opinions of others: Do you make choices based on what other people might like? Does the idea of other people judging you cause daily stress?

Self neglect: Are you good at self-care, or do you let it slide? Do you make sure you get the sleep, food, etc you need? Do you see the doctor?

Reluctance to take on challenges: Do you try new things? Are you challenging yourself at work or in your personal life? Would your friends and family say you play it safe?

Backing down during a disagreement to appease others: If you quit an argument, is it to keep the peace, or because you have changed your mind. Do you ever win an argument? Can you stand firm in your thoughts on a subject?

Reluctance to put yourself first: Are your needs ever first priority? Someone with low self-esteem doesn’t think they are important enough, and so is always taking care of everyone else before themselves.

You give up too soon:  Do you work for what you want or give in without a fight? This can apply to arguments, fights, or goals in life among other things. If something you want is hard do you keep trying?

Being indecisive over simple decisions: If you can’t decide what to wear each morning, and lunch seems like a life or death choice, you may be suffering from low self-esteem. It shouldn’t be so hard to make uncomplicated decisions. Do you worry any choice you make is wrong?

You compare yourself with others: Is your focus on yourself and your path in life, or do you always focus on how you compare to other people? Can you see your successes on their own, or is it always in measure to how someone else did?

Taking constructive criticism too personally: If someone suggests a way you can improve at your job (or in some other way), does it trigger tears or anger? Can you listen to criticism and see it as something helpful?

Reluctance to trust your own opinion or contribute it in conversation: Do you speak up, or hang back not sure your thoughts are worth sharing? Is it common for you to second guess yourself?

Do you recognize more than one or two of these? If so, it’s a good indication you have low self-esteem. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. (I recognize more than a couple of them myself.) The good news is that, knowing this, you can start working toward improving how you see yourself! You may not believe it right now, but you are seeing yourself through a distorted lens.

It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else's eyes. -by Sally Field

Simple Activities That Help Raise Self-Esteem

Accept Compliments: Trust people are being sincere when they offer you a compliment. Take this a step further, and write these compliments down! Keep them in a notebook to review on days you are being extra hard on yourself, at the end of the week, or even go over them daily!

Find what you are good at and do it: Having confidence in your abilities, and allowing yourself pride in those skills, will contribute to your self-esteem over time. If you don’t already have a hobby or something that you enjoy, explore your options until you find one. Then, keep at it, and watch those skills improve.

Stop comparing yourself to others: I said simple, not easy. *wink* This may take time, but it is very important to start working on. The only person you should ever compare yourself to is you, and there are exceptions even to that.

I hope this gives you a good idea where you stand with your self-esteem, and a start on improving if needed. Everyone deserves to know, and feel, they are enough in this world and worthy of love and respect.

Be sure to share this on your favorite social media. We all know someone who can use a self-esteem boost.

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

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The 3 Steps I Use To Embrace Change I Want In My Life

Change is hard. Yeah, yeah, you know this. Everyone knows this, but did you know that even simple changes that you want, and you know will make your life immensely better, can be scary?

My Experience With Change

One such change for me was treating my anxiety. I have treated my depression a few times, but never really focused on my anxiety. I finally decided it was likely a bigger problem than I realized, so I made myself an appointment.

While I was eager to treat my anxiety, so it would stop interfering with my life, I also felt very nervous. It wasn’t just nerves over the appointment, which is a familiar feeling. It was something else, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. So I thought about it, and talked it out with my husband. He let me use him as a sounding board, and it was so helpful.

Finally it dawned on me what I was nervous about. I was anxious about not feeling anxious! Now, I’m sure that sounds silly. I know I felt pretty silly at first! Then I thought more about it, and it made sense. I’ve dealt with anxiety most of my life. The idea of not having anxiety was so strange, so unknown, that it scared me. I honestly almost canceled.

I didn’t because I knew there was benefit to treating my anxiety even if the idea was scary. It had to be better to not worry, have tense muscles, struggle to sleep, and have panic attacks on top of other things. I didn’t know what it would be like, but surely it was an improvement.

Of course I was right! Those first few weeks were amazing. Over and over I marveled at how different I felt. I wish I could describe it for you. I realized I was laughing more often and with more feeling than I had in years. My smile was a bigger smile than before. I had no idea that my previous “happy” was so muted. There was still some anxiety, but I wasn’t always thinking of new worries. I also stopped having many of my muscle cramps. (I still get some from my fibromyalgia.) Sleep is still a struggle at times, but now it is only from pain and not anxiety. I don’t have to also fight negative thoughts as I lie in bed trying to fall asleep.

How Can You Apply My Steps?

Yeah, change is scary, but it can be so, so worth it. So, how do you move forward with change if you are scared? Well, first you need to work out why you are scared. There are many ways to do that some options are:

  • Journaling – Sitting down with a blank page and just writing everything down is a very effective method for many people. Whether you use writing prompts, write a letter to yourself, or use the brain dump method, getting it all out and written down in front of you can help you put order to your thoughts.
  • Finding someone to use as a sounding board – This works fantastically for me. A person willing to just listen and let me bounce ideas off of them, like a friend, spouse or family member, helps me make sense of the thoughts ping ponging around in my head. Many times they don’t even need to give any kind of feedback. My thoughts just order themselves as I talk it out. Other times they are able to come up with questions that I didn’t think of, and that’s enough to help me work through my problem.
  • Meditation – This helps for similar reasons as the other two. Meditation can help you slow down your thoughts, and let your brain put some kind of order to them. As you quiet your thoughts, it’s easier for the answer you are looking for to bob to the surface and be clear.

Once you figure out exactly what you are scared of, take a good look at it. Recognize that fear and let yourself feel it. It’s okay if you think the fear is silly or irrational, it’s still a valid feeling! If you can figure out the “why” behind your fear, even better, but it’s okay if you can’t. Really understanding your fear makes it easier to fully acknowledge it and move past.

Now that you have a face to your fear, let’s refocus. I want you to write down every reason you can think of that this change is a good thing. Every reason, no matter how small. We aren’t going for a pro/con list. Remember, this is a change we know is a good idea. We are just getting past the fear, so you can act on implementing this wonderful change.

Once you have that list, read it over and over. Add to it if you think of anything else at any point. Now, take a leap and go for it! When those fears pop up again, remember this list and repeat it to yourself. You can do this! You are worth it!

What change are you working on? How is it going? Do you need any more help working yourself up to going for it? Please share down below, or drop me an email!

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

How Can I Find Self-Acceptance With Chronic or Mental Illness?

I’ve previously been covering self-acceptance from a very general direction. I want to focus in a little more now. Personally, I have found self-acceptance extra hard due to my chronic illnesses and mental illnesses. It only makes sense that other people have the same problems, so I want to share my thoughts and solutions.

Accepting Limits

One struggle I have is accepting my limits. Whether you compare yourself to what society expects, or to what you could do “before”, it is hard to accept that you can’t just do whatever you “set your mind to”. Before I got sick, I knew that if I decided I was going to do something, it was going to happen. Now I find myself limited by pain and fatigue; if not by depression and anxiety.

I have found it important to accept that these things will happen. It isn’t my fault, and there is no reason for, or benefit to, me to blame myself. Just like the weather can mess with your outdoor plans, my illnesses and mental health can interrupt my daily plans. In accepting this, I can “go with the flow” more and not simply give up.

If I continue to define myself by what I can't do, or what normal people do, I will destroy myself." Quote from LauraChamberlain.co.uk

Self-Worth

I used to base my worth on what I could do. My grades, my work, my housework, my caring for the kids, etc., all affected my self-esteem. Then I couldn’t do any of it. Brain fog took my “smarts”, and pain and fatigue took my ability to do housework and mother the way I had been. Anxiety never allowed me to work outside of the house for very long. I was left with nothing and felt I was worthless. My husband and kids showed me I was wrong.

They showed me, but this is true even without them. I am worthy, just by being me. The fact that I exist makes me worthy and valuable. This applies to everyone! You too are valuable and worthy just by existing. You don’t need to earn the right to like yourself.

Taking a Second Look at Limits

So, if we are worthy, just by being alive, our limits don’t take anything away from our value. Physical limits are just a line drawn by our body telling us where we need to stop. Respecting those limits are a part of self-care. Rather than fight them and suffering the consequences, most of the time we need to listen to our bodies.

Your value isn't in your doing or saying. It's in your being.

Now, that isn’t to say never push the limits. Some things we may find “worth it”. An occasional special outing with friends or family can be worth feeling worse for a week or two. Repeatedly pushing ourselves will only worsen our health long-term though. You deserve to be treated better than that.

Our ideal may be being able to do everything for everyone each time, and then we feel guilt, anger, failure, etc when we can’t do it. Changing our outlook and seeing it as a way our loved ones can be there for us is helpful. We have a different situation that does not lead to the “typical” expectations. It is fine to expect a change from others, rather than them expect the same or “normal” from us.

Boundaries are a function of self-respect and self-love. -quote by Brene Brown

Boundaries

This is where boundaries come in handy. Boundaries show others how to treat us. They are a line drawn in the sand. By setting boundaries, we let others know who we are, what we allow, and what is not tolerated.

Chronically ill people and those with mental health issues may have to be extra tough when it comes to boundaries. Healthy people do not always understand our limits and may forcefully push us to surpass them. We must be stubborn at enforcing those boundaries to care for ourselves. People in our life must understand that we mean business, and crossing our boundaries is not okay. They are just as valid as anyone else’s. So many times, people think that just because they don’t understand our various struggles, the struggles are not legitimate when that is the furthest thing from the truth.

Boundaries can be hard to set. If you need some help figuring out which ones to set, and how to do so, I prepared a free “Setting Boundaries Workbook” for you to download.

It is not your responsibility to convince anyone to respect your boundaries. You set the boundary, it is their place to accept it. Be firm, and your loved ones will catch on.

Rethinking Goals and Dreams

The last way I want to talk about limits has to do with goals and dreams. Having a chronic or mental illness can affect what dreams and goals are possible. That doesn’t mean you should give up on them though. you have a few possibilities. First it is possible that you can find a way to use modifications to make it happen. For instance, someone who wants to be an author, but loses the ability to type, can use voice recognition software to write still. If your dream job seems un-achievable, perhaps there is still something in the same or similar field that you can do.

I didn’t think there was any career available for me. Between high pain days, bad fatigue, and my depression or anxiety acting up, I’m not exactly the epitome of a reliable employee. This limits job/career choices quite a lot. Now, I didn’t have any certain job in mind to begin with. In fact, I chose to not go to college (and use my scholarship), because I didn’t have any goal in mind. Nothing has ever grabbed my attention.

After being diagnosed, it didn’t seem likely I would ever be employable. Well, maybe I’m not, but I’ve found a way to employ myself. Being a blogger allows me to work within my limits, and it is a way for me to help people, which I’ve always felt a pull toward. I share this personal bit to show how limits don’t have to limit you, but can actually open up previously unseen chances. To see how I work with my limits as a blogger, check out my monthly series, Confessions of a Chronically Ill Blogger.

There are a variety of ways that someone with either a chronic illness or mental health issues will find their journey to self-acceptance a different challenge than a healthy person. I’m going to stop here, but I’ll address other points soon.

Are there any particular concerns you would like me to write about? Let me know in the comments! You can email me anytime also at leighbryant@flawedmessylife.com .

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

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My Depression Peeks Its Head Out Now and Again

I actually had another post planned for today. I’ve been trying to finish it for days, and last night I had to concede that it wasn’t going to happen. My depression has acted up, and that makes writing hard. My brain just won’t cooperate. So I was lying in bed trying to figure out how I was going to have a post for today, and I remembered what I wrote at the end of February.

The last time my depression surfaced, I got up in the middle of the night and wrote about it. It was a way for me to work through my thoughts. I’m sharing it with you today.

 

My Mental Health

If I remember right, this is my third time being on medication for mental health. I really think this is the best I’ve ever felt while medicated. (My mental health seems to be at the very best when I’m pregnant.) Yet, I still find myself randomly spiraling down into depression. It will come out of nowhere and surprise me. I don’t usually see it coming. Suddenly I get irritable for no reason, or I abruptly lose interest in what I’m doing. Sometimes there is no other clue, but no matter what I find myself curled up in bed unable to care about anything.

Depression

“Oh, hi there old friend. I recognize you. Why are you back? Why can’t you just leave me alone?”

All I can do is ride it out. Fighting the negative thoughts used to be too exhausting. I just let myself wallow in them. If they got too overwhelming, I would tell the worst to my husband. He is my best friend and my rock. I trust him to tell me the truth, and so I can believe him when he argues with my dark thoughts.

Negative Thoughts

I’ve practiced countering negative thoughts long enough, that I try to not wallow now. I can’t make the feelings go away, but I do my best to interrupt each dark train of thought. I don’t let my mind meander down those paths unsupervised. Instead, I take my own hand and gently lead myself back toward the bright reminders I have stored for just these times. I also try to distract myself. I’ll play games on my phone, scroll through Pinterest, watch Netflix, or rewatch some favorite YouTube videos. I now have some playlists of helpful songs on YouTube too.

Thankfully, since my most recent increase in my medicine, these spirals only last a few hours now. They used to last a few days. This one has been about 8 hours so far. It probably doesn’t help that it started around suppertime. It helps to have some length of day ahead to try to do something. I tried to sleep for awhile at bedtime, but I took an hour nap and that was apparently all my body wanted. So, for now, I find myself awake, moved into the living room, eating a poptart and writing this at 2:30 am. I’m hoping that getting it all out will clear my head, and it will let me sleep.

Hopefully I’ll be able to sleep soon.

When I first started on meds, I hoped to not need them someday. I was 22. Now, at 37, I accept I will likely be on meds the rest of my life. It honestly doesn’t bother me. My brain needs something to help it function, the same as my mom needs insulin, and I need to stay on medication to keep my inflammatory arthritis from progressing.

How do I know the medicine is working if I still find myself in this condition occasionally? I finally am able to feel happy; happier than I remember feeling for years. I actually have fun doing things. I laugh louder, longer, and more than ever. I want to make plans. I’m writing this blog. 😀

I wrote this as my own therapy to get out of my funk, but why post it? To be real, for one. Also, I want people to know that recovery from mental illness is not a straight line. There are ups and downs. The important bit is that we keep going. Progress is progress, even if it is slow. So I had a setback. It will pass. It always does.

I hope this post can make a difference for even one person. If I can make anyone feel less alone, more understood, or help in anyway, then it was worth it. Please feel free to contact me or leave a comment. I’d love to connect on Twitter or Instagram too! 

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6 Tips for When You are Feeling Down

We all have down days. Whether you are diagnosed with depression, or just having a down day, some of these suggestions will help you care for yourself.

1) Practice Self-care and Nurture Yourself

I think top priority should be making sure you are clean and dressed. You just feel better if you have that covered. So, pamper yourself with a long soak in the tub, or at least grab a quick shower. Then get dressed in some comfy clothes. Psychologically, it helps to wear real clothes, so lose the PJs if you can.

Now do something you enjoy, and makes you feel pampered. Have a cup of hot tea. Get a massage or a manicure. Take time to read that book or magazine you’ve been wanting to dive into. Listen to some music, or just take a nap.

2) Engage Your Brain

Do something that really makes you think. It can help you to interrupt those negative thoughts. You might do a crossword, word search, or Sudoku. Perhaps you might want to learn a new skill. Try a new recipe with a cooking technique you haven’t used before. Learn how to knit or crochet. Try your hand at a new sport.

Journaling is another great activity for engaging your brain. You can write about what’s bothering you, focus on more positive things, or look up writing prompts to use.

If you enjoy it, planning can be great way to distract yourself. Plan a dream trip (even if you might not take it), what you want to do this weekend, a party for a fun event coming up, or anything else you would like to plan.

3) Get Moving

It can be tempting to hang out in bed, or on the couch, all day, but you are much more likely to feel better if you get up and get moving.

I think everyone knows that exercising can help your mood due to the endorphins it releases. Give it a shot, and go on a walk or for a bike ride. How about dancing to your favorite music? If you aren’t up for that, just try some gentle stretching. If you can bring yourself to do it, doing some dishes, or a load of laundry, will get you going and also give you a feeling of accomplishment!

4) Be Social

When you are depressed, or feeling down, it is easy to isolate yourself. That isn’t very helpful though, so try to get out of your head and have some outside contact.

One if the most obvious ways to do this is to call a friend to talk. Bonus if you can invite that friend over or out for lunch.

If you don’t have someone you want to call, try chatting online or texting. Maybe now is a good time to write someone a letter.

Another way to get some social interaction is to bake some cookies, and deliver them to someone. Perhaps you have a friend or neighbor who would appreciate them, or maybe a local nursing home would like a visitor.

5) Get Creative

There are so many ways to cover this one. We have already covered some of them (journaling, knitting, crocheting, baking/cooking, planning something, etc). You can keep it simple with coloring, drawing or just doodling even. There are many types of crafts out there to try, but if you are short on ideas, visiting a craft store might give you inspiration. If you aren’t up to creating something yourself, try visiting an art museum.

6) Be Spiritual

I, personally, am an atheist, but if you aren’t, and feel better when you pray, then do it.

Other activities that I feel can fall into this category include getting outside, deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness.

If you find any of these suggestions helpful, please let me know in the comments, and feel free to add in your own ideas! Perhaps I’ll make a later post detailing what my readers find helpful on their down days.

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