How to Use a Journal to Feel Better in Hard Times: Journalling Saved Me (Many Times!)

Training Tips

I post on Facebook.

Runners have strava.

We all have Microsoft word (or something similar).

Why would I need to journal?

This might seem like a post that doesn’t make sense to you. Maybe you have heard me talk about journaling before, and thought, “yeah, yeah, suuuurrreee I’ll give that a try….someday….maybe”.

But my friends, if you haven’t tried journaling yet, you are missing out.

Many of you are trying to get over amenorrhea, writing in a journal can help you.

Many of you are struggling with confidence in running, writing in a journal can help you.

Many of you feel down after races, writing in a journal can help you.

Many of you are injured, writing in a journal can work wonders for you!

Today I thought I would give some advice on how and why it will help. I have previously mentioned it in my 12 ways to get over depression during injury article, but I thought I could go into specifics today.

First, you HAVE to find yourself a meaningful journal.

Pleeeeassssee take some time finding one.

Find one with an inspiring quote, something about being on a journey or being brave, as that is what you are. Maybe it has a picture of a strong runner on the front, or a baby. Maybe it is about achieving your dreams and chasing down the impossible. You can also choose a plain one, and decorate it yourself with stickers or where you would like to be in five years.

Go to hobby lobby (aka wonderland), spend a little money on it, make it special to you, and it will make all the difference.

I would recommend a lined journal, but if you like writing freehand, by all means go ahead with the unruled 🙂

Leave the first page blank…well, you don’t have to, but to me, that just feels wrong. If I were to write anything, I would probably write my name and something like “please respect my privacy”, just in case some curious eyes happen to find it!

The Power of a Joy List

On the next page, start a list of joy. A list of alllll the things you enjoy, from the tiniest to the biggest. This will be something you will use often, and start to work your way through during your recovery. Things that will make you enjoy your life, and remember there is more to you than the way you look and the exercise you do. This is also a chance to have some fun with those things you may have been neglecting in recent years for fear they might affect your training or your diet.

Your joy list should be full of things that bring a smile to your face, even thinking about them. Some examples include:

  • Meeting up with a best friend for dinner
  • Eating cake batter ice cream in a waffle cone
  • Singing in the car to Backstreet Boys (oh, that one is just me then?)
  • Getting a pedicure

Use as many pages as you can, and of course, add to it as you think of new things.

The Ultimate Bucket List

This is the next important step to prep yourself. This is the chance to go wild and really let your mind wander as to the stories you would like to share as you sit in a rocking chair aged 85.

What would you like to do In your lifetime? What would you like to accomplish, have, see, experienced?

Make it as bold as you like, and make sure you take some time to think about this. You will definitely add things as time goes on. Don’t remember to add the little trivial things that mean a lot to you.

Some examples from my bucket list:

  • Represent my country in a world championship (CHECK!!!)
  • Eat Chinese food out of a square box (you know, like they used to do in friends! Don’t ask me why, but most of my English friends want to do this at some point haha). For the record, I have NOT yet completed this one…I had Thai food in a box, but I am not allowing that to count as my bucket list specifically says Chinese :p
  • Live by the beach
  • Raise beautiful, happy, healthy children
  • Go to Fiji
  • Run under 2:40 in the marathon (CHECK!)
  • Run the marathon majors

You get the picture.

Gratitude List

The joy and bucket list are one-off lists to be done at the beginning of your journal, and then you will continue to add to them. The gratitude list should be completed every day, or every time you fill out your journal with your thoughts.

After you have left a few pages blank for various extras I mention in the sections below, turn to a fresh page and write the date in the corner of the page.

Now start to write all the things you are grateful for in this very moment.

All the things you are proud of yourself for. All the things you appreciated from that day. All the things that made you smile, even just a little, even if only for a second. They don’t just have to be something that happened that day, but something that popped into your mind, maybe from the past that you were reminded of. Be sure to write it in first person.

The first time you do this will feel a little awkward, and maybe you don’t feel like you do have much to be grateful for on the surface, but they can be teeny tiny things to get yourself started. You will find it easier as you get used to doing it.

This will be things like:

  • The man who held the door open for me today
  • That I have a good relationship with my mum
  • How good the cake was at the bakery this morning
  • When I won most improved in my freshman year of college
  • I am a kind person, who wrote a letter to Sally this morning
  • The funny cat video on Facebook that made me laugh

Keep writing on every line (or as many as you can fit in) until the page is full. Take as long as you need. Make sure you are not just going through the motions and writing:

  • my mum loves me
  • my dad loves me
  • my brother loves me

But really think about it. No one is going to see this but you, so no one will be offended if they don’t make the list for that day…In fact, maybe they should step it up 😛

Once the page is full (go on to a second page if you like), take another read through those. If you have done this right, it should put a FULL smile on your face as you feel grateful for what you have.

I would strongly recommend you use this part for all scenarios below.

Now your journal is ready, let’s go into a few scenarios, and how to write in a journal for them.

How to Use Journaling if you are in Recovery from Amenorrhea

UPDATE: Since writing this article, I have taken EVERYTHING I learned in my journey to get my period back, and wrote a book on the topic, so you have everything I know about amenorrhea in one place. This book is written for runners who have lost their period, but regardless of what sport you do, if you don’t get your period, Overcoming Amenorrhea: Get Your Period Back. Get Your Life Back will help. I cover journalling a lot, and give you a PDF to get you going.

When we think of recovery, we don’t think about using our brains, using our hearts to write down our thoughts. Isn’t recovery meant to be about focusing on the things we can DO to get our body working again. Surely that is physical, isn’t it?

Actually, no.

The mental side of recovery to get your periods back is probably bigger than the physical side, as without dealing with your mental demons, you will NOT be able to recover.

Yep, that’s true.

And IIIFFFF you were the rare person who could, well, it is probably going to come back and bite you at some other point in your life, probably after you have a baby, when you are sleep deprived and frustrated from the screams of a newborn.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather deal with it now.

Either way, the recovery process feels long and hard. We are so used to instant gratification in this world, and here we are trying to GAIN weight when all you see all around is about how to LOSE weight. We are trying to rest, when all anyone else is doing is boasting about how much they are exercising. We are trying to calm our mind, when it seems like everyone else is showing just how many billion trillion things they can fit into 24 hours.

And all of this has to happen while you are dealing with the fact that your body is changing, and becoming “soft”. You have to accept that your runner body, your runner mindset, your entire identity is disappearing before your eyes, leaving you unsure of who you actually are.

It is a scary time, and that is why I offer consultations, because I know how freakin terrifying it can be.

One of the things that helped me the most, was journaling. I think this is especially effective if you are doing this because you are ready to start a family, but it also works just as well if you are fed up of living a period-less life, and you realize that it is NOT healthy to miss periods!!

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I am always this honest, real, raw. If this article speaks to you, I really believe we could be friends and I could help you as you get your health back. Drop your email below, and I will reach out to you

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If you are in the process of recovery, you are following my ultimate guide to getting your periods again, how can you use journaling specifically during amenorrhea recovery? Well, depends on which of the following situations you are in:

How to Journal if You Just Want Your Health Back

This is almost the tougher one to do, although you don’t have the pressure of wanting a baby sitting there on your shoulders, it makes the motivation a little harder to define in those moments of doubt.

First off, you have to think about why you want to get your period back. You know in your heart (and your mind if you are reading this) that your body is not functioning as it should, and if you have had all the tests under the sun like I did, you will be feeling frustrated, because you ARE doing what you can, but it seems no one else cares (I do!!).

Journaling helps in this situation as it helps to remind you of who you ARE, not what you do.

Yes, you may be a runner (and yes, you still are a runner AND an athlete even if you are taking some time off right now). Even the best in the world have to take some time off sometimes, and they don’t become non-runners during those times. For the record, I still consider myself an athlete, and you should too!

So you are a runner, but you are also a PERSON. A beautiful, wonderful, kind, loving, brave person. You wouldn’t be taking this step if you weren’t. You are thoughtful and sweet, you are funny and smart. You are everything you should be, and you need to remember that.

You can always go back to running. I talk about that more in my ultimate amneorrhea recovery post. And remember, you can always start this, get a month in, and say, you know what, this doesn’t matter to me, and go back to your old life. It is NOT forever.

BUT, I am pretty confident you won’t do that, because I know you, you are dedicated, you are committed, and you are tough. You are going to see this as a challenge, and you are kind enough to yourself as a person to take this step, that you are going to beat this challenge, you are going to be the best amenorrhea recovery machine there could be.

After you have finished your joy list, bucket list, and gratitude list, you are ready for the word vomit to come out.

Now move to the other side of the page from your gratitude list for the day, and begin to write. Whatever comes to your mind, DO NOT stop and think, just let the thoughts flow, and your writing should be pretty scruffy as the thoughts are flowing quicker than your hand can move. DO NOT edit, just keep going, whatever comes to your mind.

Part of this is going to depend on you as a person, how you like to journal, and how you are feeling. Once you have done this a few times, you will find it a lot easier.

Make sure you download the PDF for specific instructions, that will help A LOT if you are stuck, but as someone recovering from amenorrhea, you might find it most helpful to start off writing in third person, as if you are giving yourself (or a friend if that is easier to manage) a pep talk.

Mine would often start with something like, “Okay Tina, I know things are tough right now, you are being tested, and it does seem like the world won’t give you a break, this is REALLY hard, but you are tough, you CAN do this!”

Somewhere along the way, you should be able to switch over to first person, almost as if the person you are giving a pep talk to starts to respond, like in one of those films, “YEAH! I am tough! I am strong, you ARE right, I have been through worse than this, and I WILL get through this”

Fill the page (and go on to the next if you would like) with this kind of talk. You should be writing out all those feelings of frustration, and then reminding yourself WHY you are doing this, WHAT you are doing to do it, and HOW you are going to do it. Write out all those fears and doubts, and then respond to yourself.

This will be incredibly helpful for you to read in the future, on tough days, to remind yourself how far you have already come, and you will read little nuggets of wisdom you had from yourself on particuarly good days.

During this time, I would recommend doing your gratitude list and journal it every day, so you can document your journey, and read all those things you are grateful for other than being a runner or being skinny. You are so much more than that, and this will remind you of such.

How to Journal as You Start to Try to Get Pregnant

You have reached the age where you want to start a family. You are pretty much in the same boat I was in February 2017, where you know that you want to be a mum more than you want to be skinny or a runner. You are prepared to do what you need to do to get your periods back or to make them regular enough to actually even allow yourself a chance for it to happen.

Hopefully, if you are in recovery from amenorrhea, you are following my ultimate guide to getting your period back, and I know that a good chunk of you have had consults with me during this time to help with the mental side of changing “who you are”, although really my friends, you are NOT changing who you are, you are allowing that beauty in you to shine through, you are allowing the who you are to actually begin to shine, not the “what you do” take over your limelight.

Journaling can take on a whole new meaning for you, but first, make sure you read the above section for those wanting to get their periods back for health. You need to be thinking about those things too, and I would strongly encourage you to do a few weeks of this type of journaling before you begin this specific journal style as you start trying.

While you are in the early stages of recovery from amenorrhea, meaning the first 4-8 weeks, you should be using the above section. Although having a baby is the ultimate goal, your body needs some time to actually prepare for it, get that 5* baby hotel ready.

While you work through my recovery guide, you need to be putting your mind in the right place to be a healthy, confident woman. If you are going to be a mother to a little girl, you would NOT want her to feel the way you do about your body, right?

But if you can’t do it yourself, look at yourself through a positive light, and feel that you are worthy, you are enough, how is she ever going to do it? Children learn what people do, not what they say.

So build your confidence this way first. Go back up and read the section on getting your health back, and make sure you download the PDF on how to do it right.

One thing I will say, you should NOT start this stage without your period back or signs that it is almost there. You MUST address the issues emotionally, mentally, and physically before you start thinking about this. Otherwise you will know deep down that this is a feeble attempt, because your body is not yet ready.

Once you have started seeing signs of the return of your period, or once you have it back, now you can start this stage. Start thinking about trying for a family.

By now you should be used to journaling, but we are going to use it for a different reason. I would recommend purchasing a different journal this time, one that symbolizes your future child. There are a lot of wonderful ones out there, and maybe it will have some words on there that mean a lot to you, and you hope will mean a lot to your child.

Spend the first few pages writing quotes, things you would like your son or daughter to learn as they grow, how you would like them to view the world. Take your time to find things that summarize your views and the ones that make you feel good.

I like to leave a few other pages blank, just in case you want to go back someday and write them a little note explaining what this was. *Full disclosure* Mine are still blank, I am still writing in this journal, so will write the note to her before I give it to her.

Now, on a fresh page, start to write to them.

Literally, write as if they can hear you right now, as if they are already in your belly, or on the way there. I liked to think of my little love as on a train on the way to her 5* hotel. if you prefer, you can make them on a private jet if you want them to live the more glamorous life 😛

What would you say to him/her? Give them a nickname. As you see above, mine was little love. That way I was not making it unrealistic by expecting a boy or girl, but just someone I knew I was going to love very much. Tell them what you are doing to make sure you can meet them. You can tell them that what you are doing is difficult, but you know it will be worth it when they arrive.

I would tell them about what you are building for them, how you are making them a nice comfy pillow to lie on or a fancy hotel room for them to rest and grow well.

Make it as real and as detailed as you can, really talk to them. Reassure them that even though it might take a while to meet them, you are doing what you can to be there, and you will be ready for them as soon as they arrive.

I found this so helpful to bringing it home while I was in the process of amenorrhea recovery, reinforcing my “why”. It gives you the outcome you would like, but without placing the pressure of a timeline for how your journey is going to unfold. Becoming a mother to them is going to be the greatest thing you will ever do, and like the old proverb says, “anything worth having, is worth fighting for”, so you are fighting, and you will continue to fight for them, as you already love them.

If you feel comfortable, ask others to do the same. I asked my husband to write in it and both grandmothers. All of this made it feel more real to me. Once I knew she was growing inside me, it felt like I already knew her a little, and she knew how happy I was for her to be there.

Write in it as often as you like, but especially during the hard times. You don’t have to give it to them when they are older, but if that helps you, then by all means remind yourself of that. I dream of someday my daughter reading mine when she is old enough to truly underhand how hard of a journey motherhood can be.

I have had many of my consulting clients do this, and this by far is the method they find the most helpful for the patient wait to becoming a mother. Hope you find it helps you as much!

This is the only time I would say the gratitude list is not required, especially if you do plan to give it to your future child, but if you find it helps you get in the right mindset, by all means, go ahead 🙂

How to Journal When You are Injured

This was where journaling first came into my life, and where I truly learned the power of it. I would firstly recommend you go back and read my post on 12 ways to deal with injury depression, making sure you download the PDF explaining exactly HOW to write in your journal. That PDF was made for injured runners, so will be more helpful than for any of the other scenarios above.

Okay, so first off, being injured isn’t fun. Trust me I know. I have been there many times, and it is absolutely heartbreaking, frustrating, and just makes you feel like crap. Literally like you are grieving someone passing.

Once you have had your initial time to get angry or sad, this is the ideal time to start your journaling and use it to learn to accept and process the injury during your recovery.

I absolutely LOVE reading through my previous journals from when I was injured. I find it amazing to see the transformation that occurs in your mind as you go from feeling sorry for yourself to being more determined than ever to come back stronger, knowing that YOU did it, not a sports psych, not a motivating speaker, but YOU turned your attitude around.

As with before, start with a Joy List and Bucket list in the first few pages of your journal, and then leave a few pages blank. Find some quotes that speak to you right now. I always found this one most helpful for me:

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”― Mary Anne Radmacher

LOVE that!

Don’t fill it up, you might find other quotes along the recovery journey that really help, add them in there later.

Open to a fresh page, and begin with your gratitude list. All the things that ARE right for you in the world. Sure, you are injured right now, and that SUCKS, but you are not JUST a runner, it doesn’t mean that without it you are nothing, you are SO much more than that, and you WILL bounce back from this. So think hard about those things you are happy about or proud of yourself for.

Once the page is complete, move to the other side (or next page), and start to write.

Now think about how you are feeling in general. Write whatever comes into your head. About how much it sucks, how unfair, how you work so hard, go ahead, throw yourself the pity party in the first part of the journal entry. Get that frustration out, then allow your inner cheerleader to come through and give you a pep talk, imagine yourself as one of those coaches in the football films who give these inspirational pep talks to the team who has no real chance of winning (yet somehow does). What would you say to that doom and gloom person in you?

You will quickly notice that your mindset changes, you start to think in a way that allows you to takeover the writing from third person, telling yourself, to first person, as if you were those football players yelling, “YEAH! I CAN DO THIS, I AM TOUGH, NO SETBACK CAN BEAT ME”. I would always end with what I was going to do when I had my comeback race. How strong and mentally tough I was going to feel when I had the opportunity to race again, knowing what I had been through to get there.

While you are in this process, it is important you remember:

DO NOT think, DO NOT edit, DO NOT slow down for anything, just GO.

Your inner dialogue may look completely different to what I mentioned above, that is just a starting point for if you have never done if before, but once you have started to write daily (or as much as you need), you will find your own style, your own way of thinking about this. I found mine would change depending on what had happened that day, and that is okay!

Once you have finished as much writing as you feel you need (or your hand is cramping!), read through the gratitude list one more time, then close the book.

Continue writing in this as much as you need until you are fit enough and confident enough to go for a race. Before you do, read through those journal entries, remind yourself of what you have fought through, how you could have given up, but you didn’t. You are stronger, tougher, and more determined than ever, and you are going to make the most of the opportunity to enjoy racing when all you wanted to do was exactly that for all that time you were injured.

Think we could be friends?

I am always this honest, real, raw. If this article speaks to you, I really believe we could be friends and I could help you with what you are working through. Drop your email below, and I will reach out to you

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Journaling can be especially powerful during those down moments in life, and that is what I have focused on today, but it can also help a lot in good moments too, to keep your feet on the ground and remind yourself of how lucky you are to be doing this.

I hope you find journaling as helpful as I do, and again, I recommend downloading the PDF for more detailed instructions on how.

You got this, my friend.

Be Brave. Be Strong. Be You!

 

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1 Comment.

  • What a coincidence, I’ve just posted about making a joy list! Some things are are simple as lighting a candle before bed, or fresh laundry out of the warm dryer. 😀

    https://www.instagram.com/p/Ba4GhMKhnif/?taken-by=thefitty

    And you make a very important points about not censoring thoughts–raw, true ones are the best! I write enough blog posts and essays already that require proofreading and editing and selecting my words carefully. This is totally different.

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