Violeta M. Bagia
Can writing help mental health?
Mental health has recently become a widespread topic of discussion. In workplaces the importance of employee’s mental wellbeing is brought front and centre to encourage staff to openly talk about challenges they might be facing at work or their personal lives. Wellbeing leave, mental health days and more are now being offered around the country for the first time really focusing on the person and their feelings and so we have seen a shift in the mental health space encouraging people to delve into avenues that might help. From painting, to dance classes and everything in between, getting creative has benefits on our mental state.
So, can writing help our mental health? Using writing as a tool for coping with mental strain can be cathartic in the sense that we’re using it as an avenue to express emotions we might not otherwise speak about. Using this tool can allow individuals to explore their feelings in a safe, private haven. Not only does it give us a chance to put our innermost thoughts into a vault for safekeeping, processing, and acceptance, but it also allows us to work on our inner creativity.
While we certainly can’t replace seeking a professional’s help when needed, we can absolutely work on expressing our feelings in a journal or in cases like my own, exploring characters in worlds we build in novels.
In 2006 when my life was irrevocably changed by a sexual assault that resulted in a suicide attempt months later, I found myself at a loss for how to really express the deep thoughts within me. My psychiatrist at the time recommended a journal. She knew that prior to the assault I wanted to be an author, after the event, I gave up on my dreams. She refused to let me give up completely, so I started small. Little more than a few words here and then until finally I started putting together more substantial writing. I never discussed my attack with anyone other than the therapist and it would take years for me to put pen to paper about it. But the writing I did do was therapeutic. I was able to express my turmoil through poetry, my angst through prose and finally, my passion for writing was reignited.
While for me it was to cope with trauma, for others it can be to cope with anxiety, stress or just a way to unwind from a busy day at the office. Writing can be a tool to deeper dive into what makes us tick and learn to understand why we feel the way we do. It’s a great way to enhance self-awareness, making us aware of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, which can be an important first step in making positive changes.
But it is important to be sensitive and understanding of the struggles that you may have when diving into writing topics that may be triggering or difficult to unpack. For me, while cathartic to explore the events of my final year of high school often times it can be a slippery slope down a path of distress. To combat those moment, I have safeguards in place when I can identify when these emotions are becoming too much and when I need to pull back, set the work aside and confide in someone I can trust about the feelings.
This can promote mindfulness but once again tapping into that self-awareness piece, understanding what it is that’s triggering and how to then pull back to focus on the present moment and cultivate a sense of peace.
Do you need help getting started on your writing journey? Get in touch now and see how we can work together to bring your story to life.