As a college student, it can be very difficult to feel like all the areas of my life are perfectly managed, organized, and functioning efficiently at all times. Living on campus, it’s easy to get in the mindset that I am only at my best when I am constantly busy, hopping from activity to activity, and balancing countless responsibilities in regard to academics, social life, exercise, and extracurricular activities. The comparison game can quickly take a toll on how we identify as people, and it can feel incredibly overwhelming to try to keep up with it all. I have found that the constant struggle for perfection is mentally draining, and it damages my chances at striving to be the most healthy and productive version of myself. To counteract these feelings, there are so many outlets that we can turn to as young women to relieve ourselves of some of that stress. For me (and hopefully, after reading this article, you), journaling is one of the easiest and most effective ways I’ve been able to organize my feelings and thoughts to become a better student and person.
First, deciding that I wanted to add journaling to my routine meant that I had a wonderful excuse to actually go out and buy a nice notebook to hold all my writings! It might be simple to write your thoughts out on your Notes App in your phone or type them out on your laptop, but there is something so special about having a designated little notebook that you can specifically pull out every time there is something you need to get off your chest. I have found that when I am able to reach for a tangible object I can write my thoughts in, I have more time to think about what I am feeling and am even able to bring out internal thoughts that I wasn’t even aware of. I especially think that for most of us in 2021, writing with a pen and paper takes more time than the digital methods we have grown accustomed to on our devices, and having that extra time to deliberately think about what you are expressing onto the page sparks a whole new level of introspectiveness. There have been moments when I am writing, and I just think to myself, “Wait, how I’m feeling makes so much more sense to me now that I’ve written it down and read it back. I’m not crazy! I got this!” And of course, that may sound a bit cheesy, but making sense of my emotions through written word gives me feelings of validation, calmness, and relief; and I think that women (especially those who are as busy as most of us in TWN are) should be able to feel those things at least once a day. There are already so many responsibilities on our plates as college students that leave us confused and stressed, so making a conscious effort into understanding yourself and unpacking your emotions every day is such a powerful way to stay in tune with yourself when other things might not make sense.
If the excuse to buy a pretty journal and sort out your feelings in a whole new way hasn’t convinced you that you should journal, maybe knowing that it has been scientifically proven that journaling provides one with the ability to handle stress better, will. In a study done on 66 registered nurses [RN], it was found that after taking a journaling class, “journaling [had] a positive effect over time on the ability of registered nurses to handle stress, increase compassion satisfaction, and decrease burnout and trauma/compassion fatigue symptoms”. I think two very powerful quotes that RNs gave in the research study were these:
"I think [journaling] made me even more in touch with myself and created an awareness which helped me take care of myself and therefore better care of others. I would say it helped, yes."
"When I feel stressed, I use free-flow writing to get my ideas down. It really helps to get things on paper. After I finish writing and I reread it, it really helps me to understand what I have been feeling. . . and makes it easier to deal with."
As young college women in TWN, it can be difficult to balance figuring out what we want to do with our lives with how to manage our time on our own, while also prioritizing where our energy and efforts go each day. We may overextend ourselves in our school work and social activities, and it is an often universal feeling that we as women can prioritize the well-being and experiences of others, even at the expense of our own. But, as the nurses from the study above have so thoughtfully put it, prioritizing yourself and making sure that you are secure in your own self is more helpful to others than when you neglect to make time for yourself. Journaling in a free-flowing way is such a small and low-effort activity, but it is so much more impactful than we give it credit. I will end by challenging you to this: try to set aside time everyday at around the same hour, even for only 10-15 minutes, and allow yourself to write about anything that comes to mind for that whole time. Stick with it for a week, and hopefully this new habit sparks a more positive change that will continue to grow in all aspects of your life!