The Art of Journaling

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve had a journal. I even remember my first one. It was baby pink with a puffy cover and came with a tiny lock and key which I promptly lost. At six or seven I wasn’t much of a writer but I still felt the power of having an outlet. Writing in my journal allowed me to give shape to the thoughts and emotions I was experiencing, and gave me a safe way of exploring my imagination and working out my problems.

Over the years I’ve continued to journal and with some exceptions it’s a practice I’ve kept up consistently. Out of all of my self-care activities I have found journaling to be the most helpful. Keep in mind I do not use this as a diary, or a record of my daily routine (although you’re certainly more than welcome to do so). I use more of a free-writing style; I jot down things that I’m feeling or experiencing, or something I want to remember. Sometimes it’s just whatever pops into my mind.

Sometimes waves of thought rage furiously through my head, one after the other, at a pace so roiling and intense that I’ve felt too overwhelmed to choose the right words, or felt that I couldn’t keep up enough to write anything down. Even then putting down something, anything, can act as a form of release. My entries then become bullet lists to organize the sea of my mind, each bullet a complete thought or feeling, without self-censoring or judgement, and with little regard to linear form. (Brains don’t really work like that, anyways.)

There are other ways of expressing yourself through journaling; I know some who use their bullet journals as both a calendar and personal diary. (Some of them are crazy amazing.) Doodle, use colour or stickers, or change up your writing or printing style (i.e., cursive, all-caps, different sizes, etc.)

If you’re a hardcore journal-writer looking to improve your journaling experience, there are entire websites, blogs and books devoted to journal prompts or ideas for list-making. Some books will even give you ideas on how to transform your journaling- for example, Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, describes this process as writing “morning pages”.

For those who are inexperienced at journaling, there are lots of fun pre-printed journals and books designed for you to destroy, draw all over and make your own. A blank page can be intimidating to even the most seasoned writer, so having your own lists of things to fill out or doodles to finish could be what you need to jumpstart your creativity.

Journaling is a great way to process thoughts and feelings, work out problems, record dreams and experiences and express yourself. It allows yourself to be creative, which helps you with your self-esteem and improves your self-knowledge. Also, journaling has been known to aid in the treatment of depression, anxiety and those suffering from PTSD. If that’s not enough to convince you to pick up a pen and start writing, I don’t know what will!

In this day and age we place so many demands ourselves that sometimes even going about our day-to-day lives is exhausting. As a person who likes to keep busy, I find myself struggling to stay balanced. You can follow my journey here, or click here or here to find more ways to streamline your life to keep it simple.

What are some of the ways that you stay balanced? Give us your advice below, or email your strategies to keepingbusywithb@gmail.com.

The Busy Girl’s Guide to the Ultimate Staycation

Ladies and gentlemen, you are talking to the queen of staycations; I never go anywhere and I never do anything interesting (except writing this blog, of course). Before you start pitying me though, I’ll let you in on a little secret: staycations save you time, money and aggravation and if done correctly can actually end up being incredibly healing.

So what is a staycation anyway? When I talk about taking one, I’m referring to any stretch of time during which you are free from any work-related responsibilities. This is not your average afternoon off, and it’s definitely not working from home. Instead, your staycation is your chance to restore and recharge in whatever way that means to you. It might be an opportunity to catch-up on household chores, personal projects, and tying up other loose ends. Or, it might involve ditching all obligations and doing whatever the $%?! you want.

Whatever your staycation style, I’ve brainstormed some options to help start things off right:

  • clean/organize a neglected drawer, closet or room in your home
  • organize family photos and/or home movies (here’s some tips for digital photos)
  • go for a long walk/hike/bike ride/rollerblade (and leave your cell phone at home!)
  • explore an unfamiliar part of your city, town or neighborhood
  • catch up on your sleep (it’s actually really important)
  • cook or bake your favorite dish, or a recipe you’ve been meaning to try
  • catch up on your reading (here are some simple ways how)
  • paint, doodle, draw or color
  • practice meditation, yoga or just deep breathing
  • call up an old friend you haven’t seen in a while (Facebook doesn’t count)
  • garden or clean your yard (one of my many hobbies)
  • make your own rock garden or terrarium
  • camp out in your own yard
  • practice yoga or pilates
  • spend an afternoon browsing your local library or bookstore (take a buddy!)
  • try a new hobby on for size
  • volunteer
  • make something for your home, or for a friend who deserves something special
  • send a friend or relative some actual snail mail
  • attend a free show or event in your area
  • practice self-care: get a massage, manicure, pedicure or facial
  • research your family tree
  • decorate your reading nook/sanctuary/man cave
  • actually play with your pets (or children)
  • rediscover childhood activities like skipping, sidewalk chalk, or Frisbee
  • have a bubble bath
  • coordinate a new exercise routine
  • teach yourself the latest dance craze, or come up with a routine with some friends
  • practice the art of doing nothing.

Happy staycation!

I want to hear all about your staycation rituals. Share them below or email them to me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com. For more ways to kill time, check out my suggestions for when you’re stuck inside here and here.

Where to Read Books

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Books: they’re my favorite portable past-time. They’re light to transport (unless you’re like me and lugged the last installment of Game of Thrones all over public transit) and are easy to access and put away at a moment’s notice. If you have an e-reader, you even have the advantage of having hundreds of titles at your fingertips within a moment’s notice, as my Internet friends have so lovingly pointed out. (Read about why I’m still not entirely convinced here.)

People who are true readers read everywhere- it’s so much to live in a big city and see how many conversations you strike up with strangers about the books they’re carrying. From bars to cafés, from buses to subways-I have met the friendliest readers bopping around the streets of Toronto.

In the summertime especially it’s fun to see so many of the readers finally come out of hiding, like they’re following the beckoning of the sun. The neighborhood in which I live is very pedestrian-friendly and filled with parks and hidden green spaces where I catch people on the strangest variety of perches, their noses buried in their books. There’s even a waterfront with a man-made beach where you’ll often find me in the summer, lost in some tomb and working on my sunburn.

This season in particular reminds me of one of my favorite places to read as a child, in the crook of a Manitoba maple tree that sprawled wildly over the fence of my back garden. The tree itself was in the parking space behind the garden; going through the gate and ascending into its greenery felt like entering into another world. If I was feeling ambitious I’d bring provisions along in a knapsack and sit up in the tree for hours, every so often peering up from my book to look at way the sunlight danced through the leaves.

My parents told me that the Manitoba maple is a pesky tree- its seeds propagate and travel on the wind until they happen to land on a place where they may hopefully root themselves and grow into a real plant. In essence, the Manitoba maple starts its life as a weed, and it amazed me to think that such an inconsequential little seed had grown into such a magnificent tree. When I was up there it made me think that if one little weed had such enormous potential then maybe I could too; I was still growing, and didn’t know what I could become. Books were my windows into all of those possibilities. I could go anywhere in time, do anything I wanted. There was power in that tree.

I still think of that tree often, and still count it as one of my favorite places to read. Although I’m sure you’ll catch me with my face full of book at one time or another while behind my desk at work, or on the bench outside my favorite coffee shop, please know this: in my mind, I won’t really be there. Instead I’ll be miles away in some far-off land, or solving a mystery in another era, or just remembering the sound of my mother’s voice calling me for dinner as I crawled with cramped legs down from my tree perch. Books just do that for me.

And, my dear readers, I hope they do that for you too.

KBwB-BFlower-50Books, books, books. Books all the time. I just love reading, and if you’re reading this blog, maybe you love reading too. F.Y.I., sometimes I review books here, I share my what’s on my bookshelf here, and I get all philosophical about reading sometimes here. If that’s not enough books for you, I list all of the million, gazillion books I want to read over on my Goodreads profile here. I’d love if we could make that list a zillion, trillion.

P.S. I am no tree expert, but what I say about the Manitoba maple is truth. If you’re a tree nerd, click here to get the real deal.

Manitoba maple image courtesy of Herman, D.E. et al. 1996. North Dakota tree handbook. USDA NRCS ND State Soil Conservation Committee; NDSU Extension and Western Area Power Admin., Bismarck, ND. – USDA, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1008755.