People are perfectly imperfect creatures who get stressed out and feel emotions, unlike robots that can shut down without consequences. Stressful situations occur, we feel what we feel, and own those emotions. According to the Stress in America Survey, (APA, 2013), 43 percent of adults have stress-related insomnia and teens’ stress levels are comparable to those of adults. The data also revealed 44 percent of adults were not managing stress as effectively as desired. As much as we need to be real and feel, we are also encouraged to be emotionally intelligent with an awareness and ability to control our emotions so we can be socially intelligent through recognition of other people’s emotions to manage relationships (Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, (2002).
Sharing feelings through a journal, a special place to unleash emotions, can help reduce stress and increase emotional intelligence. We are entitled to those feelings, whether it is anger towards someone, untangling a messy situation, or self-reflection, a journal is a safe place to vent, blurt out, and brag without appearing foolish. If we are encouraged to be non-judgmental, peace-loving humanitarians who endure every situation with strength, patience, grace, and a smile, a journal can be that dark place where it is okay to have that epic Charlie Sheen or Kanye West style rant and still have friends.
Journaling is more of an art than a science. There are no rules with journaling. It only takes one word to start. Here are a few guidelines for that first word:
1. Pick a Journaling Process
Do you want to write in a book, type, or dictate into a device? Knowing how you want to share your feelings is essential, because it has to be a process that feels right to you. Be open to changing the process. For instance, you might start out writing, but find that typing is a more effective method.
2. Make Your Journal Special
Like your favorite room that needs to be comfortable, your journal should be a welcoming and happy space where you want to be. Pick out a font, special book, or private place to dictate that works for you. My journal must have lined paper and preferably be spiral bound.
3. Journal as a Buffer
Your journal is a place where nobody cares about grammar, structure, political correctness, volume, tone, word choice, and consequences for not adhering to all of the above. You can say what you really need to say without having to apologize. Hopefully, that release will help you choose the right words and actions in the actual situation.
4. Keep your Journal Private
Your journaling content should not be shared with any other person. Your journal material is not public information. Sharing your journal could invite hard feelings and contribute towards more harm than good. Also, do you want anyone critiquing your raw ideas and unpolished dreams?
We take what life gives us, so having a journal as a go-to buffer could contribute toward reducing stress and getting a good night’s sleep. The more you journal, the easier it gets, and the longer your filter between your emotions and actions, which is the essence of emotional intelligence. You deserve a non-judgmental place to be heard. Happy journaling!
American Psychological Association (2013). Stress in America Survey. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, (2002). Primal Leadership: learning to lead with emotional intelligence. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Park, J. H., (2013). Keynote speech at the International Group Development Questionnaire Conference at Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, PA.