If you follow my blog on chronic pain, now also featuring a subtext of chronic anxieties, I hope you’ve used the technique above with some success. I suggest techniques that have assisted me, or other peers, that have a good track record for us chronics. Using the above technique is not something I did, or do, for only a month; I have found that committing to tools that work for me means repeating the technique throughout the year(s). Once I’m comfortable with one, it’s time to add another. The next step in this writting process is journaling.
First step, get a journal. I have used large address books that come with tabs and mini binders filled with paper I found at thrift stores (once I knew I was consistent in using this review of my self with pain, anxiety, and triggers of these, I bought a cute, handmade journal). Your selection should be one with sections, I use five, you may only need three or perhaps you will want nine; it’s your journal for your unique needs. Next, buy a set of five different colored pens or pencils. I have a set of pencils from “The Dollar Store”, I also wanted to invest in myself to create further investment in my daily writing, so I went to a office supply store and picked out colors I related to for each of my sections (I’ll write more about this in-depth below). You will now use this one journal for the circles of negative and positive thought, emotion, behavioral outcome, so remember to set aside the front section for this practice. Your also going to commit to tracking both your personal triggers and your good moments, hours, or days.
I created my second section to begin a conversation with myself about what Wellness feels like for me. In this same section, I write about how I can try to stay Well, what support items, people, medications, alternative resources, quiet time, might help me get back to being alright again. Included in this are are my “Action Stepstones”; this comes from the first exercise I started with, circles of patterns that assist me in awareness of positive and negative behaviors. Last, before embarking on my new daily journal toolkit, I have a third section that’s used to create my “Paths” to both my positive and my ability to practice acceptance.
You may be starting to feel overwhelmed, this is a good time to practice nice, deep, breathing. Remember that you work at your pace. This is your place. Start with a sentence or two and reward yourself for being courageous. Each section is a process. I made plans that didn’t work. I wrote out “Wellness Action Stepstones” before I knew that some of the stones were too negative. That’s what’s great about tracking with journaling, your observations, plans, positives and negatives, can change! Mine change often as new situations arise, new symptoms, less symptoms, different seasons of the year, my journal writing reflects my constant understandings over the years. The key to success is your commitment.
It’s important that you write daily for one month. Create a third section where you write one sentence in the morning and one at night. These reflect how you are coping/feeling. The morning is an observation of how you feel as your day begins. The nights sentence examines how you felt throughout your day. Using a different colored pen, write a brief note about your pain(s), anxiety, (your struggle), was it positive, good, bad, negative, was there a trigger, did you use a “Stepstone”? Picking another color, rate how it felt; it was a good day and you used a tool from your kit, 2. It was a hard day, you weren’t able to take care of your chores, 8. Circle these scores and a corresponding words that allows you to go back and scan the entry at any time. Example; “I was triggered by an unexpected loud noise at the store, my anxiety took over and I went home to bed”, 8 – circle “unexpected loud noise”, and “anxiety”.
After you have worked with this system, if you want to try it that is, you can get more in-depth or less. It depends on the person. I got more detailed as I used this tool. I also found that as I have mTBI, my journal needed to be one I could take with me. I created a section on cognition and a separate section for notes. There is one more writing/witnessing exercise I use, but it’s too early to introduce. This is a lot to begin with. Remember that no one else is looking at your toolkit. Tweak it for you. Do commit. It’s not a miracle and you get out only what you put in.
I am going to be running an online course in this, and more, with time put aside for us to support one another. Once I have it up, I’ll put a link in my blog.
Lucinda Tart, Advocate/Educate, Chronic Survivor