Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Jewish Journaling to Help with Stress

Jewish Junk Journal for Elul

Journaling to Help with Stress

Stress affects almost everyone at some time in their lives. For some people, it’s more of a problem with their genetics and for some, it’s due to their situation. 

Whatever reason you are stressed, congratulations for recognizing it and wanting to do something about it. Here are some good ways to journal to combat your stress. You'll notice they all involve gratitude in some way. 

Write Daily for 5 to 15 Minutes

The important hing about journaling is you need to do it daily, long term, for it to be effective. It takes a lot of writing and insight to figure out why you’re dealing with your stress and how to overcome it. Choosing gratitude is the key to overcoming stress in our lives. Being grateful for God's help in overcoming my stress is a perfect way to use those 5 - 15 minutes daily.

Write about Your Worries

Go straight to the problem and write about your worries. Describe them from every single angle, the more descriptive, the better. Go back to the first time you felt this feeling regarding this topic so that you can get to the bottom of it, or simply go straight to gratitude. Yes! Thank God for solving all your worries. Write out your thanks to God as if all the worries are already gone.

Describe What’s Happening Now

Put out of your mind what you did, what someone else did, or what can be done. For now, write about precisely what is happening at this point and where you stand with the issue causing your stress. If it's generalized stress, try to make a list of things that might be contributing. And then - you guessed it - thank God for solving the situations for you. Thank God that it's already done.

Document the Worst That Can Happen

As you look at the situation, one thing that often causes stress is the unknown, or the "worst thing" that you think can happen. Describe this worst thing but make it realistic. For example, don’t make up something like an airplane falling on your wedding party. That isn’t realistic. However, bad weather, rude in-laws, and other issues may occur. Look at them and thank God for keeping those things from happening. 

Document the Best That Can Happen

Let’s get serious by thinking about and writing about the very best, realistic outcome of the situation you’re stressing about. Include potential steps and tactics to achieve this best-case scenario so that you can see it to fruition if you so choose. And then thank God for going 'way beyond what you can imagine as the best solution. It's already done.

Document What Is Really Happening

As you are writing, be very careful to be realistic and honest above all else. Besides imagining the best and worst case scenarios, ensure that you are also documenting the reality of what is happening to you right now. That way, you can identify and thank God for the solution to your present reality. You can do it! Write a thank-you note to God for helping you overcome your stress.

Write a Counter-Argument to Yourself 

A really good way to overcome your stress about a situation is to argue with yourself. First, tell your story as a letter to yourself about what is happening. Then write a letter back to yourself in answer, arguing all the negativity and turning it into positivity. If your best friend wrote that, what would you say back?

That's one technique, but my favorite letter is the one written to God, expressing genuine gratitude for taking care of my stressful situation for me. Asking God for help is what we are called to do as Jews. It is what we do in daily, weekly and annual prayers. We can do it by ourselves in our Jewish journaling, too.

It’s surprising that writing in your journal can accomplish so much, but if you go into it with the right intention and attitude, with a goal in mind, you can achieve a tremendous amount of personal growth. 

The important thing is that you need to be honest with yourself to discover the true causes of your stress. In this way, the actions you take to overcome will be effective. 

And if you choose to mix your journaling with a consistent practice of kindness, to yourself as well as to other people, you have a big advantage.

It's not hard to see that kindness seems to be missing in today’s society. People are more connected to their devices than to what is happening around them. They are self-absorbed, and kindness is often not on their mind at all. I know I am challenged that way.

According to Dr John and Julie Gottman – founders of the Gottman Institute, which studies relationships – every successful relationship is supported by kindness. 
John and Julie Gottman (photo courtesy New York Times)
Gottmans claim the most important time you should be kind is during some type of conflict, such as when you are arguing with a partner. And yet, this is the hardest time for most of us to be kind. 

“Kindness is about showing empathy, acceptance and tolerance,” explains Lawrence Stoyanowski, a Vancouver-based therapist. “It’s about being able to scan your partner for things to appreciate rather than criticize.” Stoyanowski follows the principles set out by the Gottman Institute.

Why Kindness

As children and even as adults, we look for kindness from our family and friends. We give and receive kindness every day in some form.

Kindness moves us. We remember past kindnesses done to and by us. Kindness nourishes, heals, strengthens and uplifts us.

Many studies have shown that kindness is not only a good moral value but it is also good for us whenever we are expressing kindness. It benefits our brain, body and emotions in many ways. 

Kindness is a foundation for a meaningful life. 

Here are 6 reasons why kindness is so important: 

1. Kindness makes us happier. When we perform random acts of kindness, we activate areas of pleasure, social connection and trust in our brains.

2. Kindness creates a positive loop in our mind. Kindness makes us happier and happiness makes us kinder. When we are happy, we are more likely to feel generous and kind towards others.

3. Kindness can create social connections and bonding. As humans, we’re pre-programmed to be a part of a group. Being a part of a group, a social connection of some type, enhances our physical performance and boosts mental clarity.

4. Kindness helps with the healing process. When healthcare is delivered with kindness it can hasten the healing process, thereby shortening the time it takes to heal. Kinder care-taking leads to a range of positive outcomes, including reduced pain, lowered blood pressure and less anxiety for the patient and caregivers.

5. Kindness can decrease or help prevent diseases. Kindness lowers our stress and anxiety levels and decreases pain because of the endorphins and feel-good hormones released.

Positive emotions from kindness boost your vagus nerve which regulates blood sugar. This helps the body prevent diabetes, strokes and heart disease.

6. Kindness gives us a boost. Altruism has been shown to stimulate the reward area of our brain. Studies suggest that we get a sort of high when we are being kind.

No matter how inconsequential an act of kindness may seem, it is good for each of us involved. 

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