#ZenToolkit: Resilience (pt. 1) Journaling

Resilience is a person’s ability to grow in the face of terrible problems.”

Boris Cyrulnik

Death by a thousand cuts 

You wake up, check your phone, and see a notification of seven people killed in another state. You go downstairs and see that your dog threw up yellow bile on the carpet. Due to lack of sleep, your brain is foggy and you forget the team meeting at work started at 9:00 a.m. instead of 9:30 a.m. Your boss calls, and because you’re embarrassed you make up an excuse for being late. In the meetings your responses in the group discussions are lackluster because you didn’t have any breakfast. When you take your dog on her afternoon walk a woman walks by and clutches her purse. Your partner calls and is having a hard time but because you’re still disturbed by the emotional assault, you’re half-listening. After work you head into the grocery store to gather the ingredients to make the spicy rigatoni. But, because you didn’t make a list before you went in, you get everything except the rigatoni. It doesn’t dawn on you until you get back home. Out of habit, after dinner, you immediately turn on the TV because that’s what you’ve been doing for the past twenty years. Before you know it, it’s 11:00 p.m. and you have to wake up at 6:00 p.m. When you get to bed your mind is still racing, unable to fall asleep. You realize it’s Thursday, and Friday is date night but you forgot to make reservations.

We have dishes that need to be washed, clothes that need to be folded. We have jobs where we have to cooperate with others. Some of us have kids that need our love and attention–and a partner that requires the same. We don’t prepare ahead of time. We forget to do something that can help alleviate some stress in the future. The list of shit we have to do on a daily basis can become daunting–and life, overwhelming.

But we’re only human 

As you can see from the tiring example above – life is full of the unexpected. Navigating all of these obligations, responsibilities, and social interactions can take a toll on us emotionally. The shit is hella (that’s my favorite west coast word) challenging. By nature, life is a mystery, driving into the fog at dark not knowing what you will encounter. Maybe a deer, maybe a detour, shit, maybe a pothole. And when we hit that pothole we might bust a tire, and we’ll have to pull out of our trunk the tools we need to change that tire. 

(Okay I have a confession: I don’t know how to change a tire. Yes, I’m a 30 year old man and I don’t know how to change a tire. Get your laughs in. Don’t judge me. I’ve never had to. Now, back to the point.)

How in the hell am I going to find time to journal?

The definition of journaling according to Merriam-Webster dictionary is “a record of experiences, ideas, or reflections kept regularly for private use.” My definition is a trusted outlet that allows you to let out all the shit that might be standing in the way of your clarity; all the worries and fears of the past and future; all of the emotional wounds and disappointment you might’ve faced throughout the day. The present moment is sacred. Personally, journaling allows me to be here now. When I let it out I can let it go.

From sunup to sun down we are bombarded with stressors. We don’t find time to journal, we make it a priority. Stressors accumulate and sit within the body when they are not released. It shows up in many different ways in our lives: irritation, aggravation, anger, and so forth.  All of these feelings have an origin. When we journal we give ourselves an opportunity to confront and release that emotional experience that may have caused us a deal of hurt. Journaling gives us the opportunity to interpret how a certain experience might have made us feel. Therefore, we become more mindful of how to move forward. On average we have 6,000 – 12,000 thoughts a day (Healthline, 2022). When we journal we slice through those potentially negative experiences that can transform into depressive thought patterns 

Journaling doesn’t have to be all negative 

Usually I go to my journal when something is stirring internally that is disturbing, but I tend to forget that a lot of pleasantries happen throughout the day as well. Write those moments down and honor them, too. Celebrate yourself and your successes–even if it is just for you. Journaling has been proven to boost self esteem. This makes us more flexible for whatever the day presents. Maybe you’ve disrupted a bad habit that only you noticed. Maybe you’re proud of yourself for simply picking up the pen to start. That alone is something to take note of and remind you that you are an amazing, beautiful, strong human being.

You don’t have to do it by yourself

A couple who has become good friends of mine and my wife’s reminded me of the ex factor in life if you want to grow. One of them was on a six-day cleanse coupled with daily exercise and I asked her, “how are you able to stay disciplined?” She pointed to her partner and they both said at the same time, “we’re each other’s accountability partners.”

With friends or intimate relationships, remove those from your life who reinforce bad habits and surround yourself with those who reinforce growth.

Building a resiliency toolkit in a life full of suffering is vital. As Cyrulnik states in his positive psychology theory, “..pain is no less for resilient people than it is for others; it is a matter of how they choose to use it.” Add journaling to your toolkit.

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