These are truly strange, unusual times we are living in. School is closed for the rest of the school year, many of us are working from home, events have been canceled, and places like restaurants and movie theaters are closed. The news has been full of stories of increasing numbers of people catching COVID- 19 and increasing deaths. You may even know people, friends, and relatives who have caught the virus; you may also know people who have died. It should be no surprise that people are experiencing a whole mix of emotions during this pandemic. You may be scared of catching the virus, and you may also be worried about your friends and loved ones catching the virus. You may even be concerned about losing friends or loved ones. You may fear losing your job, or your parents losing their job. Perhaps you or family members have already been laid off. You might also be earning for normalcy. Maybe you miss all the things that have been closed or canceled: eating at your favorite restaurant, watching an anticipated movie on opening night, attending a concert by one of your favorite bands. If you are a senior in high school, you may be mourning the loss of things like prom, your graduation ceremony, and an all-night party. If you were planning a wedding, you have had to postpone or cancel your wedding. You are also likely missing friends and family that you cannot see. And maybe, you have even found yourself missing school or work.
These feelings can feel very overwhelming. There can also be a sense of guilt about some of your feelings. You may be wondering if you are shallow for missing something seemingly meaningless, like the summer concerts when people are getting sick and dying. You may catch yourself feeling angry at times, at health officials, politicians, and your own family. Sharing these feelings with other people (like friends and family) can be hard. Sharing your raw emotions may make you feel vulnerable or lead to misunderstanding and arguments.
This is where journaling can be helpful. Writing in a journal gives you a chance to express your emotions in a private place. A journal can’t tell you are wrong or try and give you advice. It can also be an excellent way to sort through and organize your thoughts and feelings. It can be therapeutic to express every thought and feeling in your head, whether it be bad, good, or just silly, without having to worry about someone else’s reaction. Not sure what to write, where to start, or don’t care for writing? Start with making lists. Make a list of all things that you feel sad, angry, and anxious about, whether that be news of the spreading virus, canceled events, or loss of job (your own or family members). Next, make a list of positive things in your life, like good health, still being employed (you or your family), and activities that you are still able to do that make you happy. Of course, writing in a journal can be helpful even if there isn’t a pandemic going on. Whenever you are experiencing strong emotions about something, whether it be happy, sad, or angry, it can feel good to express those feelings in a journal.
One interesting thing about keeping a journal is reading entries that you wrote days, weeks, or months after you wrote them. Chances are there will be something that was bothering you on a given day, which will get better or simply not be bothering you at a future date. And it can be a relief to know that thing isn’t bothering you anymore. It can be helpful to write down things that are going good in your life as well, because sometimes when you are sad, it can be soothing to read about the things that are going right in your life or simply made you smile
Writing in a journal is also an excellent way to practice your writing skills. Your journal may not be as polished as an English paper or a blog post but can be a great way to practice stringing thoughts and feelings together into the written word. You may find writing is easier when you know there will be no English teacher to nitpick at your grammar or content.
Finally, keeping a journal during this pandemic will be a great way to record the truly weird, unsettling world we are living in. It will be interesting to look back at this dark time years and decades in the future.