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Expressive Writing as a Form of Stress Management

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Expressive writing has been found to “improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory” (Writing Your Way to Happiness, New York Times article by Tara Parker-Pope, January 19, 2015).

Sometimes figuring out how to cope with stress can be stressful.

You may ask yourself what you’re doing wrong and why you can’t seem to handle the things of life that other people appear to be handling perfectly well.

First, it’s important to note that you are not alone. Feeling overwhelmed is an unfortunately popular sentiment felt by all. Everyone seems like they’re handling things well because societal norms demand this of us. Pretending that everything is fine when it’s not may help in the moment, but it will ultimately result it greater problems.

Thankfully, there are healthy ways of dealing with our stress. One such way is journaling, or expressive writing.

This form of stress-management has gone beyond being a simple self-help method. Researchers around the country are studying the effects of expressive writing and journaling as a way of coping with our sometimes self-destructive outlooks on life. Many studies have found that writing about our life experiences, and then revisiting these writings, can help us evaluate our feelings and even improve our ability to deal with challenges.

A study led by Dr. Timothy D. Wilson, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, asked married couples to write about a conflict as if from a neutral observer. The results found that among the 120 couples who participated in this study, those who wrote about the conflict showed greater improvement in marital happiness than those who did not.

In his book, “Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live By,” Dr. Wilson states that, “Writing forces people to reconstrue whatever is troubling them and find new meaning in it.”

This is just one of many studies that are being conducted around the country focusing on writing and our mental health. To learn about more studies that focus on this type of research, please view the links at the bottom of this article.

Here at the WWHF we see clearly the health benefits that come from practicing healthy journaling techniques. We provide support in this area with our EveryWoman’s Journal program, an education outreach program that teaches women how to use proactive health journaling techniques to increase individual awareness of their mental, physical, and emotional health, and guide them towards positive, effective action to improve their health and sense of personal well-being. Proactive health journaling helps women translate personal reflection and feedback into actions that increase well-being by becoming in tune with physical messages our body give us and by using self-care techniques.

You can schedule your free 2-hour journaling session by contacting our Program Coordinator, Nora Miller at Nmiller@wwhf.org or call 800-448-5148, ext. 103.

 

Stanford Researchers focus on African American students struggling to adjust to college

Benefits of Expressive Writing in Lowering Rumination and Depressive Symptoms

Expressive writing can increase working memory capacity

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