This article has been crafted and contributed by journal and writing coach, Joanna Paterson.
Work can make you feel engaged, connected, stretched and motivated. It can make you feel good to be part of a team, and satisfied when you see the difference your work makes. Work can help you to develop and become more of the person you know you really are.
And of course work can do the opposite.
It can make you feel dis-engaged, disconnected, squashed rather than stretched, and utterly irrevocably demotivated. You can feel isolated and alone, poisoned by the toxicity of dis-satisfaction, with your sense of self-esteem and well-being going down the plug-hole as you feel yourself becoming less and less of the person you know you really are.
And to make it worse: figuring out what to do about a bad work situation can be really hard when you’re stuck in the middle of it.
Journal writing is one simple thing you can do to steal back a little bit of thinking time and breathing space, to help you take stock, and to feel a bit more like ‘yourself’ when you’re in a situation that makes you feel anything but.
Here are 4 things you could try:
Make It Snappy
If you’re already feeling time-stressed don’t try and write for ages each day. Why not go for a 10 minute sprint at some point during the day when you have it, and then write for as fast as you can, and let whatever comes out, come out. It can be enough. (Even 5 minutes is enough.)
Just One Thing
Experiment with looking for small things that help to shift perspective or offer a chink of light. Keep a note of just one thing a day that you liked about work. Try a focus for a day or a week: for example, just one thing of kindness, just one thing that made you laugh.
Truth Tell, Playfully
You need to allow yourself to write about some of the things that are frustrating you or making you feel bad as well as some of the glimmers of hope – otherwise your journal won’t ring true, and you won’t stick with writing in it.
That doesn’t mean you can’t get creative though with how you tell the problem to yourself.
What would a situation look like if told as a fairy story (okay, perhaps of the gothic horror variety).
What if it was as nonsensical as something from children’s literature? (Seeing work situations as something out of Alice in Wonderland helped keep me sane in one very stressful work set-up).
Writing in poetry is another way to gain distance and perspective. Poem writing of this sort doesn’t need to be any ‘good’, it just needs to help you shift perspective and enjoy the feeling of creativity and playfulness you get from the activity.
Here’s an example of a short poem I wrote about taking the notes of meetings at work. It reminds me of the feeling of boredom and frustration I used to get – but also reminds me that *I* still had a voice and identity beyond that demanded by my job.
THE MINUTE TAKER
Unlikely: a record of what was decided.
She was tired of it, couldn’t
remember why they were meeting any more.
The ritual of a meeting
no-one could understand.
Going round in circles,
talking in a room, the air stuffy and warm.
The conversation meeting was dragging on.
No windows in this tiny.
She looked at the clock.
Another thirty minutes.
Notice What you Notice
Take stock every so often of what’s emerging in your journal. Are there particular ideas or themes appearing – and if so what you can learn from them? What kind of phrases or words do you notice – and what does that tell you? Which kind of journal exercise do you find most helpful in terms of shifting perspective and feeling more like yourself again? How can you find the time and space to do more of it, or stick with and develop the habit?
Those are just a few ideas to get you started. Tina has definitely got me thinking about this topic though and I think I might need to generate a few more articles on resources on how to write for well-being at work. What would you add to this list? Have you ever used writing and journaling as a way to keep yourself well at work?
Joanna Paterson is a journal coach and writer who explores ways to use writing, photography, poetry and journaling to change things, for good. You can find more of her work at The Art of Everyday Wonder.