This feels different.

Sure, we’ve been through natural disasters like blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. Yet even with the uncertainty of man against nature, we somehow felt prepared. Our building codes, impact windows, shutters, standby generators, batteries, canned goods, along with the accuracy of our meteorologists, gave us the feeling of a fighting chance.

This one, not so much.

No wonder we’re so stressed. Normally, we’re in command of our own homes and lives, and for the first time, we feel… powerless. We find ourselves stuck in inertia: afraid to turn off and tune out the global news feed.  Feeling our heart rate elevated and our bodies transfixed with fear.

I found myself feeling the same way a few days ago until I realized I completely stopped doing the very thing that has helped me through the most traumatic and difficult times in my life: journaling.

Why Journaling Works

Journaling is such a powerful tool to release the percolating, repetitive thoughts on your mind unto paper without editing your words. Think about it: if you are asked by your Mom, your boss, and your best friend how your weekend was, you will have a different response for each of them. Whereas when you’re writing, you get to say all of it: profanity-laced and all. I have found journaling to be the most cathartic experience of all my mindfulness practices.

So here are a few tools you can use to mentally escape the confines of your home.

Conduct a Detailed Assessment of Your Current Feelings (do this once)

This will be the only tool that requires extensive and exhaustive writing. However, it is necessary to unload all your pent-up tension in order to set a baseline for improvements to come and to benefit from the positive effects of the remaining four tools. To get started, write about your situation currently.

• What’s causing you stress? And why?
• What’s keeping up at night?
• Do you feel supported my family? Work?
• What are the unknowns that you worry about?
• How do you feel when you watch the news?
• Most importantly, how do you want to feel after writing this?

Be mindful that this exercise can often involve unexpected emotional releases, but it is imperative to acknowledge what is happening, the effects on your well-being, and how you plan to make it better in order to improve.

Recall that Song that Warms Your Soul (do this anytime you’re feeling overwhelmed)

Now that you’ve addressed your reality, it is time to escape. Close your eyes and think of that go-to song that every time you hear it on the radio, whether driving or at home, it instantly makes you want to sing and puts the biggest smile on your face. Hear the instruments, feel the rhythm, appreciate the vocalist singing. Embrace all the sensations that come from thinking about your song. Then write the lyrics to your favorite verse or line from the song. By putting it in writing, you’ll be referring to that song all day, which in turn, will instantly lift your spirits and change your energy.

Watch a Favorite Movie from Your Formative Years (do this as needed)

Find a B-movie you truly loved so much as a teenager and watch it again through the eyes of an adult. Observe and note lines in the script you’ve never noticed before that have a profoundly different interpretation now that you’re older. Recognize that. Write about a moment that stands out to you. Look at how much technology has evolved. Laugh at the fashion. But end with writing a memory of what that movie represented to you at that point in your life. Embrace those amazing memories.

Say, then Inscribe Your Daily Mantra (every morning upon waking)

Before starting your day, say this mantra 3 times, then write it in your journal.

I enter today with positivity. I enter today with purpose. I enter today with curiosity. I enter today with love.

Then write this mantra in your journal to imprint these spoken words to your mind. This helps to set a light and confident tone to your day.

Fantasize about Your First Major Trip after the Quarantine is Lifted (once a week with updates)

Daydream and write about your ideal trip once this pandemic end.

• Where will you go?
• Who will you invite?
• What will you do?
• What memories do you want to make?

Be very graphic and specific. Think about the views, smells, sounds and moments you will experience. When this is over, you will have put into perspective your newfound priorities and a calibration of the people and the things that matter in your life.

Keep writing. Write to keep the peace. Write to keep your peace.

Take care of ourselves first. Then, each other.