How to Use Your Journal to Deal With Holiday Stress

by Jacki Andre November 20, 2018

How to Use Your Journal to Deal With Holiday Stress

Whoo hoo!! Tis the season, cool cats! Dust off your Johnny Mathis CDs, set your menorah or kinara in its special place, and start defrosting that turkey (or that vegan “turkey” roast).

I adore the holiday season. Believe it or not, I do love winter, with its crisp air, bright sun, and sparkly snow. Setting up my Christmas tree is one of my favorite things to do. It’s a tradition that’s very much rooted in my childhood. The tree still goes up AFTER my birthday (December 18) and it’s still always a real tree. Both traditions were started by my papa. I decorate that tree with vintage and gifted ornaments. As I unwrap each piece from its tissue paper nest, it feels like rediscovering old friends. And, while I’m decorating, I hang up stockings for Santa Paws to fill for my doggos.

I’m also thankful for the social festivities. Most of the time. Yes, even I, Queen of the Introverts. I appreciate the push the season gives me, to get out of the house and spend time with people I love.

You know it: there will be a lot to enjoy in the coming weeks. But I’m not immune to the stresses of the season either. Finding the perfect gifts; finding money for the perfect gifts. Missing my parents, who have both passed on, and navigating the new Christmas traditions that we’ve created in their absence. Acknowledging that there are some things I just do not have time for. (Hello farmer’s market! I’m here to “do” my holiday baking.) Setting limits to those social festivities that I profess to be thankful for. No, really, I am thankful for them. I’m also thankful when it’s time to go home so that I can recharge my introverted patootie.

Starting this year, I’ll be doing something else to recharge too: journaling. If you’ve read my past blogs, you’ll know that for a few years, I only kept a gratitude journal and an intentions journal (instead of a vision board). But then I started blogging for Sohospark. I discovered the Bullet Journal® (Bujo) concept and rediscovered the joy of keeping a writing journal. Both types of journals can be amazing tools for dealing with holiday stresses.

Journal Away Holiday Stress

Mari L. McCarthy has written several electronic workbooks and journal challenges that focus on therapeutic journaling. Her website has a terrific piece that looks at using a lined journal to help manage holiday stress. These are her tips:

  • Journaling has been proven to relieve stress. Just the act of writing in a lined journal or personal diary brings relief. And, hey, if writing isn’t your cup of tea, working in an art journal can bring the same benefits. Having a safe space to vent is a lot like talking to a therapist, and it’s a place to release our worries and fears.
  • Acknowledging and expressing gratitude increases joy. Remember that gratitude isn’t always about big (or expensive) things. Did you smile while watching a child make a snow angel or build a snowman? Did your dish for the potluck at work turn out perfectly? Did you find a parking spot two slots over from the mall doors? Release a small thought of gratefulness in the moment and note these things later in your writing journal.
  • Journaling is a way to record special holiday moments, giving you something to smile about as you flip back through your writing journal.
  • You can increase mindfulness by journaling. And mindfulness has a whack of proven benefits including (you guessed it) reducing stress, decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression, and increasing happiness. A lot of mindfulness is based in letting go of judgment, particularly judgment of yourself. Your kids’ Elf on the Shelf has a bad migraine and isn’t able to get up to new shenanigans tonight? It’s okay. He’ll feel better in the morning - and so will you.
  • Journaling is a form of self-care. Taking a few moments for yourself - without guilt or feeling rushed - is an important way to recharge. If you’re not sure what to write about during those moments, there are lots of sites with holiday-specific journaling prompts, like this one over at WriteShop.
  • This one’s from me: use your journal to reframe your narrative. Your stories are yours; you can tell them any way you like. Rather than focus on the negative, switch your story around to a positive light. There really is a silver lining in most clouds.

Journaling, the Holidays, and Grief

Whether you lost a loved one recently or years ago, it can be difficult to navigate the holiday season without them. The first Christmas after my mom died, we created a bunch of new traditions so that her absence wouldn’t feel so stark. But even now, more than a decade later, she is still very much missed.

Journaling can help you deal with grief during the holidays. Mari L. McCarthy has helpful advice on this as well, this time over at Journal for You! Mari suggests:

  • Gather mementos from past holidays that you shared with your loved one. Things like cards, photographs, and copies of holiday recipes could be pasted into your journal.
  • Set aside some time with your lined journal to recall holiday stories about your loved one.
  • Use your journal as a safe place to vent and express your grief.
  • Jot down ideas about how to incorporate your loved one into your holiday traditions. One thing I do, for instance, is to buy a tree ornament for each of parents each year. Maybe you will want to include your own loved one’s favorite dish into the holiday meal, even if it doesn’t quite fit. (Pizza? Corn dogs? Why on earth not?!) Or maybe your loved one enjoyed playing a certain board game that can become part of your holiday traditions.

Organize that Holiday Chaos - With a Bullet Journal

If your holiday stress is of the “too much to do, too little time” variety, a Bujo might be just what Rudolph ordered.

Bujos were developed as organizational tools to increase productivity. And, that’s exactly what we need when we’re struggling to wrap all the presents AND decorate all the cookies AND still find time to take all our doggos to the local pet store for photos with Santa. Amirite?

A Bujo can be used to track all kinds of holiday-related things. Kat at Zen of Planning suggests tracking:

  • To-do lists, sorted into the Bujo-esque categories of monthly, weekly, and daily
  • Budget trackers
  • Gift lists
  • Holiday card list
  • Holiday menus and grocery shopping lists
  • Decorating to-do list
  • Holiday bucket lists (such as random acts of kindness, reverse advent calendars, holiday movies to watch, loved ones to visit, treats to eat, etc.)

Do you have any additional advice about using a journal to help with holiday stress? If so, I’d love to hear your tips. Drop me a comment below.

Photo by Dasha Doroshenkova on Unsplash

Jacki Andre
Jacki Andre

Jacki Andre has been journaling for over 30 years and still has her jam-packed Judy Blume Diary to prove it. Somewhere along the way, she started writing for reals, and is now a published author and Huffington Post blogger. In her spare time, Jacki supports dog rescue, advocates for disability rights, and educates other drivers via hand gestures about the importance of using turn signals. She keeps in shape by chasing joy (and her ‘80s teen idols) in earnest.


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