I've been bullet journaling since August 2016. I've been battling my mental health for a lot longer.
You might be wondering what those statements have to do with each other and the answer - for me at least - is so much. I've never been fantastic at keeping a lid on things and managing my symptoms but in the past few years I've definitely improved, and while it has mainly been down to finding a medication that works for me and surrounding myself with very supportive people, I've found that my bullet journal also really helps.
It's up there with colouring in how it helps me, but unlike sitting down with a colouring book it's something that I do every day and am constantly adding to. I take it away with me if I go on holiday, I stick tickets in it to remember events, I keep track of the TV shows I want to watch and the bath bombs I've used, and so much more. I love to flip through it every now and again to see what needs updating and I absolutely adore seeing other peoples to gather inspiration for designs and things to feature. But more than that, I use it to keep track of my mental health.
Since starting it, I've been tracking my mood every day. Well, almost every day - I lost my journaling mojo in October so didn't use it daily. The way in which I do has evolved over time but the principal is still the same: how was I feeling and why?
As you can see, I started off using simple smiley faces to display my mood for the day. This soon evolved into a smiley face and an adjective: good, tired, sad, okay, and so on. This changed in 2017 when I wanted to start seeing things side by side so I created a mood tracking chart. In January it was still very simple - specific moods weren't named, it was just whether I felt good, bad, great, okay, or downright awful. February grew on this to include actual emotions and feelings (happy, sad, angry, sick, numb, tired, active, etc) and I stopped limiting myself to one a day. If I felt equally happy and active I can track that. If my day started off with a panic attack that then morphed into feeling low and rather sick, I can make a note of all three and see how the next day ends up.
There are arguments for and against mood tracking but I am all for it. I am confident enough to know that seeing a run of bad days won't make me feel worse, and that writing down any triggers will help me to overcome them and recognise them in future situations. I can look back at which days were bad and make sure that I don't replicate them, and I can keep an eye on my symptoms in order to discuss them with my doctor.
But aside from tracking my moods, my bullet journal helps me stay motivated and helps alleviate some symptoms. I try to make a small list of things to do each day so that I don't waste all of my time sat doing nothing or binge-watching everything on Netflix. A few bullet points each day helps to keep me motivated and productive without adding unnecessary pressure to finish lots of tasks, or guilt when I don't manage to complete everything. I can cross things off if I don't need to do them in the end, or migrate them to the next day if they don't get completed. And, of course, seeing a completed list at the end of the day is always satisfying, whether you have mental health issues or not.
Seeing everything crossed off, hell, even seeing it all written down, can do wonders for my anxiety. I'm not left fretting about what needs doing, or floundering when I don't know what I need to do. I have a clear plan for the day that I can do in my own time without the fear of negative consequences. Without lists it's rare that I get anything done. Even with mental lists I deviate from what actually needs doing and find other, pointless things to spend my time on. Physically seeing what needs doing keeps me on track and calm about it. Small daily tasks can also help keep my mood and my energy up, meaning I'm less likely to succumb to a low mood or even a depressive episode if I've had a particularly hard time of it. It can be so easy to just give in and stay in bed all day, but if that happens every day then it doesn't help anyone. Having just one task that you need to do - even if it's something as straightforward as putting clothes away - can sometimes make all the difference. And for that I'll always be thankful.
Do you keep a bullet journal? What helps you with your mental health?