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Journaling for the Overwhelmed
Deadlines, obligations, appointments, soccer games, birthdays, holidays, vacations, problems, tasks, errands, and why oh WHY did the tooth fairy forget to visit little Mandy last night? You've run out of toilet paper, of all things, and there's a rampant stomach virus knocking down your co-workers like a logger felling trees. On the way to the convenience store where you know you'll pay twice the price for potty paper, your car sputters and laughs at you as the last drops of gasoline trickle through its innards, and your cell phone is dead. Yes, you forgot to charge it. Again. Glancing around at your surroundings, you notice in your field of vision a shimmery rainbow appears, and you know a migraine is on its way. Your meds are at home, both for the pain and the accompanying nausea. You don't really feel comfortable walking to a stranger's home in the daytime, let alone at 11pm, but you really have no choice. You stash your purse under the front seat, look around, and exit and lock the vehicle. Heading for the first house with a light on, you step in a hole, twisting your ankle and falling, of course, into a puddle of grimy road crud. Oh, and here's the migraine now. Nice. By the time you manage to limp your way to the above-mentioned house with a light on, you notice that it's totally dark there now, and the way your luck's running, ringing the doorbell could result in any number of horrid fates. You promise God that if He'll let you just survive this awful night, you will organize yourself - somehow.
Yes, you're having a bad day/night/life, you could say. In addition to some professional organizing help, you need a way to cope with everything whirling, unchecked, through your mind. You can't focus on anything long enough to complete even the simplest task and you probably feel completely out of control.
Take a breath, please. A long, slow breath. Let's relieve your mind of some clutter. It's not so hard once you get the hang of it, and I believe you'll find it pleasantly addictive.
Grab your favorite pen/pencil and an inexpensive notebook, perhaps a one-subject composition book. Don't go out and purchase a fancy-schmancy journal, because you'll feel obligated to write fancy-schmancy words. You may prefer to use your computer for this purpose and that's okay. Whatever your choice, have it at the ready especially when you first wake up in the morning (or if you're an insomniac, whenever you wake during the night is good, too). Here's what I want you to do, in this order.
Open eyes. Restroom stop if needed. Pick up pen/paper/laptop and make yourself comfortable. Start at the top of a blank page. Start writing. It doesn't matter what you write, just write. Don't wait to "really wake up" before you begin this. Just write whatever comes to your mind, keep the pen on the paper and don't stop. Don't re-read what you've already written and don't think about grammar or correct mistakes. No one but you is to see this. Let your pen/keyboard be your mind's nozzle for pouring out whatever finds its way to the front. You'll feel silly, probably. You may be blocking the process by thinking "I don't know what to write." Well, write THAT! Here's an example that may help free your thinking about this freewriting process.
Urf, mouth tastes like yuk. back itches, lotion, write what? don't know, something, so much to do today at office, what was it I needed to, oh yeah newspaper's on front porch I bet, too cold to get out of blankets, blah blah. There's a dog barking somewhere, oh, and a cat screeching. what to write now? Roger made me SO mad last night!!!! I could scream sometimes. need to get milk today. Recycling? think I'll find a nice sweater pattern for Mandy. :) Knitting, relaxing. Time for me, remember to do that soon. No one's awake but me, kinda nice. Peaceful. Ha, except Roger's snoring and that stupid dog still barking. Hmm...think I'll make a list of to-do's before everyone gets up. Need a shopping list, too. Hey the dog stopped. YES! Wonder why Mr. Smith was so grumpy yesterday? Eh, this pen's starting to glob ink, gross. Is that a cricket I hear? Might buy pansies for the flower bed out front, haven't done that in years. Mandy's birthday's coming up, American Girl doll? Really worried about the biopsy the doc wants to do next week. He says try not to worry, yeah right. What if it were his biopsy? Doctors make me nuts. It's not right to wait for tests, they should do them as soon as they suspect something. Wonder if they'd wait it if were them? Bet not. Angry. FURIOUS. Scared. Really scared. Please, God, let it be nothing.
So, as you can see, you'd just let words pour out of you. You can see I've underlined a few words or phrases. This is what I would do if something comes to mind that I need to do later. Rather than try to remember it, I would go ahead and scribble it down, quickly underline it, then keep on writing. You don't want to clutter your mind right now; you want to empty it as much as possible.
Really try to do this freewriting type of journaling every morning. If you only have 15 minutes, that's fine, but the longer you can write during a session, the more you will benefit. And seriously, do NOT read what you've written, even after you're finished. The only exception is to look for underlined words or phrases - your trigger to add those to a to-do or other list after your freewriting session is finished. You'll discover that the more you get down on paper (real or virtual), the more room your mind has to work on more important issues and problem-solving. Give it a try. It's quite the addictive process, and doing this sort of journaling first thing after waking will pull things from your subconscious before that self-critic gets much of a chance to close the information gate and block you. And keep that notebook/document somewhere that your family won't readily find it - they'll think you've gone off the deep end if they read it, won't they? But you'll know better and, more importantly, you will begin your day feeling more refreshed and alert. It's odd, true, but somehow it works.