Volunteering during Covid-19 is for sure different than expected. Projects are developing in other directions than planned, volunteers work is needed in changing areas and living in a foreign country one might get very lonely.
Still, we make experiences that are valuable. We grow, we change and we develop our characters and personalities. What we do not notice, is the emotional process, because we are literally forced to go with the flow of our feelings and thoughts.
Journaling can help to capture those feelings and thoughts. If you are thinking that I am suggesting to buy a stereotypical diary and to write every detail down that happened since the moment you woke up this morning, you are probably misunderstanding me. Journals mostly aren’t there to write down the chronicle of your life, but can support you to track your goals, your behaviors, your thoughts, fears or can simply be a place to store everything, that you don’t want to keep in your head, but cannot get rid of. The correct individual use of a journal can even improve your mental well-being and therefore your life-quality.
First of all, I need to say that this is no professional psychological advice. In case you have serious mental health problems you should get professional help. But if you get overwhelmed by your own feelings or feel alone while volunteering during Covid-19 like I do sometimes, journaling could be a nice hobby to pass time in lockdown.
According to the WHO one of the leading reasons for illness and disability in adolescence health is depression. Experiencing the time of physical, social and emotional developments and changes, adolescent people are more likely to have a vulnerable mental health than adults or kids. Since our experiences during adolescence influence our behaviors as adults, mental health should never be neglected or ignored. Media, social expectations and living circumstances as well as gender norms influence our mental well-being extremely. If those factors influence us negatively, our life quality could lower immensely, especially in stressful situations. After several lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have lost loved ones, jobs or simply cannot deal with the strict restrictions and isolation anymore. Drawing, writing or designing pages of a journal could help to focus on small, but good things in hard times. It could help to organize the spaghetti-knot of feelings inside you, that seems to be inextricable. Also, your memory and concentration skills can be affected positively by journaling, since this way of processing and encountering your thoughts and feelings leads to more “space” in your head and clears your mind.
On Apps like Instagram, TikTok or Twitter videos, memes and jokes about anxiety are spread widely. They are funny, entertaining. Many young people can relate to those jokes and see them as a way to cope with their fears by seeing the humor in it. Living in a wealthy society, many young people that have anxiety attacks or depression see some kind of “irony” in their situation: they have so many possibilities to find their perfect, unique way to be happy. There are thousands of people on this planet that dream of their life situation and yet, many adolescents can’t focus on the good things in their lives. One way to cope with this “irony” is humor - but in a moderate way.
A big access of knowledge and a wide range of possibilities can be very overwhelming. The pressure to make the best choices in life and to be the best as possible seem to be in the focus of society. Many young people feel forced to full fill these standards with their life choices. The only thing they shouldn’t lose out of their focus: Being actually happy with one’s individual life choices.
Reaching goals is awesome and very important but should not be forced and therefore get unhealthy. Regarding volunteering, getting a job or choosing a subject to study, goals should be set mindfully and be reached step by step. Even when it comes to making hard decisions it can be a decision to not make a decision for now. Take your time, organize your thoughts and arguments in a journal until you feel comfortable to make a decision.
The shift of perspective and putting your thoughts and feelings in a narrated position may help to develop yourself. Still, you should be aware that journaling and writing are very individual and personal things to do. You should listen to yourself, whether it could help you or not. Never force yourself to write about things. Always reflect and balance your thoughts and feelings, before and after you write them down. Did it help you? Did it help to enhance your self-awareness?
The Center for Journal Therapy offers a guideline for beginners, that don’t know how to start or what to start with:
W – What do you want to write about? Feelings? Thoughts? Events?
R – Review and reflect. Focus and start with something simple like “In this moment…”, “I feel…” etc.
I - Investigate your feelings and thoughts. Center yourself and re-center every time you lost track.
T – Time yourself. Write for 5-15 minutes. Set a timer if needed.
E – Exit. Stop, re-read and reflect what you just wrote. Maybe you even want to write one or two sentences about what you just wrote? “As I read this, I notice…”
In case you read my little article and still think “Wow, what would I need this for?", maybe journaling isn't the right thing for you to do. But that is great, too! For all those who have a hard time dealing with overwhelming thoughts, writing it down, drawing or making collages maybe could be a way for you to deal with it. Especially, if you love to be creative, journaling could be a way to relief some negative feelings or thoughts and help to clear your mind. Thereby a lot of energy could be saved that you should rather use to enjoy your volunteering experiences.