Journaling ideas to help with your mental health

 I've been on a quest for the last few hours for things to write about in my mental health blog. I didn't want to set up a blog as a mental health professional, I wanted to know what I should write about in a personal blog so I could have something to talk about on the days when I don't feel like I have anything to talk about. Some days journaling is easy for me. I sit down, I talk about the thoughts that have been circling or things I've been having to shoo away because they're trying to drag me down into rumination. Other days I just don't have anything to write about and if I don't have a purpose, sitting down to stare at a blank page seems rather pointless. So, to Google!

Unfortunately finding decent prompts for mental health was a little challenging. I'm not a spiritual or religious person, per se. I don't want to write down prayers or inspirational quotes that I may or may not be feeling. I'm bad at coming up with "things". Writing three things that bring me joy when I'm not feeling anything is like a small slice of hell. Gratitudes just confuse me. Self affirmations seem stupid and corny. So what the hell do I write about?

Here's some of the prompts I cherry picked from other websites. I'll include their links in case you want to see all the prompts. Maybe something there will speak to you in a way they didn't speak to me.

Live Bold and Bloom actually had a lot of really good prompts to consider and a passage underneath about how you could write or what things might crop up. They're good suggestions. I'll probably be using a few of these myself to get thoughts out on a page.

I cherry picked these prompts from NAMI KDK for prompts I thought I might actually use.

    • Discuss 5 things you wish others knew about you.
    • What self-care strategies have you used in the past? Rate them from 1-10, 10 being the most effective and helpful, 1 being the least.
    • What advice would you give to someone going through a hard time?
    I don't know if they're the best or the only ones I need considering I didn't cherry pick anything, but this has an extensive list of things that at least made me pause while reading it. Maybe when I'm in a better mindset I would find these more helpful. The Thought Catalogue

    Ness Labs has an interesting selection of prompts that I found. I might come back to some of them later for future blog entries. I also found some nice prompts on The Shine App that look promising. I'm going to use one of those prompts for my entry that will follow the rest of the links and prompts.

    PsychCentral has some prompts broken down by section for different life areas you can focus in. Work, personal, etc. It's not an exhaustive list, but considering how difficult it was to find the right prompts in the first place, I plan on keeping the link handy. On the same lines, has another list of prompts divided up into life categories.

    I tried to read through the prompts on Our Mindful Life but between the ads interspersed in the text and the graphics they dropped in that were oversized for the page, I couldn't get through it. Your mileage may vary.

    Lifehack had a few good prompts I would use so I'm going to link things here for future reference. And these are some really good prompts about combating depression which I found useful.

    Now my prompt for the day that I have chosen.

    How do you shift your mindset if it isn't working for you?

    This is something I have always struggled with. It's so hard to fight off those thoughts and feelings my brain tells me are facts. With the daily stresses of work and trying to keep up with the housework and make sure we're fed and then having to find the energy to do something fun to relax and unwind is just a challenge. And it's usually when I can't get into those relaxation periods that I start feeling restless and bored. I will tell myself I can do without sleep and I'll be fine, but that's always wrong. I drink copious amounts of caffeine the next day to stay alert and awake. Then by the time I get fed and can do something fun (i.e. gaming for me), I don't have the energy to do it. So I go to bed. And that's where I start thinking too much.

    My mind likes to remind me of all the things that have happened to me in the past that I still haven't worked through and brought myself closure. It likes to remind me of awkward things I have done that people might still be affected by. It tells me that the people in my life that I have come to depend upon and rely on are going to abandon me. It reminds me of how lonely I was as a child. As a teen. As a young adult. As a middle aged adult. Then it tells me I wouldn't be lonely if I wasn't so flaky. And down the slide we go.

    Something I've been researching is how to flip those thoughts. My girlfriend gave me the words "prove it" when it starts in on that shit. Oh, she's going to leave me? Okay, brain. Prove it. And it tries to throw out instances where I've had doubt. And from there, I challenge it. "She said that's not true." Or "Is that really what was said, or just what I feel?" Thoughts are not feelings. My brain seems to forget that fact and needs periodic reminders. Eventually it gets bored with arguing with me and then fucks off somewhere to do who knows what. My brain is sometimes a separate entity from me when it starts this crap. It's my brain, but it's doing its own thing.

    And all this shit is exhausting. I get so tired of telling my brain these things day in and day out. But you know something? It's gotten easier. Now when those thoughts crop up, I tell it no and it fucks off. I don't have to argue and fight and remind my brain of its burden of proof. It's been almost three solid months of repeating this shit every time my brain tries to sink my battleship multiple times a day. Now I have brief moments when it crops up and it's much easier to tame.

    That doesn't mean it's always easy, however. I have to go right back into that fight when things get rough. When I have something that disappoints me or makes me sad, it sees a golden opportunity and slinks in with those same thoughts again. Most recently it was something in a job application that started my mind reeling and I had to draw that fucker back in again before it went out into the sea of loathing and drug me with it like a heavy anchor.

    I have been fighting mental health issues since I was 8 years old. That was when I first felt depressed. There was no reason for me to feel that way. I just did. I didn't want to be around the other kids or the kids I considered my friends. I didn't want to be in class. I didn't want to go home, either. I sat quietly and waited for the day to pass. I would go home and half ass my homework. Repeat day in and day out for literal months before the fog cleared and I could function again. Eight years old. And now 34 years later I'm sitting here writing journal entries about my mental health and the ways things have affected me.

    One of the best things I've ever done is go into the partial hospitalization program at the psych ward. Six days a week, five hours a day. Intensive group therapy. I learned so much about how to control my thought processes and to disengage from the emotions and while it's still hard to do, I finally have that knowledge that I didn't have before that made me fall and wallow. I may very well end up there again. But I know I am in good hands if I do.

    When all those things don't work for me, I rely on my safety net. I talk to my girlfriend. My husband. My sister. My friend I feel comfortable talking to about all my shit. I make an appointment with my counselor and talk with her. We come up with strategies to help me cope. We come up with things that maybe I haven't tried before. We work together to get me back on track again.

    And if I still can't shake it? There's always Dublin Springs. I have a last ditch safety network there I can lean into and feel confident they'll help me drag myself out. I hope I never have to come up with anything underneath the psych ward because that would be really rough. 

    I am better equipped to handle my mind and I'm better for it. It's just a matter of practice and time.


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