Q. Is there ever a time when it isn't good to write or keep a journal? I sometimes wonder if I feel more upset after I write about being diagnosed with cancer and what I'm feeling.

A.

“Words are a lens to focus one’s mind.” – Ayn Rand

Writing can help us to decrease our stress level by helping us to process our feelings and clarify our thoughts. Journaling about your anxieties and fears without incorporating thoughts, hopes and goals can sometimes cause increased stress. It is important to take time to write about the things which bring happiness to you, too.

It may be that you need to start slowly with your journaling. Perhaps simply write for five minutes a day, not necessarily about your cancer but whatever thoughts are in your mind. You can journal about a childhood memory, reflect about a family member, or write down the last time something made you smile or laugh out loud. Select an object in your home and describe it using all of your senses. Many people find that they begin journaling by simply taking pen to paper and writing one thing each day that they are grateful for. As you become more comfortable with writing, you can slowly expand your efforts to explore how you are feeling about your diagnosis and the many emotions that come hand in hand with a cancer diagnosis.

There is no “right” or “wrong” way to journal. Writing is whatever you decide it will be – a story, a poem, random thoughts or words, memories, hopes and fears. Hopefully it will provide an outlet for your feelings and, in time, will decrease your stress level. Only you can know if journaling is a positive outlet for you. If writing causes you more upset than happiness or is causing you to feel overwhelmed, perhaps take a break and find another activity which brings you comfort during this challenging time. It is important to remember that if you are experiencing feelings of depression to seek help from a professional. Writing may be an important and helpful tool in your healing but is not the only method of support.