by Edward Benkin
These have indeed been trying times. A global pandemic, a heated political environment, and social unrest have led to one of the most stressful climates in decades. In addition to the physical toll from Covid, the mental health of many have been affected in a way many Americans have never experienced in their lifetimes.
The cure? Write, write write.
There has never been a better time to sit down in front of your computer (or your desk with a pen and pad of paper) and write out everything from your feelings to whatever poetry or story ideas race across your brain. People have different ways to relieve stress, and writing for fun or writing out one’s fears or anxieties may just be the cure for the emotional trauma many have been going through in recent months.
One idea to write your way out of your emotional funk is to keep a journal of daily events. A study in Advent Health showed keeping a daily journal can help bring “a deeper sense of control, calmness, and a deeper understanding of emotions.” This serves multiple purposes. You have the opportunity to record history. In these unprecedented times, you have a chance to capture the moment for future generations. As challenging as everyday life has become, this is a chance to preserve your thoughts and feelings to not only be preserved for the future, but to also release your daily stress.
Another way to fight the blues and the pressures of the current climate is to take time to write out your plans for the next day before bedtime. The demands of remote work, remote learning for kids, the dangers of venturing out during a global health crisis and the everyday demands in a household can be overwhelming. For students and working parents, it may be difficult at times to focus on school work and business work at the household. Maybe the dog needs a walk or you just really want to finish watching those last ten minutes of your favorite show that’s on your DVR. To be able to click “hide video” and mute oneself on Zoom is an opening to drift away from the task at hand. It even affects professional football players. Teams are now on stricter protocols and most are forced to do virtual team meetings. Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Alex Singleton decided to buy a desk and build his own office at home to keep his focus. He also runs down to the local convenience store for a breakfast burrito so he won’t be caught cooking eggs in his kitchen while meeting about stopping the Dallas Cowboys.
It may also weigh on one’s mind at nighttime which can lead to a lack of sufficient rest. According to healthgrades.com, writing may be the answer for better sack time. A report in healthguide.org describes the issues of sleep deprivation during the pandemic with suggestions on how to find better ways to get your rest. In addition to writing about your day, you can decrease sleep issues by getting a head start on tomorrow. Before going to bed, take a moment to write down a list of priorities for the following day. A plan before bedtime will relax your mind and flush out some of the stress before bedtime.
Another option is to “happy write.” Find a subject which either fuels your passion or brings back happy memories of the past. Taking time to write about things you enjoy which channels your emotions to a happier place in your brain. If you love history, then write about VJ Day, George Washington’s Inauguration, or even your favorite team winning the World Series. As far as your personal past, how about a favorite childhood memory? Going back to a simpler time in one’s life bringe emotional pleasure. Even something as unique as watching The Electric Company on PBS or family memories of Thanksgiving in a year when Boston Market replaced Grandma as a holiday cook. For many, it is an emotional escape.
You can also combine writing about the current state of the world and your own personal experience. Yours truly feels relief writing emails to friends about my current state and putting it down on a Google Doc or a Word file serves as another writing outlet. Writing to friends and family, particularly those far away, can help both the writer and the recipient of the work. Others may realize they are in a similar situation and be more than willing to respond. As a result, your time may be occupied with exchanging writing with others with whom you have an emotional attachment.
In addition to writing about what you are feeling, you also could write about what you are seeing. How about a photo essay combining words with pictures? I had the same urge when I was walking my dog on an autumn day across a bridge in a park covered with fallen leaves. I took a picture of him ready to cross over the bridge and leaves, then recorded more photos of the beauty of the fall season.
Gathering a collection of photos and then writing about them adds a visual escape to stress. Photographers from The New York Times discussed in pictures what New York City was like in a pandemic and described it by saying:
“The lights are still on in Times Square. Billboards blink and storefronts shine in neon. If only there were an audience for this spectacle.”
While this is a bit different than capturing the moment your pet walks across a leaf-covered bridge, even describing an empty landmark during a pandemic was an outlet for those carrying a camera and a keyboard.
Keep in mind that writing takes time, which can be a good thing. Even with the daily grind individuals face, setting time to write with the options listed about is less time to stress over the rigors of the state of the world today. There are many “down time” activities which are more difficult to execute in the current state of the world, but one always has the option to write.
So shut off the cable news. Take a deep breath when your Internet goes out while your children are learning online. Don’t worry about going out for that extra grocery run if you don’t need to. Pick up a pen and paper or open up a blank page on your computer. Write out your frustrations to help relieve them. Plan for tomorrow. Write about your little league game as a child, or write to a friend.
Your brain and body will thank you for it.