Coping through journaling. This month we’re covering the topic of “Life After Therapy.” What can you do to ensure you use effective coping skills? How do you stay positive when life suddenly throws a new obstacle at you? Will you revert back to negative coping or will you remember your tool kit in your time of need? We know, this is a lot to wonder. And for some of you, may even start to poke at your anxiety. But that’s why we’re continually here to support you. Whether you are recently (or not so recently) out of therapy or you know the end of your sessions is approaching, these tips can help you reinforce the great progress you’ve been making!
Coping Through Journaling
We began to cover journaling last week. And I’ll say it again, coping through journaling is such a wonderful tool. Why do you ask? Because you can make your journal whatever you need it to be. Maybe one day you need it as a diary to get out all of your thoughts. Perhaps the next you use it as an adult coloring book when you need a distraction.
This week, I want to discuss the use of coping through journaling and the skills of tracking and accountability. There are a number of in/out-patient therapy programs that use diary cards as a means of accountability. They tend to cover a few specific questions for patients to complete daily. These include questions such as:
- Are you taking your prescribed medication?
- Have you used non-prescribed drugs or alcohol?
- How much sleep are you getting?
- What’s a task you’d like to accomplish before your next session?
- How are you going to practice self-care?
And that’s where the PLEASE skills come in. The PLEASE skills are often taught in Dialectical and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy programs. These specific skills cover your basic needs as a human. And yes, we know the acronym doesn’t really make sense.
Treat Physical Illness
We have to make our physical well-being a priority. And that’s not just when we are dealing with high levels of anxiety. Make sure you are taking any prescribed medication. And when the time comes, make sure to also get your routine check-ups. When we are feeling our best, you’re much less likely to have an emotional downward spiral.
It’s really easy to eat in today’s fast-food world. But just because you’re eating food doesn’t mean you’re nourishing your body. Make sure to eat in a more balanced way. This is in-regards-to the size of your meals. Not to mention the variety of your meals as well. Channel your inner Goldilocks and find a balance of fruits, vegetables, and portion sizing that works for you. Avoid the foods that trigger specific negative emotions. As again, this makes you less likely to feel the feelings of shame and guilt when eating.
Avoid Mood Altering Drugs
As a culture, we often tend to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. We think we are in control of this behavior. And oftentimes don’t stop to wonder if this behavior is negatively affecting our mental health, more than helping it. Do your best to avoid these mood-altering drugs, especially in the first few months after you stop therapy. This will not only help you keep a clear head. But also help you stay in emotional control.
Many of us like to boast about how little sleep we get, while still getting all of our daily tasks done. Yet this is a contest that needs to stop. We definitely undervalue the importance of and need for sleep in today’s culture. Getting enough sleep is crucial to our well-being. It’s during sleep that our body goes through an intense amount of recovery. This is when our muscles repair themselves, sickness is fought, and our body can reset for the next day. Again, you’ll have to channel your inner Goldilocks to figure out how much sleep you actually need. Most adults need anywhere between 7-9 hours. So, take notes of the days you feel your best. And try to make a habit of getting that much sleep every night!
Tracking and Accountability
How do we combine the use of the PLEASE skills and coping through journaling? By turning parts of a journal into a PLEASE skill tracking page. One of the most common ways to track is by using either a weekly or monthly tracking template. Give yourself a checkmark each day you accomplish the PLEASE Skills (and any other skill you’d like to track). By having physical accountability, you’ll be more inclined to do the skills to get those checkmarks. Plus, the physical representation can help your brain find patterns and triggers you may not have ordinarily noticed.
I love this set of skills because this is something you can do years and years after your last therapy session. And oftentimes it helps you create positive habits! Currently, my bullet journal tracking looks something like this:
- Hours of sleep per night
- Daily Vitamins
- Three servings of veggies
With each of these, I give myself a colored box if I completed that task for the day. It’s also a nice reminder in case I do forget to take my medication. This method keeps me accountable and helps to keep my cycle of wellness in check!
For some of you, this method may be a bit intense. For the perfectionists out there, coping through journaling may not be a skill you’re ready for just yet. As I have seen patients start to spiral when they miss a checkmark. I want to remind you right here and now that you are only human. And the fact you want to employ this set of skills already speaks to your commitment to your mental health. I hope you can release the self-judgment. And let those feelings of guilt stumble out of your brain as easily as they came in.
If you’re uncertain if this method is for you, talk to your therapist and employ their expertise!
Call Us for Support
Another option is calling us. We know this may be a hard decision to make. But again, we want to say that there is no shame in needing a bit of extra support. Cristina Panaccione and Associates Counseling has two locations in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients. So check out our videos to learn more about how we can help come out of therapy.
* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.
Chelsea Foster LPC has a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development and Family Studies and a minor in Psychology from The Pennsylvania State University. She also has a Masters of Education in School Counseling as well as a Sports Counseling Certificate from the California University of Pennsylvania. Chelsea is also a National Certified Counselor and a Licensed Professional Counselor. She believes that when the proper therapeutic relationship is established, individuals will gain knowledge and trust in themselves to be able to solve problems now and in the future. It is her goal to help you feel supported and empowered to make choices and changes that align with your authentic self. Every single one of us, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation, is unique and deserving of unconditional positive regard and respect. It will be her role to provide a safe, trusting, and therapeutic environment for that change to occur.