The Art & Science of Writing to Heal During Times of Uncertainty
These last couple of months of COVID-19 has brought out the worst of us and the best of us. As we continue to adjust to the changes happening in our state, there are a lot of opinions we’ll hear from the news on TV, the thoughts we read on social media, stories we hear from friends, and conversations we have within our own household with family members.
As you experience your life continually unfolding with the events of COVID-19, there is a lot of chaos. Amongst the noise, I urge you to find time to check in with yourself to see how you are doing; to reflect on how you are feeling; to be mindful of how your inner thoughts are influencing your everyday experiences.
I, myself, have had a few major breakthroughs during this time because of the challenges I have been experiencing. The tools I utilize to support how I navigate through times of uncertainties have really helped me to get refocused, get grounded, and get real with myself. This writing strategy is an amalgamation of practices from teachers and coaches I have studied with, along with my own experimentation. Writing can help you tune in and encourage you to write down inner-most thoughts you otherwise would not have space to express. A brain imaging study by UCLA psychologists revealed that expressing feelings, in verbal or written words, reduces activity in the amygdala, the brain’s emotional center, and engages the thinking brain. This brain pattern can make sadness, anger, and pain less intense. Expressive writing like the exercise described below is linked to psychological benefits, such as improved mood, greater well-being, lower stress levels, and fewer depressive symptoms. Lower blood pressure, improved lung and liver functioning and decreased time spent in the hospital are among the physical benefits. I hope the following writing exercise can empower you:
1) Start with a journal.
Writing is, by nature, an opportunity for creativity and personal expression. By using your own hands to hold a pen and write on paper, you are activating and stimulating various vital areas of your brain, which is supportive of cognitive health.
2) Carve out 30-minutes every day at the same time to write.
Consistently carve out 30-minutes every morning before your day starts OR evening time before you head to bed to simply write down whatever comes to mind, whatever your body is experiencing. The more you consistently do this daily, the stronger the neural pathways involved with this behavior become. This may mean taking the attention away from the habit of reaching for your phone, checking e-mails, or turning on the TV, creating a calmer environment to allow yourself to immerse in self-care through writing.
3) Here is a breakdown of the 30-minute writing exercise:
a) 15-minutes: Check-in with yourself.
What is on your mind? What are you feeling? What emotions have you been holding onto? What events are creating these emotions?
Start by writing down your stream of thoughts. And take the time to reflect what has been showing up in your life. By labeling your emotions from a situation you are going through, or by labeling the emotions you are experiencing now, you are allowing yourself to hold space to acknowledge it. As you write, notice how your breath feels, how your body feels when you are engaging with the emotion.
b) 2-minutes: List the top 3-5 priorities in your life.
From career to physical health, to emotional health, to financial health to family, to hobbies, to children, to education, etc. Determining your focus areas to help you to check in with where you would like to invest your time and energy daily.
c) 5-minutes: Write a vision story
If you are writing in the morning, write a story of how you envision your day to fall into place incorporating the top 3-5 priorities you listed. If you are writing in the evening, write a story of how you envision your next day will look like. Write it in the present tense, as if it’s already happening or it has happened. By doing this, you are stimulating the important areas of the brain such as your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex to successfully act on what you have visualized ahead of time.
d) 2-minutes: Write a purpose story
After you write your vision of how your day will go, this is the time to write a purpose for why all the events you are engaging with throughout the day are important to you. This helps you become emotionally invested in the activities that happen in your day, and you become more grounded by being intentional with your actions.
e) 6-minutes: Write your action steps down for the day to manifest your vision story.
Check your calendar, and schedule your highest priority tasks. This helps you establish goal-oriented tasks. For your left brain, which is a big fan of following instructions, you will start to process thoughts of how you will see through to succession. As for your right brain, it will shunt other possible temptations so that you can complete your tasks.
4) Be prepared for changes to happen as you go through your day.
We cannot control everything, so it is important to be forgiving. Use what you have written down as an outline for how you want to manifest your day, your week, or even month! When you get thrown off course of unexpected events, this is where you get to stay grounded and check-in with yourself.
1-Day Life Plan Retreat | Saturday, June 27, 9 AM - 5 PM
COVID-19 may have thrown you off course. Do you feel like you need a mental-emotional reset? Join wellness practitioner, Dr. Lynn, for a powerful 1-day life plan retreat. The purpose of this retreat is to focus on creating the foundation of your life--- establishing your vision, purpose, and actions to confidently navigate through the 2nd half of 2020 and into 2021.
Interspersed with somatic practices of yoga, breathwork, and meditation, Dr. Lynn will also present the brain science behind the life plan process, as taught by her coach, Dr. Robert Melillo, clinician, professor, brain researcher, and founder of Brain Balance Centers. And she will guide you through the process of writing out your life plan for the next 12-months.
This retreat is a perfect balance of science and magic. This is an event you don’t want to miss! Register today and reserve your spot! The investment for this retreat is $60 per person, $75 for couples or family/friend pairs. To register, text “RETREAT” at 720-667-3560 with your full name and e-mail address. This is a direct line to Dr. Lynn, and she will work with you to set you (and your family/friend) up for the retreat.
Dr. Lynn Tran McDonald is a neurologically based chiropractor, yoga and meditation teacher. She is an adjunct faculty at Metro State University. She runs a private practice with her husband in Wheat Ridge called Wild & Precious Optimal Living offering brain-based chiropractic services to increase resilience and healthy living. Follow Dr. Lynn on Facebook & Instagram for more health tips.