We are moving into winter and, although knowledge that coronavirus vaccines may be coming soon is giving us hope, we continue to be in uncertain times. Even the prospect of living into a post-vaccine new normal fills some people with anxiety. Winter darkness is setting in, affecting our moods. This is the time of year many people are in the habit of taking stock, making resolutions and plans for the new year. That’s hard to do in the face of the unknown.

Keeping a journal can help you move forward with resourcefulness and self-compassion. Your journal can hold details about your situation, thoughts and emotions that may arise from it, and ideas about how to add spark and energy to your life.

In your journal: “right now, my situation is…” [Free write]

Feel how you feel

Especially during the holiday season, we may send ourselves messages about how we “ought to feel.” Irving Berlin’s White Christmas sings in our subconscious “May your days be merry and bright.” If we are not feeling bright and cheery, we may instead feel angry and lonely. It’s a fraught time of year even when things are “normal.” In the vicissitudes of 2020, it’s easy to understand why we may be feeling lots of Big Emotions.

Bring your attention to your breath. Feel the air as it moves past your nostrils. Notice your belly moving in and out. Whenever you’re feeling is survivable. How is your body? Tight? Under pressure? Notice whatever your body is doing. There is no need to change anything. No action needs to be taken. Right now, you are safe and whole.

In your journal: how are you feeling? [Drawing/doodle]

practice radical acceptance

Radical acceptance is a pain-tolerance skill designed to keep pain from becoming suffering. It is one of the skills taught as part of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, founded by Marsha Lenihan. She details 10 steps in the process. More generally, it involves understanding that the situation, though uncomfortable, cannot be easily changed,

Notice what’s going on and understand that it arises from factors outside your control. Practice accepting the situation while practicing relaxation techniques.

In your journal: “things I would do if I resourcefully accepted the way things are…” [List]

treat yourself with compassion

How would you respond to a dear friend who was in this situation? Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding.

In your journal: write a letter of love and understanding to yourself. [Letter writing]

fill your cup

You may be feeling the need for comfort or maybe you need to play. Your journal can help you figure out what would be most life-giving for you.

In your journal: “right now I need…” [Free write] and/or “what would bring me joy is…” [List]

These are difficult times. We may be feeling unsettled disappointment and be anxious about not knowing what’s next. Happily, your journal can be a companion for your journey. Let it hold the thoughts and emotions that may be roiling inside you. May it be a comforter and playmate in the journey ahead.