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John Call
John A Call Ph.D., J.D., A.

Stressed? Write About It!

Beat stress with a pad, pencil, and 30 minutes.

In this crazy world of fast food, fast driving, and fast living, people are constantly looking for ways to decrease their stress level. Tools such as relaxation training, exercise, yoga, and therapy have all been proven to help people reduce stress. But there's another way to beat stress, and it may be as easy as obtaining a pencil, a pad of paper, and 30 minutes of free time.

A 1988 study found that disclosing information about traumatic things that have happened to people was actually good for them. When 50 college students were asked to write for four days in a row either about superficial things or traumatic experiences they'd had, the students who wrote about their trauma had fewer illnesses and more positive moods six weeks down the line. Another study in 1994 with people who had just lost their jobs found that those who wrote about losing their jobs for five days in a row found new jobs more quickly than those who wrote about what they were going to do that day. In an attempt to reproduce these findings in medical patients in 1999, a study was done on asthma patients and rheumatoid arthritis patients. These patients either wrote about the most stressful event in their lives, or wrote about a more neutral topic. Four months after the writing took place, 47% of the patients who wrote about their stress showed clinical improvement, as opposed to only 24% for the patients who wrote about something neutral.

It appears that writing about your troubles can have an improvement on your health, both mentally and physically. But this phenomenon may not be confined to writing. A study with Holocaust survivors asked the survivors to talk about their experiences in the Holocaust. Those who disclosed more information more fully were found to be significantly healthier than those who disclosed less information when examined a year after the interviews.

So how does writing about stress or talking to others about trauma help a person? It may be that sharing experiences, especially the negative or hurtful ones, with someone else is therapeutic for people. In fact, many psychologists assign "homework" for their patients in the form of writing about their thoughts or feelings. Whatever the reason, it seems that writing or otherwise disclosing your experiences and feelings can help improve your mental and physical health. So, pick up a blank journal and start writing!

About the Author
John Call

John A. Call, Ph.D., J.D., A.B.P.P., is a forensic psychologist, an attorney, and president of Crisis Management Consultants, Inc.

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