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Mental Health

How Journaling Became My Sanctuary Amid a Pandemic & Why You Should Try It

For at least five months, we've all been trapped inside our homes in the midst of a historic global pandemic, many of us isolated with our families or roommates. We love our friends, parents and siblings, but let’s be honest — the 24/7 interaction thing is not up everyone’s ally.

The feeling of confinement can be extremely harmful for our minds. In my case, my inner extrovert was itching to leave the house to go on long drives with my friends and experience other summer adventures that would not be able to happen this year because I knew that the safety of myself and my household had to come first. At the same time, my inner introvert kept me burrowed in my covers all day, and actively choosing Netflix over joining a Zoom call with my friends. 

If you are like me, video chatting did not come easy during quarantine. I felt removed from my normal life. However, this did not mean that I could not prioritize my mental health! Instead, I turned to the little red journal that I kept stored at my bedside to express what I was feeling. Hard days, 3 a.m. thoughts, quarantine milestones: you name it. It all got documented on the lined pages that had come to symbolize a place of comfort for me. A sanctuary. 

Journaling can act as a home for your thoughts outside of your head. My journal is a confidant for reflections and ideas that I want to keep personal, but by writing out these things, I am able to fully express and release my emotions. It’s the best of both worlds! This is not to say that you should go AWOL for months, but rather the notion that you can create your own safe space for all those random thoughts that maybe aren’t ready for anyone else.

We all need an outlet for the private anxieties and frustrations we've experienced since March, and while the prospect of eating ice cream in bed and re-watching my favorite episodes of New Girl for the 100th time is oh-so-alluring, there is a more cathartic and effective option! 

Journaling is also super cool because it’s essentially a written snapshot. Though you may want to permanently forget day 92 of quarantine when you cut your own bangs, even the most embarrassing moments are part of your lived experience. We are living through history right now whether we like it or not, and I certainly would like to have the ability in the future to look back on the odd occurrences within the chaos that is 2020 — my entries will be a reminder that things always get better. And hopefully, I’ll get a good laugh or two out of the good parts as well. 

Not only are you recording the events and daily thoughts of your life, but with a journal, you are also noting your personal progress and growth. Back in March, I started down a spiral of disillusionment with the current situation of the world, a sad wistfulness for the school year we didn’t get to finish and loneliness as quarantine began to stretch from weeks into months. How could I not? But I smile now as I sit at my desk in my Oakland apartment, flipping through my entries from the summer. 

May 2nd, 2020: "It is week 8? 9? Of quarantine. The days and weeks meld together nowadays."

September 1st, 2020: "I am so glad to report that I am… happy."

Now that’s growth, ladies. And it is even more satisfying to relish in said growth knowing that there was a version of myself writing from a darker place, hoping things would soon start to look up — and they did. Self-high-five, May me! We made it. And we have the little red journal to prove it: the good, the bad, and everything in between… it’s all there. 

Even once COVID-19 is eventually over, I hope all of you who have decided to start a journal will continue! It is honestly one of the best ways to ground yourself during a mental health crisis and is always available to you even on your good days. So go get yourself a journal in whatever form that may be! You deserve your very own sanctuary. 

Shreya Babu is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh, majoring in Sociology and Administration of Justice, and minoring in Political Science and Legal Studies. Outside of HC, Shreya is on the board of Dhirana, a non-profit classical Indian dance competition that raises money for the Birmingham Free Clinic in Pittsburgh. She is also the founder of Women in Law at Pitt, a sister of Alpha Delta Pi, and a dancer on the Pittsburgh team First Class Bhangra.
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