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  • Writer's pictureSurviving Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer and Journaling

Journaling can be a powerful tool to process one’s thoughts and emotions. You may choose to write just for yourself whereby you can work through your thoughts privately. Or you might want to use a journal to jot down ideas that you may wish to expound upon with a therapist. Then again you might want craft a story, take down notes at a doctor's visit, or compose a poem or song, as part of a legacy.


There is no one "right" way to journal. On some days you might have more time and inclination to write several pages, and other days it may be as simple as jotting down a note to show what you are grateful for that day.

Based on our recent Survivingbreastcancer.org social media poll, 31% of our online social media community is already journaling. Some journal daily, some weekly, and some journal only when they need it. Many turn to journaling for release, to ease stress, to recognize gratitude, and to work through tough feelings.

Research (see below) shows that there can be long term positive effects to journaling. At Survivingbreastcancer.org we urge all to think about capturing thoughts and emotions in a way that just may contribute to yours, and others, better emotional and physiological health.

 

A Space For Expressive Writing with Thomas September 27th | 6:00 - 7:30 PM EST A wellness writing workshop for those looking to recover clarity amidst uncertainty, experience community, and reduce stress through self-expression. Join Us.


Poetry can be a form of journaling. Get inspired by some of our community's poems and submit your own! Read More.


 







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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. Journaling can help you sleep better, reduce fatigue and help you adjust psychologically to a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

  • Look for the positive: Journaling can help you identify positive situations or events that have unfolded due to your cancer diagnosis. You may have been reunited with a loved one, received an outpouring of support from friends, co-workers and family, or been able to warn others about dangerous lifestyle habits. Documenting these areas in writing may help you explore and appreciate them more.

  • Look for what you can control: Journaling can also help you map out and decide what things you can and do have control over and how you can use that knowledge in your life.

  • Find peace in your relationships: Journaling privately can even help with your day-to-day social interactions. Disclosing your deepest feelings in writing might prepare you to have a difficult conversation with a loved one, or it might allow you to simply enjoy your time together without worrying about nagging negative thoughts. Read More.


While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of how journaling improves mood, there have been few formal studies on its benefits for people diagnosed with cancer. One small 2002 study, conducted at the University of Kansas, followed 60 women with early-stage breast cancer who had just completed their treatment. The women were divided into 3 writing groups:

  • One group was asked to write their deepest thoughts and feelings about breast cancer, including hopes of recovery and fears of dying.

  • The second was to focus on the positive things that had happened during the breast cancer experience.

  • The third group was to simply report the facts about their treatment.

After 3 months, the first two groups, who wrote about their emotions, reported one-third fewer symptoms and medical appointments than the group whose writing was limited to the facts. Results of this study depended on how the women were coping before they started writing:

  • The women who tended to avoid thinking about having breast cancer improved more from focusing their writing on the positive thoughts and feelings that had arisen during their experience and had significantly fewer doctor visits for cancer-related issues.

  • The women who expressed the full range of their thoughts and feelings about having breast cancer reported significantly fewer negative physical symptoms and had significantly fewer doctor visits for cancer-related issues

Although this study showed encouraging results, more studies will need to be done to determine which types of patients will benefit the most from emotional expression in writing. Read More.


"Many people report that even during times when they couldn’t seem to get “unstuck” from a feeling or problem by writing about it, the act of simply externalizing it and dumping it off in the journal was helpful. It can also be beneficial to look back at your process and progress along this cancer experience—to see the strides you’ve made in regaining some of your physical strength and in reclaiming your sense of purpose through looking at those old journals. It can give you a sense of pride to see where you started out at diagnosis and where you’ve come to post-treatment. Life is always a work in progress, but being able to examine your growth through a difficult time in your life is empowering." Read More.


"Writing about your cancer experience from the earliest stages of your diagnosis will enable you to retrace your steps and reconnect with the emotions you went through. You will be able to look back on your journey and remember how you were able to cope and keep moving forward. Seeing the progress you have made through difficult and frightening times can be inspiring and motivating."

"Only you can know if journaling is a positive outlet for you. If writing causes you more upset than relief or is causing you to feel overwhelmed, perhaps take a break and find another activity that brings you comfort during this challenging time. Writing can be an important and helpful tool in your healing, but it is not the only method of support. An oncology social worker can help find other ways to cope for anyone affected by cancer." Read More.

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