How Does Journaling Help?

There is, of course, a myriad of choices for support for the anxious person of today. Any Google search will give you a list of things to do, symptoms, prescribed and not-prescribed help. While no academic expert, I can give a story and some personal advice as to what kept me sane.

The journals I kept through High School

High school was far-and-away one of the most stressful experiences of my life, and not for the usual reasons. During the economic crash of 2008, my family lost our job and our house just before I started 9th grade. We lived in the homes of church families for a year.

The first house was with the Anderson family. Their family of six was accommodating and gave us spots within their house to sleep. My parents took the teenage girl’s basement bedroom, while she moved in with her littlest sister. The youngest boy slept with his parents and the middle daughter and I shared a room. My little brother set up a bed in the open basement. There we lived for three tension-filled months.

The four of us then moved in with a foster mom with experience in sharing her space. I shared with two daughters my age, my brother slept in their homeschool bedroom, and my parents took the master. The foster mom slept on the couch where she was already sleeping to keep an ear on the babies in the nursery. We shared that space with several foster kids in our nine months there. One was a small baby who had partially drowned and remained in a coma through her short month stay with us. One a twelve-year-old boy with severe autism and clubbed feet and hands.

Two babies came through that the foster mom adopted: a tiny baby with primordial dwarfism that looked like a doll, and a baby who was left in a hotel room and rolled off the bed, ending up with a severe brain bleed. The baby with dwarfism has since grown into an active girl who speaks using sign language, and the baby who had the brain bleed is now a prodigy elementary school boy.

Our divorced family was also going through some very personal drama, and all the while the undercurrent of stress about money lived in our minds. Meanwhile, I also turned 15 and was learning to cope with a measure of adulthood, feeling lonely beyond belief in my seemingly more mature problems and pretending it didn’t exist to family and friends. We moved out into a house my grandparents bought in 2009.

Luckily for me, just a week before we lost our house I was on a trip to Montana where I bought a composition notebook on an impulse and began to write everything that was going on during my day and my thoughts about it all. During that year of homelessness, I went through four notebooks. I rarely wrote about the real problems: hearing fights, wearing socks with holes in them because I didn’t want to be a burden, feeling like I was no matter what I did. I wrote about church drama. I wrote when I was scared or felt neglected. I learned to channel my energy to things that were easier to grasp. I’d write long soliloquys about the petty stuff and would graze over the big stuff, barely touching it.

I kept the habit up until 11th grade, when my loneliness threatened to overwhelm me and I felt that what used to be petty stuff had become big stuff. I was afraid that writing it all down would make me feel it more. I felt ostracized by my homeschooling and lost in the house we lived in. I had learned to bottle it up to keep from being a burden, so when I acted out, it always took everyone by surprise.

I now wish I had never stopped writing. Writing gave me a voice when I felt like I couldn’t talk. I’d complain about my roommates during homelessness and bemoan that I felt unworthy of friends or crushes, and it made me feel better to get it out to something that wouldn’t immediately say “That’s ridiculous, everything’s fine.” It felt like I could be me on the paper, even if I felt I couldn’t be me anywhere else. It’s a habit I’m trying to find again.

So this is me, 8 years later, trying again to get my feelings and myself down on paper. To stop feeling held back by what I “should” feel and just say how I really feel.

Here are some journaling prompts that I will use and I hope you’ll use them, too. Let me know how they go in the comments.

Journaling Prompts:

  • What happened today that made me feel sad?
  • What happened today that made me feel happy?
  • What parts of today did I have no control over?
  • What parts of the day did I mess up?
  • What do I really feel about what today was like and how would I rate it on a scale of 1-10?
  • Did today affect what I think of my future?
  • If I look back on today, will I feel like it was a good/bad day still?
  • Can I do anything about the situation I am in now?
  • What do I wish had turned out differently about today?
  • If I could make someone see one thing about how I really felt, what would I choose and how would it have changed anything?
  • If I could go back and change something about the day, what would I change?
  • If I was angry today, what do I wish I could have or would have said?

New Year’s Resolutions 2021

If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent the last 20 or so years of your life making “New Year’s Resolutions” that are supposed to make you into a “NEW YOU.” The thought of a new number on the calendar and Januaries bring in this chaotic idea that this is the Monday-est of Monday’s – this is the perfect time to create a whole bunch of new habits! I’m going to:

  • Go to the gym four times a week! (When I’ve been going once or maybe twice)
  • Eat nothing but whole foods! (When I know I have no time to really prepare meals)
  • Learn to speak a new language! (Duolingo will remind me to do it)
  • Stop playing video games so much! (Disregard that it’s the way you bond with your husband)
  • Read 2 new books a month! (When I haven’t read a book since 2018)

And somehow starting all of this AT THE SAME TIME is definitely not going to make me into the Grinchiest, meanest, and most-lacking of any self-love, care or space person ever….. right?

You might see where I’m going with this. However, I don’t think the process needs to be thrown out entirely.

How to “Keep” Your New Year’s Resolutions
  1. Before writing your New Year’s Resolutions, take some time to deeply reflect on the things you want. What did you want to do last year that you didn’t do and why didn’t it happen? Why do you want what you say you want? Do the same resolutions reappear every year? What goes wrong?
    • Taking the time to reflect will hopefully open up room for you to find some more unique resolutions better suited to you. Do you really want to lose X amount of pounds or do you want to feel comfortable in your body? Maybe your reading goal last year didn’t work because you thought an audio book wouldn’t count.
  2. While you write your New Year’s Resolutions, come up with achievable mini-goals to help you get there. Ask yourself questions like, “What actionable steps will lead me to this goal? What is a milestone I would like to cross? What sort of thing would I like to see happen before I’ve even finished? What ways can I reward myself along the way?”
    • Questions like this will help you create a tier-system to your goals. If you want to feel healthier, you could add walking the dog a little farther as a step to reaching it. If you’re looking to stop biting your nails, maybe schedule a nail appointment for a month out that will require your nails to be long enough.
  3. During January and February understand that you are likely to slip up. Give yourself the grace to do so. Remind yourself of things like, “You’ve come this far. This doesn’t ruin your progress, it’s just an encouragement to pick up where I left off.” Remind yourself of the achievements you’ve made!
    • “I’ve seen a change in the way my pants fit.” “I already finished a book!” “If I went two weeks without biting my nails once, let’s make it three!”
No Matter What

Whatever happens, understand that January is not some magical cure for your motivation (just as it’s not the magical cure for 2020!). It gives that motivation and inspiration because we all chose to look at it that way. There is no special sauce, no secret ingredient.

So set goals every day, week, month, year, 5 years, decade, and so on, because motivation is where you find it.

2020 brought me:

  • My blog and brand
  • My D&D group
  • A passion for crocheting
  • New friends
  • Time with my brother
  • A new job
  • Uninterrupted time with my husband

Below are my New Year’s Resolutions for 2021

My New Year’s Resolutions
  1. Stop biting my nails
    • Plan a nail appointment for February 1
    • Paint my nails often
    • I’d love to get a compliment on my nail polish, so I’m going to buy something special.
  2. Read 12 Books This Year
    • Last year I read 6 books, all audio and in the car while traveling. That seemed to work well.
    • I’ll get an audible subscription and leave a sign out in the living room to remind me of something else I can do.
  3. Make More Food At Home
    • When I’m not wanting to eat food at home, it’s usually because I don’t have the food I want in the house, or I don’t have the time/energy that day.
      • Purchase more “quick” meals for home
      • Buy food to make at home that is similar to what I would eat out.
        • This means I’ll have to try my hand at pretzels, flatbread, breadsticks, burrito bowls, cocktails, and more!
  4. Save Money for a House
    • In order to do this, we’ll have to knuckle down on a budget.
    • Sit down with husband for monthly strategy sessions.
    • Have 75% saved by the end of the year, so having 40% saved by July should be reasonable.

All Foods Fit

Have you heard of “Diet Culture?” The professional definition is “a belief system that focuses on and values weight, shape, and size over well-being.”1 My own personal definition is “the reason why this whole thing is so freaking hard.”

Diet Culture: Yeah, you need to lose weight.
Me: Well, first of all, why?
Diet Culture: Because you look terrible so that must mean you are unhealthy. In other words, you need to try these diets to fix yourself.
Me: But when I’ve used those I feel sad, angry, and then the weight comes back right after.
Diet Culture: Well, that’s because you’re a fat sack of s*** that has no motivation. Look at this skinny girl, she’s intermittent fasting.
Me: I call that “skipping breakfast,” which has been proven to slow your metabolism.
Diet Culture: Okay, but these keto girls really look like they know what they’re doing.
Me: Shouldn’t you have carbs if you lift weights? I’ve been getting into lifting lately.
Diet Culture: Well that just sounds like quitter-talk. You’re supposed to run on a treadmill for hours to lose weight. Look at that skinny girl on the Stair-Master!
Me: She looks legitimately bony. That doesn’t look healthy.
Diet Culture: But skinny = healthy. What are you missing here? Do you think being fat is healthy?
Me: Of course not, I –
Diet Culture: Then we agree! Now next time your husband says he’d like to go out tell him that you can’t because you need to lose weight…

You get the picture.

Diet culture assumes that a skinny person is a healthy person and then encourages different eating/living patterns to support that. It is assumed that if a larger person is doing “healthy” things, they are doing it to lose weight. With diet culture, you can encourage any kind of disordered behavior in order to encourage weight loss.

“I started wrapping myself in sea weed and plastic wrap!” “I count every morsel of food that passes my lips.” “I only eat between 10-2 now.” “I have pills that make me not hungry at all, I practically have to force food down my throat.”

Seriously, can anyone see how crazy this is?

I don’t think I have to reiterate the health benefits that come with being a smaller size, but I think we should be encouraging healthy behaviors to get there. If we crash diet all the way to the smallest size, what’s going to happen when we try to “go back to normal?” Well, I can tell you. We do what 98% of dieters do: gain all the weight back and then some.2

Just like the beauty industry gains by making you feel ugly, diet culture gains by making you feel fat.

The whole philosophy of my brand is “ALL ROADS.” Freedom is the key. Living in freedom keeps you from these stupid habits that Diet Culture has taught us. But Freedom for me is not just “do whatever I want,” but it is “freedom from and in all things.”

If I go to binge and give myself the “freedom” to eat what I want, I’m not free at all. I’ve been captured by my binge and feel out of control. We have to be free to make the right choice in order for it to be real freedom.

All Foods? Are you sure?

Why not? It’s proven that restricting a thing brings it to the forefront of your mind more than if you were to indulge. How many times have you denied yourself a cookie at the office only to eat an extra helping of dessert at home? You would have saved yourself the guilt and pain of an over-full stomach and sugar crash if you had just had the darn cookie.

Maybe avoid food you’re allergic to, or food that hurts you. I have learned that soda makes my face break out, but sparkling water doesn’t… and I like sparkling water.

Whatever you decide, make the decision for yourself!

So in an effort to increase my knowledge of “ALL FOODS,” I’ll be expanding and adding updates more often about recipes I’m trying! Don’t forget to check out my recipe page to see all the goodies or try them out yourself.

1From “Eating Disorder Registered Dietitians & Professionals” website.
2Just as I have! I wrote about this in Weight Loss History.