The Power of Journaling During Breast Cancer Treatment
By The EC Team September 12, 2019
Did you know that journaling during breast cancer treatment can improve your physical and mental health? Research has found that journaling calms anxiety, relieves depression, combats stress and offers surprisingly powerful benefits to those undergoing medical treatment.
The general positive effects of journaling are undeniably beneficial, but they can be even more impactful when practiced during a personal health crisis. One medical study found “significant” positive effects of keeping a journal during breast cancer treatment.
Benefits of Journaling During Breast Cancer Treatment
“Journaling is one way patients can care for themselves,” says Crystal McCown, a social work counselor fellow at the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas. “There’s no wrong way to journal. Research shows that taking as little as 20 minutes a month for 3 months to write will produce long-lasting benefits to your physical and emotional health.”
Keep reading to discover more health benefits of journaling during breast cancer treatment. Then learn about the different ways you, or someone you love, can keep a journal during this life-altering experience.
1. Journal writing can reduce symptoms.
Writing about the treatment experience has been shown to alleviate common symptoms in some patients. According to the nonprofit Breastcancer.org, benefits can include increased energy, improved sleeping routine and a reduction in the distress caused by a cancer diagnosis. Other studies have even found that journaling can increase a patient’s feelings of overall well-being.
2. Journal writing can magnify gratitude!
Journaling helps patients express gratitude for the supportive doctors, nurses, family & friends helping along the journey. Experts at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center say that patients can use a journal to remember and feel thankful for all people who help guide the patient through an overwhelming experience. Patients can also record every small triumph, happy experience or inspiring moment during treatment through daily gratitude journaling.
3. Journal writing can reduce doctor visits.
Research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that patients who write about their emotions and experiences during treatment actually need fewer doctor visits and medical appointments. Journals help patients record changes, symptoms, emotions and other factors that affect the recovery process. Tracking these details in a journal can also help healthcare professionals monitor a patient’s progress.
4. Journal writing can bring stress relief.
Writing about anxieties during breast cancer treatment can help a patient cope with the side effects of stress during the experience. According to research published in Health Psychology, during treatment, stress produces physical symptoms that can slow the healing process. Journaling releases the patient’s emotions and stressful thoughts, rather than bottling them up inside.
5. Journaling writing can establish healing goals.
Counselors in the Cancer Wellness program at Piedmont Healthcare suggest writing down goals during cancer treatment & recovery. Recorded in a journal, these goals help patients stay motivated & in control. Goals can be an active part of the healing process. If a patient can identify realistic goals for treatment & recovery, these milestones can guide them along the journey. Journaling can help the patient identify the steps they need to take to achieve health goals during treatment.
Different Ways of Keeping a Journal During Breast Cancer Treatment
Once a patient decides to add journaling to their cancer treatment program, the next step is choosing the kind of writing that works best for them.
Professionals recommend that patients try one of the following types of journaling during the cancer treatment journey.
A Gratitude Journal
The patient can choose a special notebook to record all the things they are thankful for in day-to-day life. They should be as consistent as possible, writing at the same time every day. This kind of journaling changes one’s outlook on life. Once a patient establishes this daily practice, they can recognize & appreciate positive parts of their life, even during the worst of days.
A Stream-of-Consciousness Journal
With this strategy, the patient records all of the thoughts, feelings and ideas that they’re experiencing at the moment they open the journal. No editing or structure necessary for stream-of-consciousness journaling. The patient only needs to observe their thoughts and surroundings, creating a handwritten “snapshot” of that moment amid their daily thoughts and activities.
A Prompted Journal
In contrast to the stream of consciousness model, some patients try different kinds of writing prompts to keep them motivated and focused during treatment. Health care professionals have developed a number of inspiring prompts to fill a journaling session. Prompts like “What gives me hope?” or “When was a time in my life I felt really powerful and strong?” can help patients shape a positive mindset and vision for the future.
Journaling doesn’t have to be restricted to writing. The art journal style focuses on creating and collecting drawings, doodles, stickers and photographs. With this kind of journal, the patient can focus on expressing thoughts and emotions through visual tools. Even simple colored scribbles can express the patient’s thoughts and feelings in a powerful way.
Journals can also be short and sweet! With the single-line style of journaling, the patient can simply write a one-liner about what happened or what they felt that day. You may be surprised by how one, solitary, reflective sentence can have beneficial effects during treatment.