There are a lot of self help books that I’ve spent a long time laughing at.
I had always understood the intention behind the reading and using of the genre and the concept of self care, but the books I had come across didn’t add anything new to my existing understanding of how to help myself take care of myself, which was why I turned to those materials in the first place.
My main problem was that a lot of these materials seemed to be assuming that I was coming from the same place as a lot of these authors themselves. It felt like the genre was full of middle aged, middle class American people writing for other middle aged, middle class American people. Some of the advice given would be things like scheduling more time for your kids so that you could be, ultimately, living a happier life.
I felt like it was a waste of time for me, someone who is in probably none of those categories. I felt barely human on most days and didn't need another new place to feel isolated and unhelpful.
On the other hand, a lot of things I came across online that were more tailored to people seeking a non self help book type of self help felt like they were written for people who hadn’t yet pursued therapy as an option yet. I worked my way through a chunk of material while I was about a year and a half into regular therapy, reading about how therapy was going to be good for me while I was already in it.
What was the point? Self help material was always only ever going to be as good as my searches, and I didn’t know what to search past step 1: consider therapy. So I left it for a while, took a breather, and thought about how else I could approach the situation.
I eventually decided to revisit the same things that I had laughed at before with a different set of eyes. I was desperate for advice. If I could be critical with fiction and nonfiction alike, I could be critical with this.
I reread Robin Sharma’s Life Lessons from the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari (having completely thrown it aside after about 3 life lessons previously) and only picked out what I thought was useful. I wrote a list about it. I skimmed the parts that I didn’t think I needed (and I won't link the book because the parts I didn't resonate with took up the majority of the book).
Of the whole book, the best thing that I got from this 2018 Bad Santa gift was the concept of scheduling worry breaks.
So what’s a worry break? The thinking behind it was basically that if you could spend a certain amount of time per day worrying, you wouldn’t worry for the rest of the day. But who cares about what Robin Sharma is telling me, a POC millennial living on the other side of the planet? What I eventually ended up with was a separate journal just for worrying. And it’s changed my life in a grassroots up kind of way.
I’m a highly strung person who is anxious pretty much all of the time. I worry a lot of my day away. I can’t go outside sometimes because I am too worried or straight up paranoid something is going to happen, or I will do something wrong. Using a worry journal has surprisingly curbed a lot of this.
I also regular journal, but since starting a worry specific journal I have realised that I spent a lot of my past journalling time… worrying. It took up time that I could have otherwise been self reflecting and doing other actual self help work. It’s made my journals a lot more useful. It's lessened the amount of time I spend obsessing over the same thought over and over.
I carry my worry journal most days. I will worry journal at work, if I can’t get something out of my head to concentrate. I will worry journal first thing in the morning sometimes, just so I can step out the door. Sometimes it’s just one line to remind me that I have protocols in place in my brain if things go wrong, or that I can always leave an event if I’m not having a good time. Sometimes it’s multiple pages of the same worry. Sometimes it’s pages and pages of lots of different things.
I have recently come across Medium articles (this one in particular) that also mention scheduling time in your routine to be sad on purpose. The general idea behind both of these seem to be purging emotion on purpose - not to ignore and bottle up, or write down and then ignore. Physically writing down the words makes some kind of different thing happen to your brain (I could google an explanation, but I'm also sure you could do that) which means you consider the emotions in a different way to if you were to note it on your phone.
Turns out when my uncle told me to start writing a journal when I was 9, he was onto something. What a strange and winding road this has been.
My emotions are exhausting. Writing them down to make them physical manifestations and then putting the now tangible thoughts away has been really, really good for me. Since starting this habit of worry journalling I have also started some new meds, which has helped even more with my anxious and repetitive thoughts. Habits are still frustratingly hard for me so I tend to do things on an adhoc basis, and neither forms of my journalling are an except to that. Adapt things for your own doing!
Let me know how you go,