Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Writing to Heal

Back in December I was going through a really rough patch. I had a breakdown, after many years of caregiving. It was a blessing that my local writing group was teaching a class on Writing to Heal and I knew it was a sign that I needed to take. It was through this course that I decided it was high time I admitted the feelings I had, not hide them away, confront them and accept them. It was causing me undue stress, mental and physical health issues, and just down right negative all the way around. I didn't like it at all. During this class I found my coping mechanism. And rather than keep it hidden, I owned my feelings and put them out for the world to see, on my blog. My goal is two-fold -  to help me heal and to help others passing by to know they are not alone.

So, what did I learn?

I learned about the Expressive Writing Technique. It is said to be beneficial for a healthy body and mind, great for relationships, provides you with a safe environment, and is a powerful tool for stress management. It can strengthen your immune system by reducing the stress hormones your body releases. Studies have also showed how this technique can reduce the effects of a traumatic event. It is not limited to any one group. Anyone can use this technique in order to work through a really bad day at work to PTS symptoms to caregiver stress. It doesn’t matter who you are. (If you are uncomfortable with words, you can also use a similar method with painting or drawing what is troubling you.)

What is the Expressive Writing Technique?
It is personal writing that explores the feelings of the writer. Simple as that.

How do you do it?
Well, there is not one right way to do this. In fact, I've been doing something very similar ever since I could write. The only difference is, this course gave me structure and a time limit.

The power of words!
You know that old adage, "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me" ? Well, it's an unfortunate LIE! Words have power. Depending on how you use those words will determine whether or not they are helpful or harmful. So, when those negative auto-thoughts pop up in your head and you start listening to them, try doing the following:

Over the next two to three days, find your most comfortable, happy place where you won't be interrupted for 15 to 20 minutes. Sit down with either a pen and notebook, or your laptop. Some will swear by the long hand. Me, I have this thing where my inner editor hates my handwriting, so I chose the computer every time. Take that negative auto-thought and write it down. Or you can choose to write about an illness, injury, pain, trauma, loss, grief, or stress. It doesn't matter. Just pick something and write it down. And it doesn't have to be the same thing over the course of these few days. Also, don't worry about grammar or punctuation or anything. Just write.
If you feel overwhelmed at any time during your writing, take a break. Return to a breathing and grounding exercise. Slowly inhale through your nose. Find the peace you know to be inside you. Recall that place. Then slowly let that overwhelming feeling seep out through your mouth in your exhale.

You do not need to share, or even read what you’ve written, although many people find it helpful to do so. You can ball it up and throw it away, or keep it to revisit later.

Write your way through the questions below, to bring the issue full circle.
Situation: What’s disturbing the peace of your heart, body, or mind right now?
Body: What does your body feel right now? Any pain or tension? Where? Has this feeling
changed over time? If so, how?
Feelings: What comes up when you think about this situation? What else? How have your
feelings changed over time?
Self: How does the situation affect how see yourself? What one thing could you do for yourself
right now?
Others: How does the matter affect the way you see others? How has this changed over time?
Future: How does this affect the way you see the future? What changes do you see?
Add: What meaning does it bring into your life right now?

Simple, right? Now hope to it. You’ll feel better in a few minutes. J

Have you tried this method? Do you find it helpful? What other things do you do to help with your healing process?

Submitted By: Jamie Dement (LadyJai)

Check out my blog at for more of my writing to heal posts.

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