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This One Habit Transformed My Life During Quarantine

The only thing that held me together during quarantine was throwing up my thoughts and words onto paper every day.


By Sara Naderi

Image courtesy of Rachel Lynette French

Coming right off a three-month quarantine with my husband, three children, and four cats in a three-bedroom apartment on the 28th floor is…well, exactly how it sounds.


Nightmarish. Monstrous. Cruel.


Yep. All those.


And we quar-an-tined.


My kids didn’t touch the earth for the better part of three months. We live in Istanbul, Turkey, and kids were forbidden from leaving their homes.


There were many, many dark days.


Toward the six-week mark, my husband and I broke down multiple times daily. Tears would not stop. We fought. We begged. We pleaded. We threatened divorce (but, then we would fight about who would take the kids, and neither one of us wanted them, so that went nowhere).


Cringe-worthy flashback alert:

Me at the start of quarantine: “It’s a good thing Cyrus and I like each other!” I spewed ad nauseum to whoever would listen.


The stark reality:

My husband and I were stripped down to nothing, beaten, and thrown to three very hungry, whiny, and bored wolves, while trying to hold down gainful employment.


And you know what those [very cute] wolves never did?


Devour us. Put us out of our misery.


Nope, they toyed with us until they got tired, took a nap, and did it all over again.


I should probably throw out a disclaimer that we love our kids.


Witnessing our children struggle with very scary, abstract ideas was heartbreaking and, truthfully, paralysing.


Pleading with them for the tenth time to “just give me five more minutes” while composing an email that should only take two minutes, effectively quadrupling the actual time needed, was something akin to soul-crushing rage.


Working around new boundaries (that we all weren’t used to) turned all of us into moving landmines.



HELP!


I can’t even imagine having three kids at this time!

Omg, I feel bad for complaining, you have it way worse than I do.


You can’t take them outside? I would die!


Most of the people who we were in communication with all said some semblance of this.


Not exactly what I wanted to hear in the moment, although, I get it.


Everyone was stripped down to their raw selves, and when the opportunity arose to talk to someone, we all just said spew our own versions of verbal diarrhea.


So, what did I do?


Besides locking my bathroom door and ugly crying while my kids watched their tenth hour of TV…


I opened my computer and I wrote.



I WROTE MY ASS OFF


I picked up journaling as a habit several weeks prior to the start of the pandemic.


I was in the very beginning stages of turning my freelance copywriting services into a full-fledged business.


I hired a very wonderful and motivating business coach, Maika Endo, who had me start at zero.


Journaling.


She encouraged me to organise all the thoughts floating in my head who were desperately looking for a home. She held my hand through journaling prompts. And when I was stuck, she always referred me to my own words.



As the stay-home orders went on — I lost work, I had to let go of clients, and our family harmony was disrupted; needless to say, my morale dissipated, depression kicked in, and I was ready to throw in the towel of all the plans and dreams I’ve been working towards.


However, I didn’t. Some-freaking-how, I just didn’t.


And I sit here typing this today telling you that I owe it all to a daily habit of writing whatever popped into my head.


There were many days all I could mentally and physically take on was a journal session, and that is not hyperbole.



LET’S GET A LITTLE PHILOSOPHICAL


Journaling gave me validation to my thoughts, even the darkest ones.


It allowed me to throw up all those burdensome feelings and didn’t ask me to clean up the mess, and it certainly didn’t ask for a resolution.


I wrote things that were shameful, uplifting, depressing, illegal, and everything else in between — and, still, the page welcomed me back the next day without judgment.


Sometimes attacking my keyboard was the only tranquility I was afforded for that day. But, let me tell you, once those ideas, thoughts, and emotions left my body, I felt better.


It also kept me on track.


I saw the results of journaling over time, and only through consistency, were those results revealed.


It’s safe to say my business is back on track, and moving in a growth direction. And, you’re reading this — I didn’t give up!



SOME DISCOVERIES I MADE

  • Journaling allowed me to keep moving forward in my business, although it may not have felt like progress at the time.

  • I’m not the kind of mother I thought I was before the pandemic, and I’m (sort of) OK with that.

  • The goals I have are actionable, and that movement is motivating.

  • My creativity is sometimes the only thing I have.

  • I’m way too hard on myself. Like waaaayyyyy too hard.

  • I’ve never prioritised self-care, even pre-COVID.

  • I’m stronger than I thought I was.


HOW TO INCORPORATE JOURNALING INTO YOUR ROUTINE


If you're looking to start a journaling habit, here are some things I recommend.

  • Have one dedicated place for your journaling. A folder on your desktop, a notebook, or a specific website (750words).

  • Pick the same time every day that you will write. I get the most out of writing in the mornings — I aim for 7 am.

  • You by no means are looking for any kind of polished work. Forget about grammar, word choice, or even spelling. Just write. If you don’t know where to start, try this — I don’t know what to write, I just know I have to write.

  • Take it one day at a time, don't give yourself grandiose goals (i.e. I’m going to write every day this month), because grandiose goals are not sustainable. Start today, and then try again tomorrow. Consistency is built on the willingness to do something today.

  • Be kind to yourself. You miss a day, you miss a day. Just pick up that pen tomorrow.


PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION


I’ve spent way too long thinking and dreaming about what I want out of my life. And equally spent way too long not getting any results. This is partly because I really never had a starting point.


Journaling has empowered me to keep one foot moving in front of the other with actionable steps.


Now, If I don’t journal for a few days I really feel it. It’s similar to an exercise habit — after a few days, you’re itching to get your butt back into motion.


Journaling is by no means a quick fix. It’s a self-care tool that allows you to gain clarity over the noise in your head. And like any other tool or muscle, you must implement it often in order to achieve full effectiveness.



CONCLUSION


Quarantine pushed us all to our absolute limits. Grabbing that emergency oxygen mask was daily writing for me.


If I didn’t have that outlet, I’m not sure where I would be. But, I’m almost certain I wouldn’t have that hunger to keep pushing forward.


This piece was originally published on 30 June 2020 in Medium; and reprinted at the permission of the author for Bloomer Magazine.


Sara Naderi is a Writer. Mother. Owner of Sumo Creativity. Istanbul based. www.sumocreativity.com

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