Journaling in the time of Covid-19

Review by Laura Cameron

How are you? No really. I’m asking how you are. Because the last two weeks have been a whirlwind and I feel like I’ve fallen through the looking glass into a completely different world. And sometimes I’m ok, and sometimes I’m not.

About a week and a half ago, I saw a Tweet that talked about the importance of journaling right now, not just to alleviate one’s own anxiety, but because we are living in a historical time and what we write could become a primary source for future generations.

I thought about this, and about how journaling has helped me during the worst of times (I suffer from anxiety disorder and my 20s were ROUGH), and decided it was a good idea. I don’t hold myself to any particular time or format, but I try and write daily or at least every other day. Whether it’s the endless statistics that I seem to have numbed my mind to, or my swirling feelings and emotions, I’m finding it cathartic to write whatever is in my head down on paper.

When I decided to start, I first had to choose whether this journal should be electronic or handwritten. As you might guess, I opted for handwritten. I went to my drawer of notebooks and selected a nice bound volume, my Elemental Notebook. (The irony that I am writing about a respiratory pandemic in a volume dedicated to the element Oxygen does not escape my notice.)

I keep my notebook next to me on the couch, and write when the moment feels right. Although I have a ton of fountain pens, I find myself using my Retro Twinkle Popper for most of my entries. Whether or not I’ll go back and re-read my entries, or share it with future generations, or whether it will ever see the light of day, I’m finding comfort in this daily exercise. And it’s helping me be more ok.

I hope you and your families are safe and healthy and finding comfort in small things right now.

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12 comments / Add your comment below

  1. We’re doing okay, here in our house. We’re lucky — we had a reasonable stock of things like rice and such before this started, and I work in IT, so working remotely hasn’t been a big stretch. We’ve got a yard, so being outside hasn’t been hard or hazardous, and we’ve been keeping in touch with friends (and convincing our aging parents to stay the heck home). So, yeah — we’re really, really lucky. Stay safe, and thanks for asking after us. =)

  2. Writing–especially by hand–is cathartic, anxiety-alleviating and mood-lightening. Just write whatever’s going on, don’t worry about its being boring. Start with “Yesterday I…” or “Today we…” or whatever and try to remember everything you did and how you felt about it, or write about your anxiety or your boredom or your fears. It always works for me, I’ve done this for years, it’s what’s kept me (relatively) sane. This is the perfect time for a bit of handwritten introspection, just start with anything, doesn’t matter how banal.

  3. It is good that you are journaling, “getting it all down,” coughing it up, putting it out there on paper.
    Please also dont forget to reach out in other ways to the peeps who can lift you up, make you laugh, keep you sane, calm your fears or just let you know we are all in this together and you are Not Alone! We will get thru this, separate AND together!

  4. Thank you so much for asking and this article.I have a degree in history with an emphasis on public history. I’m also a librarian. I’m sitting here at home I have my journal on my desk and I cant bring myself to write. I know I should but for some reason I just can’t. This paralysis is more frightening to me than social isolation.

    1. Heather,

      I understand what you mean. I’m struggling with paralysis too. Like Laura, I have anxiety, and sometimes writing helps and sometimes it only serves to remind me how frightened I am. I’m hoping April will bring a #30inks30days challenge that might help me get going. But you’re not alone.


    2. Heather, I’m a librarian, too, though retired. Coincidentally, also have an undergraduate degree in history! I would suggest to you that your journal entries don’t even have to be sentences. They don’t have to be words! A few months back I was so enraged by something in the news that I started my journal page that day by painting the whole page red with watercolors.

  5. I think I’ve filled more journal pages in the past couple weeks than I did all last year! And I do feel better afterwards. Thanks for asking, and I hope you and your family continue to stay well.

  6. Laura,

    Thanks for the post. We’ve been quarantining ourselves due to a possible exposure. We’re on Day Ten, and so far no symptoms. I feel as if it’s only a matter of time though.


  7. Laura: thank you for this article, and for asking how we really are. I’m OK; trying to stay healthy, already going a little stir-crazy. But OK.

    I have a “special” notebook I bought at a pen show, and because it was so beautiful and rather pricey, I hadn’t written much in it. Turns out it’s a Paperblanks notebook with a gold, green, and red medieval design. I wasn’t familiar with the brand till I saw it online and was struck by the similarities, and pulled my notebook out, to find it was the same brand. Suddenly I knew how to use my special notebook.

    In my usual daily scribbles, I usually write which pen I’m using, what ink, etc. I won’t clutter this one up with all that stuff. I’m just getting straight to it: writing down whatever I’m thinking and feeling, statistics, and general facts about this pandemic. I find that watching the news helps, because it brings up all the fears I usually avoid as I go about my day. I hadn’t put it into words, but I was also struck by the feeling that I was recording history. When I read your comments on that, I thought, “Yes! That’s it!” Even if nobody ever reads it, it seems important to do.

    So I often drag out my notebook after watching the national news. I just dump everything in there until either I’ve gotten it all out, or I’m too tired of the depressing topic to go on. But it is very cathartic. If I don’t journal about life, especially trying times like these, I end up suppressing on all eight cylinders until I either explode or go into a deep depression. Or both. I find that by journaling, I am forced to put vague feelings into words, and confront them directly. And thus, figure out how to best handle whatever is going on.

    I, too, had a rough time in my twenties/early thirties. Since then, many(!) years of learning how to put my feelings into words and deal with them have given me a serenity I never thought I’d find. I no longer have anxiety/depression beyond the everyday issues that arise. I am content and happy. Of course, this pandemic is scaring the crap out of me, just like everyone else. I’m glad I have an effective way of dealing with it. Journaling really does help.

    Thanks for your article. Ironic, I know; but even though I’ve been journaling for decades, I still sometimes have trouble verbalizing my feelings. Your thoughts really helped me do that. And that’s how I deal with life.

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