Your Mental Health Toolbox: Journaling As Self-Care

A mental health diagnosis carries with it both distress and blessings.

Distress emanates from the depression, stigma, the delicate balance of medication, therapy and building a positive support system.  Blessings come from learning passionate self-care and finding expressive outlets for the sometimes overwhelming emotions and triggers.

Enter journaling.  Journaling can take many forms:  Old school on paper, digitally in journaling programs such as Penzu, a password protected journaling app ( or Day One, an app for your mobile device ( or art journaling, which combines text, color and a multitude of available mediums for self-expression.

Art by Paulissa Kipp

Journaling can increase one’s mental health awareness and recovery by providing a safe place to hold thoughts and emotions without fear of the reactions of others.

It can also help in those moments when there are things that need to be said but you are unable to find the words to clearly express things.  My first exposure to journaling was through a human relations class.  The professor required us to keep 2 journals throughout the quarter:  an emotions journal and a gratitude journal.  The purpose of the emotions journal was to allow a safe place to capture intense emotion – anger, sadness, fear, etc and simply free write.  No editing, no self-censoring, curse if you like, but release.  The process allowed me to read through entries, identify thought patterns that were holding me back or to identify triggering events.  The gratitude journal is a place to write about “What’s Right With Me”.  It takes no effort to come up with the things that annoy us in our lives.  The journey within to find what is going well – even just “I am here” – requires a healing, loving introspection.  I keep both of these journals in a Google document so that they are password protected and are only for me.

Art journaling is another tool that can be carried in your mental health recovery toolbox.  Art journaling opens the door to YOU.   My foray into art journaling began 3 years ago when I had back to back medical crises that each took 18 months to diagnose and resulted in emergency surgeries to remove my reproductive system.  I bought a sketchbook, paints and pens and began splashing down my frustration at being passed around through 6 doctors, trying to find the correct phone number for the correct department and the feeling of betrayal by my body.  That 1st piece is titled “Can You Hear Me Now?”

Art by Paulissa Kipp

The magic of journaling is tapping into the subconscious and bringing it into the light.

Over time, I have learned to allow the pages speak on their own:  inspired by the color or a mental image, a phrase or a line, the composition builds itself.  Recently, I have discovered zentangling.  Zentangling is a form of creative meditation in which the creator is not concerned about the final image.  My most recent piece is a reflection of my thoughts about my mom’s passing and is titled “Willow Weep For Me“. For more information regarding zentangling, pop on over to

Creativity can be a lifeline to our mental health recovery.

How are you positively expressing yourself?

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11 Responses to Your Mental Health Toolbox: Journaling As Self-Care

  1. judy says:

    I journaled for a long time. Did all forms – straight up writing, drawing, etc. It was definitely one of the most effective tools in my self-care toolbox. I referred to it as a mental/emotional trash can (especially when my mind was racing). It also served as a means for reflection. Then it was stolen, completely misunderstood, flung outward for all to see and misjudged.

    Needless to say, it is no longer a healing pursuit.

  2. I’m sorry to hear of your experience with having your journaling exploited. Have you considered doing it again but in a password protected fashion using scribbler and some of the resources used above?

  3. judy says:

    It was password protected – apparently it was not too effective.

    But it was just my fluke experience. In no way am I posting this to deter anyone else from journaling. It is effective and helped keep me even for a long time. Unfortunately, when something like this happens, it simply isn’t the same tool.

    Sad, because I think you really need everything in your arsenal to cope – whether you have a mental illness or not.

  4. Awwwww so sorry, Judy. Yes we do need everything we can find to cope.

  5. judy says:

    Thank you, Paulissa. It was pretty awful.

    The funny thing is I really don’t remember what’s in it, but I do know people suddenly started treating me differently. I hope it never happens to anyone else. Nothing is worse than being characterized as something that you are not, and being subjected to a shitload of ignorance. Especially when you’re having med problems.

    Anyway, I noticed you are fairly new. Looking forward to reading your future posts.

  6. Courageously living with a mental health diagnosis is tough, the stigma can be tougher. Keep being a BraveHeart, Judy. I am new here and am excited to share. Thank you for taking the time to comment and share your experiences. I wish you peace.

  7. I took the time to read a number of your posts. You write very well. You asked in one of your posts how to tell people that you have a mental illness. I began with telling my inner circle. The words I used were “I have a chemical imbalance in my brain. That imbalance causes me to behave and respond to stimuli in intense ways. These are some of the things you may notice ______________. I am seeking treatment and would appreciate your support as I go through this process. You can help me by ________________.” Hope this helps.

  8. nicky says:

    i cant bring myself to write things down.. i tried several times, i even just tried to scrapbook and project life.. and fail miserably every time. I feel silly writing these things down or maybe it makes them more “real”.. love your zentangles!!! absolutely amazing, mine always looked like a 2yrs old drew them so i gave up on that.

  9. jerusha says:

    This is a great article, thanks for sharing.

  10. Gesagt, getan; sie machten sich die Arbeit.

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