Louisa May Alcott did it. So did Lewis Carroll. And Dostoevsky, Bob Dylan, Marianne Faithfull, Nijinksy, Alanis Morrisette and Virginia Woolf. This list of artistic heavyweights is proof that journaling is not only for 12 year-old girls who read Babysitters Club novels and wax lyrical about their crushes in their pink, padlocked diaries.
Journaling is the work of serious folk.
But did you know that journaling can help you manage your inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)?
Log your symptoms
With any chronic illness, understanding what causes symptom flares is crucial to managing your condition. Knowledge is power! And knowing what keeps your health on an even keel and what capsizes it altogether is knowledge worth having.
Journaling your experiences with your IBD can help you identify trigger foods and safe foods, as well as noting whether a change in your frame of mind, stress levels or even things like the weather seem to have an effect on your IBD and general health. Patterns may emerge that could help with diagnoses, treatment plans and general management of your health.
Release some tension
Expressing your feelings – be they frustration, fear, fatigue, pain, anger or anything else that’s on your mind – can provide an enormous emotional release. Furthermore, getting things down on paper encourages subsequent reflection and can sometimes lead to a shift in perception or a new outlook that can help you to deal with any negative feelings you have regarding your IBD. Journaling your experience can be a very positive outlet emotionally and creatively.
Ideally journaling should become a daily habit to give you the clearest picture of your symptoms and diet over time. Record what you ate, what you did and how you felt each day. Be thorough – did you undertake an activity you were nervous about? Did anything go wrong?
These notes will help you build a knowledge bank of what helps and what harms. If you feel anxious about social events, sex or being in public due to fear of your symptoms flaring up, reflecting on the times you went out and nothing happened will help to build your confidence.
Is your diary a book, phone, email or blog?
There is no ‘right’ way to keep a diary. You need to find out what works best for you, what is easiest to stick to and delivers the most satisfaction.
Maybe you want to try it Bridget Jones-style and record the number of alcohol units, your weight and reflect on your day like your life is a novel. Perhaps you’ll like a blank sketch book so you can add doodles, Or you can try emailing yourself so you’ve got an easy search function for future referencing.
Another option is blogging or vlogging your experience online so you can participate in a community (or build one of your own and let your experiences with IBD shed some light and give some hope to others).
Whatever you do – find something that works for you, get journaling and set yourself a reminder to go back and look through your entries. A regular reflection every few months to see if any patterns emerge might help you manage your condition in the long term.