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Stroke Smart Magazine

March/April 2008

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The Power of Journal Therapy

By Christy Bailey

An investment of five minutes, a few times per week, can help you heal, change and grow. That’s how powerful journal writing can be, according to Kathleen Adams, LPC and founder of the Center for Journal Therapy in Denver, Colo.

Adams defines journal therapy as the purposeful use of reflective writing to improve mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.

Journal writing can be especially helpful for caregivers, who are constantly busy meeting someone else’s needs. “We can’t give from an empty cup,” says Adams. By taking some time to release and explore emotions, caregivers can begin to heal from the stroke a step that often is neglected because the focus is on the survivor.

The first step is to choose a computer or pen and paper for your journal. The next step is to write. For some people, morning is the best time. Others prefer to write at night.

Start with a basic “check-in” of how you are feeling and what is going on. Then take time to explore concerns that pop up in your writing.

In the beginning, write in five-minute blocks, two to three times per week. Over time, try to build up to 15 to 20 minutes.

Give yourself permission to be completely honest about your feelings. You can’t deal with any anger, resentment or guilt until you are aware that you feel them. “Writing in my journal allowed me to express emotions without fear of criticism,” says Lori Cavallo, caregiver of her stroke survivor mom. “Once I stopped carrying around my emotions, I became a more patient, giving and loving caregiver.” “When what is coming up in your writing is more distressing than resolving, it’s time to talk things through with someone,” says Adams. That may mean a support group or a professional counselor or even a good friend.

You can also use writing to provide balance. Note beauty, humor or wisdom that you observe during the day. Write about a colorful sunset or how funny it was when the dog tried to take on the vacuum cleaner. This can help you see beyond your day-to-day situation.

“There’s no right or wrong way to do this,” says Adams. With just a notebook and a pen, you can begin to mend from the stroke that changed your life, too.



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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

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