Recent natural tragedies affect us all in different ways but there’s no doubt such events augment stress levels often already high. We need to keep in mind―both as nurse leaders and care givers―we must manage our own stress and emotions first before we can help others.
Two excellent tools facilitate emotional wellness, especially when practiced on a regular basis: journaling and storytelling. Both are part of our ancestral traditions and have health and survival benefits.
Journaling for Wellness
In an online article at Psychcentral.com, author Maud Purcell writes about the Health Benefits of Journaling.
Successful people throughout history have kept journals. Presidents have maintained them for posterity; other famous figures for their own purposes.
Oscar Wilde, 19th century playwright, said: “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.”
Psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker contends that regular journaling strengthens immune cells, called T-lymphocytes.
Here’s what other benefits regular journaling can bring:
- Clarify your thoughts and feelings. Taking a few minutes to jot down your thoughts and emotions will quickly get you in touch with your internal world.
- Know yourself better. By writing routinely you get to know what makes you feel happy and confident. You become clear about situations and people who are toxic for you—important information for emotional well-being.
- Reduce stress. Writing about anger, sadness, and other painful emotions helps release the intensity of these feelings. You will feel calmer and better able to stay in the present.
- Solve problems more effectively. Typically we problem solve from a left-brained, analytical perspective. But sometimes the answer can only be found by engaging right-brained creativity and intuition. Writing unlocks these other capabilities, and affords the opportunity for unexpected solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems.
- Resolve disagreements with others. Writing about misunderstandings rather than stewing over them helps you understand another’s point of view. And you just may come up with a sensible resolution to the conflict.
Stories can be a way for humans to feel that we have control over the world. They allow people to see patterns where there is chaos, meaning where there is randomness. Humans are inclined to see narratives where there are none because it can afford meaning to our lives—a form of existential problem-solving.
In fact, storytelling is such an important place in our social development that it is considered an evolutionary mechanism that helped keep our ancestors alive.
What About You?
How do you reinforce your own emotional well being? What do you do to strengthen yourself against stress? It’s unavoidable, so take some time to take care of yourself.