Anyone Feeling Tired?
We can all agree that this has been the craziest year of our entire lives. No matter where in the world you live, 2020 has been a dystopian novel. All Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction writers must be writing their hearts our right now. And they aren’t, they should be! Take notes, guys.
But for the rest of us, ugh, this year has been exhausting, and it’s not over. Corona Virus is still a threat. European countries are going into another strict lock down again. Here in the U.S. we still have the election results hanging over our heads. Central America has received tons of rain from Hurricane Eta and many areas are flooded. Everything on the news is bad news. Children are home, driving parents crazy. Teachers are desperately trying to get their students to pay attention and stop playing with Legos while on a Zoom class.
Whew, it’s just exhausting. So, if you’re feeling tired, you’re not alone.
Write Your Story and You Will Feel Better
You might be thinking that I’m a crazy author and writing is not the solution to everything. Yes, I do think writing is a solution to most things. But . . . hold on, I’m not as crazy as you might think. Even doctors at Harvard Medical School agree that writing can help people deal with trauma which can be an illness diagnosis, an accident of some type, or being locked in your house for months and months with little or no human contact.
They call this type of writing Expressive Writing, but you can simply call it journaling or writing about your feelings. The technique is to let your thoughts spill out of your head and onto the page or into the computer. You are releasing the troubling thoughts rather than allowing them to fester inside you causing physical and mental damage.
In an article in the Harvard Medical School newsletter, Dr. James W. Pennebaker who was the chair of the psychology department at the University of Texas, Austin shared a study where they asked 46 healthy college students to write for fifteen minutes every day for four days. Some had to writer about traumatic experiences in their lives and others could write about anything, it didn’t have to be important. They could write about what they had for dinner if they wanted. What was interesting was that they kept track of them for the next six months, and the students who wrote about traumatic experiences ended up visiting the campus health center less frequently. They also didn’t need pain relievers as much those who did not express their trauma in writing.
Other studies also showed similar results. Students got better grades and had less stress.
Why Does Writing Help?
I am a why person. I always want to know why something is true or why something works or doesn’t work.
The doctors offer possible reasons:
· We can find meaning in the experience
What they mean here is that by writing about something, we are expression our emotions and working through what it might imply. I read so many blog posts a few weeks after the stay at home orders where people stated that maybe we all needed to slow down. Maybe this was happening to get us all to pay attention to our family, to re-learn what is important. People were attempting to find meaning in this unusual and uncomfortable experience.
The act of thinking about an experience, as well as expressing emotions, seems to be important. In this way, writing helps people to organize thoughts and give meaning to a traumatic experience. Or the process of writing may enable them to learn to better regulate their emotions. It’s also possible that writing about something fosters an intellectual process — the act of constructing a story about a traumatic event — that helps someone break free of the endless mental cycling more typical of brooding or rumination. Finally, when people open up privately about a traumatic event, they are more likely to talk with others about it — suggesting that writing leads indirectly to reaching out for social support that can aid healing.
· Helps to regulate our emotions
By expressing our emotions and releasing them from our mind, it stops that endless mental spinning of our thoughts. We stop the continual replaying of a bad event.
· Helps us to open up
Once we are honest with ourselves and open up privately in a journal, we are more likely to share our troubles with others. This is why I believe it’s important to write our stories down and share them. Once we share them with others, we not only help ourselves, but we find that people we know may feel the same way. It helps us from feeling so alone, and it helps others too.
Give It a Try
I think each of us will come out of 2020 with our own stories. We may not know what they mean right now. We may not even fully understand in the next few years, but having those writings saved somewhere could end up being valuable to us years from now. And the act of expressing ourselves now, of releasing the stress or anger or fear may help in unknown ways today.
So, if you’re tired, give it a try, write everyday for the next few weeks, maybe until the end of the year, and see if you begin to feel more energized. Let me know how you feel.