Can Journaling Help You Cope Better In Your Cervical Cancer Journey?

  • 6 mins read
  • Health Conditions
  • Written by: Dr. Pramod Mane
How journal writing can help cope with cervical cancer

What is journaling?

Facing an uphill task of cancer diagnosis or caring for someone you love during the treatment can be very difficult for the mental health which can damage your emotions, and can induce stress, anxiety, and depression leaving a long-lasting impact in life. However, there is a way to deal with it on a personal level, called journaling.

Journaling is simply defined as keeping a record of your feelings or emotions, personal thoughts, insights, and many more on a physical medium. It can be in multiple forms such as written, drawn, or typed on a paper or a computer. It is considered as a simple tool to improve mental health. It may sound easy to do it, but it certainly isn’t. Journaling may feel like a lot of work and writing down feelings on a regular basis can deter many people. Nonetheless, the benefits do show up even if not done on a daily basis.

Before giving the benefits of journaling in cancer, if you’re interested and curious about how does one start this journaling? We’ve got you. Keep reading.

How to Start Journaling

Start with a piece of paper

Reports suggest that writing down any information on a paper using a pen or a pencil helps in a better processing of feelings. Moreover, it’s easier to draw something on a paper. However, be creative and do what you feel is more convenient for you.

Make it an obsession

If you want to be good at it, make it a habit. Pick any time of the day, either when you wake up or just before you go to bed.

Start slow

At the start, you may be overwhelmed with this new habit of yours and there will be a lot of thoughts on your mind. But, hold your horses, keep it simple and don’t rush. Journal only a few minutes and set a timer to stop.

Do what feels right to you

There are literally no rules to this. You can write whatever and wherever appropriate to express your feelings. Don’t even worry about the linguistic accuracy or don’t be a grammar nazi. It’s your journal after all. Some people only journal when they feel bothersome. But you should do whatever feels right to you. Moreover, write wherever you want-a beautiful notebook, a random scrap of paper or if you don’t feel like writing, use that sweet sounding voice and record it as a memo.

Be creative and stylish

As there are no rules for journaling, adapt any style of writing which you like. Change your writing styles according to your moods. Write a song, a letter, a poem, draw an art piece and many more. You can also take some journaling prompts from the internet if you feel stuck at something. Sometimes be more expressive too. Writing an event that was stressful or nerve wrecking may be more beneficial to your mental health and help you get over that bad experience.

Be more grateful

No, you don’t need to donate anything. Giving thanks to your mental health is a good thing. Start by writing out some things that make you feel grateful about your life. For example, write about how you felt after having a cup of coffee, a walk in the park or good weather. You can write a list of those things or write full sentences as why you feel so grateful. Writing such details in your self-reflection journal will ultimately make you more appreciative and a keen observer of life and will make you find something positive worth remembering in any situation of life.

Benefits of Journaling in cancer

As already stated, cancer can leave a long-lasting impact on our mental health. However, ways of positive reinforcements in our life such as journaling can help deal with the stress, anxiety and hardships of cancer treatment. Science suggests that no matter what you’re dealing with in your life such as stress from work or school life, an illness or anxiety, journaling is sure to help you in some way. Read on the benefits below.

Reduces anxiety

Journaling is reported to be linked with a decrease in mental distress and anxiety in many studies. A recent study conducted on a group of people with various mental health conditions revealed that writing online for just 15 minutes thrice a week over 12 weeks of study showed fewer depressive symptoms after just one month. Their mental well-being kept improving steadily over the course of the study.

Helps with brooding or overthinking

Writing up about an emotional or an upsetting life event may help you stop obsessing and overthinking about it and make you peaceful. However, timing is everything, a study says that if you write it immediately after the event then it may actually make you feel worse. When we talk about cancer specifically, a term called ‘chemobrain’ is defined as short-term memory problems during the treatment. Daily journaling can help you track your appointments, conversations that may help you remember on your own and improve your memory.

Increases awareness

Writing down some details about a difficult situation in life such as cancer can help you get a different perspective over the problem and can make you understand it better.

Regulates emotions

A recent report revealed that people who expressed their feelings in a written form showed a better control over their emotions than the ones writing about neutral experiences. Additionally, this study also revealed that writing the feelings in an abstract form was found to be more calming than writing vividly. It’s better to have your emotions written down when you are down, as they may help you gain even more confidence in your life when you recover from it and be ready for any further emotional setbacks in life.

Opens you up

Writing privately about a stressful event could motivate someone to reach out for any social or moral support and can also help with emotional healing. Writing down helps you get the much-needed moral boost and also motivates you to help other in similar situations when you recover from it.

Speeds up physical healing

A recent study carried out in patients with a chronic disease revealed that writing for at least 20 minutes about their feelings and any upsetting events helped them heal faster compared to those who wrote about daily activities. In another study, college students who wrote about some stressful events were found less likely to get sick compared to those writing about normal or neutral topics such as their room.

Summary:

You now know how journaling can be helpful in keeping your thoughts, emotions and mental health in control and fit. It may not be easy as already discussed, but you can start slow. Remember, there are no rules to this. So, just grab a piece of paper, jar or whatever you like, and write it down. Don’t be scared to fight that cancer and get yourself braced with the weapon of journaling to make yourselves even stronger than you were before. You are a fighter after all!

References:

Sealy, P. A. (2012). Autoethnography: reflective journaling and meditation to cope with life-threatening breast cancer. Clinical journal of oncology nursing, 16(1).

Ullrich, P. M., & Lutgendorf, S. K. (2002). Journaling about stressful events: Effects of cognitive processing and emotional expression. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 24(3), 244-250.

Baikie, K. A., & Wilhelm, K. (2005). Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing. Advances in psychiatric treatment, 11(5), 338-346.

Borkin, S. (2014). The Healing Power of Writing: A Therapist’s Guide to Using Journaling with Clients. WW Norton & Company.

Smyth, J. M., Johnson, J. A., Auer, B. J., Lehman, E., Talamo, G., & Sciamanna, C. N. (2018). Online positive affect journaling in the improvement of mental distress and well-being in general medical patients with elevated anxiety symptoms: A preliminary randomized controlled trial. JMIR mental health, 5(4), e11290.

Haertl, K. (2008). Journaling as an assessment tool in mental health. Assessments in occupational therapy mental health: An integrative approach (second edition). USA: SLACK Incorporated, 61-79.

Koschwanez, H. E., Kerse, N., Darragh, M., Jarrett, P., Booth, R. J., & Broadbent, E. (2013). Expressive writing and wound healing in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Psychosomatic Medicine, 75(6), 581-590.

Utley, A., & Garza, Y. (2011). The therapeutic use of journaling with adolescents. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 6(1), 29-41.