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Jackie Joens - Strengthening relationships one conversation at a time.
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Journaling for Health and History

A friend of mine, Janet Powell, teaches classes on journaling.  She recently sent me an email with some helpful ideas for journaling while social distancing and isolating.  

If you think about it, someday our children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren may learn a lot about this moment in time from our journaling efforts.  This is a tragic part of life which we are living real time.  We maybe the voice for future generations to understand what this time is like.  Maybe passing on some valuable lessons in some way.

This suggestion brought to my mind The Diary of Anne Frank.  That little diary written by a young girl helped educate so many about the horrors of the Holocaust and what it was like to live in hiding.  Although this time is different in so many ways, we have yet to understand what impact a pandemic may have on our lives.  By keeping a journal, we can sort through our feelings, help our own mental health and at the same time, make a record of what seems to be our new normal for now.  We, much like Anne, can sort through the trials of this social distancing time and keep record of current life.  Be safe and take care!  Jackie

 

The following is from Janet…

 I haven’t journaled for a long time and last night decided to begin a coronavirus journal. Will be interesting to look back on this time.

Some things to journal about:

  • conversations you’re hearing or having
  • things on the news nationally, internationally, locally
  • how it’s affecting work/school/hobbies
  • where you’re going or not going
  • what safety practices are you observing
  • things you’re buying/not buying (lists)
  • concerns about family and friends
  • feelings: good, bad, ugly…how is this all impacting your sense of wellbeing
  • what are your prayers/hopes/dreams
  • how you’re spending your time
  • 3 (or more) things you’re grateful – even in a time of such challenges
  • businesses that are closing that you frequent – what are you doing
  • any other cancellations that have an impact on you or your loved ones
  • how is all of this social distancing impacting your social life

 

Entries don’t have to be long. Try bullet lists or one sentence entries to record your day. 

 If you don’t have a notebook, penzu.com is my favorite online journal.

In no way am I saying to simmer in negativity or worries, but data exists that writing down your thoughts and expressing yourself is healthy. Let’s get through this with more love for one another.

 Seize the J!

 

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The 4 P’s Of Stress Management

Sometimes our emotions feel like a powerful force within us…like a tsunami of emotions that blow over us, engulfing us in what feels like uncontrollable power.  I believe that our emotions are a way that God communicates with us.  But, because of our past experiences in life we may interpret our emotions in an inaccurate way.  In other words, our life experiences get in the way of what God is trying to tell us with our emotions.

All of God’s creatures have been gifted with a wonderful gift in a survival instinct called, The Fight or Flight Instinct.  (Some people add “freeze” to this instinct.) This has been a wonderful instinct used to keep different species alive since the beginning of time whenever there is a life-threatening situation.  We humans, however, are the only one of His creatures where this instinct kicks in when we feel threatened emotionally.

If you begin to understand your emotions and follow God’s advice of experiencing your emotions without letting your behaviors turn to sin, then you can begin to interpret your emotional experiences in a more healthy way.  If you can identify the emotion and process through what you are feeling then you can CHOOSE an action to that emotion rather than having a REACTION to what you are feeling.

To do this…I have come up with The 4 P’s plan of action to help deal with emotions….

  • Pace – Often your emotions are bound up in a lot of adrenaline and energy. You need to burn this off and re-engage the language center in the brain (which shuts down with stress/anxiety).  So Pace – burn off some of that energy and use that adrenaline.  While you are doing this, breathe deeply and slowly into your diaphragm.  It is physically impossible for you to “flee” or “fight” if you are breathing slowly.  Then you are actually tricking your brain to relax and it  re-engages  your language center.
  • Pray – Now that you have re-engaged your language center by disengaging the part of your brain in charge of Fight or Flight, you can use your words/language to pray. You now have the ability to speak and listen with words and ask for God’s guidance and direction in what you are to supposed to learn from the emotions that you are feeling.
  • Process – After prayer, you can now begin to process what you are feeling. What emotions are you experiencing?  Do your feelings have to do with current situations or is there an element to your past that is clouding your ability to understand these feelings in the present?  What do you think you may be trying to protect yourself from in this situation?  In which ways do you feel God nudging you to choose an action instead of reacting?
  • Proceed – When you feel that you have a clearer picture of what your feelings are and what they are trying to tell you, you are now in a position to proceed. You need to choose an ACTION not have a REACTION to your feelings.  What will you choose to do as a result of the feelings that you are experiencing in this situation?   (You may make a decision on an action within a few minutes, a few hours, a few days or it may take longer.   Give yourself the time needed to make a choice.

The 4 P’s will help you learn to manage difficult or stressful feelings.  If you are having difficulty in figuring out what your feelings are trying to tell you, then you may want to seek out some good counsel from a professional.  Their objective position may provide a clearer perspective that will help you choose an action rather than reacting to your feelings.

 

So…how do you handle your difficult feelings?

  1. Which feelings do you turn loose? What are your triggers?  What are you afraid of?
  2. What feelings do you deny or stuff away? Why aren’t they important?  Why aren’t they worthy of your time and attention?  When you deny your feelings do you ever experience a time in the future when they seem to bubble up and out from nowhere and spill out on the people around you?
  3. Or do you… bring your emotions to God? Do you talk to God about what you are feeling?  Do you ask him what to do with these feelings?  Are you honest with him AND yourself?

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Tips To Help Manage the Extra Stress/Anxiety of COVID-19

  1. The first step in dealing with the stress we are all experiencing is to accept that it is real and that it is happening.  When we live in denial, we are constantly surprised by the realities as they present themselves.  Acceptance allows us to move on.  Denial keeps us stuck.  Identify what you do and do not have control over and plan accordingly.  Do what you can and let go of the rest through prayer, meditation, journaling, etc.  That is all we can do.
  1. Create a new ‘normal’ structure for your day.  We are creatures of habit. When these habits are interrupted we can become stressed.  Be intentional and deliberate on scheduling out your activities.  If you feel like you are living with purpose, you will experience less stress.  Choose the activities and be deliberate in working through the hours of your day and night.
  1. Make an appointment with a mental health professional – processing through the stress these days bring.  Everyone will be a little different in how they process things and what they are experiencing.  Grief, loss, anxiety, depression, anger, irritation, insomnia, etc. can all be experienced alone or in combination. Here is a list of mental health professionals offering telehealth options in Iowa: https://feelgoodiowa.com
  1. Practice mindfulness with prayer/meditation – by exercising the letting go of cares and worries and being present in the moment, we give our brains a chance to rest and rejuvenate/heal.  Get out your Bible, read the Psalms.  Download the Bible on Audible and listen to your favorite chapter.  There are some free podcasts and apps that provide guided Centering Prayer or mindfulness exercises.  Look them up and practice these regularly.  This practice will help you focus on what Philippians 4:8 teaches us, “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things”.
  1. Take a walk – with social distancing in mind, take a walk.  I saw a group of five people just yesterday walking in a group down the street in a formation of three in front and two in back.  They were all 6 feet apart.  They were able to get some exercise, talk to each other and yet were still honoring the social distancing.  We are starting to have some pretty nice weather for this time of year.  Take advantage of it.  It will help with your physical and emotional health.  (It is also very good for spiritual health.)
  1. Practice the 4-P’s of Stress Management. (See article on this blog)
  1. Update your music library. Sort through your songs and create playlists that inspire, calm or energize you.  Music can create a mood  or set an atmosphere – choose wisely.
  1. Stay away from drama on t.v. or in literature.  Even limit how much news you are taking in.  Try to focus on more hopeful messages or shows.  It has been shown that if you read the news rather than listening to it, you can control the emotional impact it may have on you in a more productive way.  Turn it off!  Take in a good message.  Proverbs 23:7 – “As someone thinks within himself, so he is.”
  1. Call people who may be social distancing all alone.  There are many single people and elderly people in care centers that are all alone.  Call them.  Send regular emails or texts.  Check in on them and stay connected.  In this day of technology you can use Skype or FaceTime as well as other social media options to connect with those who may be alone.  Some families have used these platforms to play board games with each other, read to each other, plan the post-coronavirus celebration.  Use your imagination and get to connecting as best you can.
  1. Learn something new.  With online videos, there is no end to things you can learn to do.  Find something…drawing, singing, knitting, woodworking, playing an instrument that is sitting in the corner, sewing medical masks, calligraphy, painting, yoga, foreign language, etc.  The possibilities are endless.  My middle school aged niece is teaching herself how to bake.  I imagine she’ll be on the next baking championship show when this is all over!
  1. Start journaling.  Did you read the Diary of Anne Frank when you were in school?  If not, read it first and then start journaling.  We are living through history being made right now.  What is going on?  How are you coping?  What keeps you busy all day?  These are the things that may be treasured in 100 years.  Keep track of the seemingly mundane things of each day.  You may be writing a living history book for your grandchildren.  Here are some suggestions for journaling from a friend of mine.  (See Journaling For Health and History post.)
  1. Start a social media gathering place for your family, friends or neighbors.  Keep each other informed about what is going on locally.  Try to share positive messages and do not lament about the current state of affairs.  We are all in this together.  No one needs reminding.
  1. The CDC has a great list of suggestions for parents with kids.  Check it out.  https://www.cdc.gov/childrenindisasters/helping-children-cope.html

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