Burnout and your journal: 3 essential entries that transform writing into recovery


Today a friend of mine posted her teenage Glamour Shots portrait from 1989 on Facebook. Glamour Shots is a chain photography studio whose goal is to “bring out your best in portraits.” What a hoot—surely my hair was never that big!

Even though the picture is terribly dated, I remember at the time thinking how beautiful she looked. At the time she had terrible acne, but the photographer used special lighting and filters to take the focus off of her problem areas and highlight the positive.


Can the right focus help you bring out your best in recovery?

Burnout is a terribly negative experience. Burnout makes even the smallest of tasks seem difficult, combine this with the symptoms of low focus and fuzzy thinking and overcoming burnout becomes a struggle.


A properly focused journal can make recovery easier

Journaling is an excellent way to organize your thoughts and to track your progress. I know, I know: if you are burned out the idea of a journal seems overwhelming. You don’t have to record everything in flowery prose—you can jot bullet points, make mind maps, or draw pictures to make it simple. The key is to keep focused on the three types of daily entries:

  • Type 1 – brain dump of the negatives
  • Type 2 – list of the positives
  • Type 3 – track your progress


Let’s start with type 1: the brain dump

When suffering from burnout seeing the negative in everything is second nature. Honor, don’t deny your negative feelings, but don’t focus on them either. Set a timer and take five minutes every evening to write down every negative you experienced during the day. List your negative thoughts, feelings, attitudes, worries, concerns, and anything else you can think of. This gets those negatives out of your head and onto paper, readying you for the next step.


Now it’s time for entry type 2: the positives

Turn the page away from the negatives, and list every positive thing you can think of. Again, set a timer for five minutes and list everything you can think of. You must list at least three positives. Some days this activity will be much easier than others, but know that it is all part of the recovery process.

The type 2 entry has a second step: after making the list, set the timer for 1 minute (or more). During this minute pick one of the positives you listed and focus on it. Remember how it felt when it happened, remember what you thought about it, and think of what happened to make this positive possible. Repeat this process for two more positives. And now, onto progress tracking!


Wrap up with entry type 3: progress tracking

Now that you’ve emptied your brain of the negatives and spent time focusing on the positive, it’s time to track your progress. This is important so you can see the progress that you are making. Sometimes the signs of recovery are easy to miss unless you are looking for them, so let’s look for them!

Think about what you did today, and write down what you were able to do today that you haven’t been able to do. Or what was working better today than before. An easy way to track this is to rank on a scale of 1 to 10 how you are doing in several different categories. Pick the categories that are right for you, but I suggest:

  • Energy
  • Focus
  • Foggy thinking
  • Digestive
  • Pain
  • Mood


What if I screw this up?

The only mistake you can make with journaling to transform writing into recovery is to focus on the negative. If you can only come up with negatives, then that brings too much focus and attention to that and none to the positives. Even if it is a struggle, list as many positives as possible—even if you think they are silly!


Reap the benefits of a positive focus

Journaling to transform writing into recovery isn’t instantaneous like Glamour Shots’ techniques, but the improvements you gain from this type focus are lasting. By journaling using the entry types of brain dumping the negative, listing and focusing on the positive, and tracking your progress your recovery will move more swiftly forward and the changes lasting.

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