What goes in my self-care journal?

Therapist Patty Bechtold writes about how to create a self-care journal at wiselifetherapy.com

(Lately I’m sometimes called to write more personal blog posts that originate in my journal. This is one of them.)

You might be wondering, what exactly makes a journal a self-care journal?

I pondered this myself for a long time, sometimes wondering if I needed separate journals, one that was a “regular” journal and one that was a devoted “self-care journal.”

Although there are lots of ways to define a self-care journal, eventually I discovered this truth for myself…

All journaling has the potential to be a self-care journal. 

But I couldn’t see this until I was in the depths of it.

I was at a time in my life when self-care was particularly difficult, after I’d lost a dear friend. And it wasn’t traditional self-care that I was in need of, it was more like a form of deep replenishing and renewing that I longed for.

That’s when my self-care journal emerged. It was still my everyday journal, but it began to beckon me to use it as a way to connect with and be with all the different parts of myself.

I called this the self care of “being with.” 

It wasn’t the self-care that we tend to talk about, though. It was more about uncovering new ways to give space to those parts of me that often got pushed aside.

Early on, when I started writing down into these deeper parts, a Wise Woman figure emerged to soothe me and give me guidance along the way.

I had entered into the imaginal realm of symbol and metaphor. I was making it up as I went along, but it felt deeply true nevertheless.

That was the day I realized I had turned a corner with my journaling.

My journal truly was a self-care journal.

But rather than try to explain it, I’ll share my first experience with that Wise Woman figure that showed up almost three years ago.

Happily, she still visits me in my journal. She has morphed and changed over time, as have I. But each time she appears I come away feeling replenished and renewed, having touched something deeper within me. 

Envisioning the Wise Woman

I see before me a woman, tall and beautiful, with a warm round face and flowing dark hair. Her hair descends all the way down her back. It’s the kind of hair I yearned for as a child. 

Her dress flows too, the wind gently puffing it up, swirling it around as she stands amongst a small grove of redwood trees. She stands inside the circle of trees and there is light sparkling all around her, shafts of sunlight coming down through the canopy of trees.

Her smile is generous and welcoming, and as I move closer I notice a crown of lavender flowers woven throughout her hair. There is a kindness, no, something else I see in her eyes, beautiful wrinkles surrounding them, wrinkles that have come from joy, from laughter, from opening her arms to life for many years and welcoming it in.

This nurturing and loving woman has raised her arms to me, she expects me to step into the grove with her, to open up to her firm, warm hug. Her openness opens me up too, and as I look closer I see she is not only standing in the grove of trees, she is also a part of it. Feet rooted down into the earth, grown into the soil. The mossy bark has ascended up her arms too, the trees are her sisters and they are all here welcoming me.

My first conversation with the Wise Woman

I step into the circle, eager to talk to her…

Me: Hello, I’m so curious about you. I have some feeling that you’re meant to bring me back to something within myself.

Her: Yes, sweet one, I am. But first, I want to tell you that there is no rush. You do not need the answer you seek immediately. There’s time.

Me: You mean I don’t have to figure out why you’re here, right?

Her: Yes, of course. You know this about yourself. And I’m here to let you stop. This is a place to simply stop.

Me: I have trouble doing that.

Her: Yes, you think that but you’re here. As far as I can tell you have stopped. Isn’t that enough for now?

Me: Not quite, there’s something else that seems to be pulling me toward you, something that I want to ask.

Her: What? Go ahead. Please ask anything of me.

Me: I want to sit on your knee. It seems so beautifully sturdy and solid, part tree, part human. Like a cushioned tree stump, but so much more.

She’s laughing now, musical laughter ringing out in the forest, light, tempting me. She opens her arms wider and says…

Her: Please, sit. 

As I sit on her tree lap I suddenly let go of all worries, plans, striving. I sink into her. I sigh, a big out breath. She wraps her long arms around me and says…

Her: There you are.

Me: Yes, here I am.

Her: You feel like yourself here, don’t you? Like you can be fully yourself?

Me: Yes, I do.

* * * * *

Interested in trying out this kind of a self-care journal? Simply put pen to paper and let your imagination begin exploring a part of you that doesn’t get much time in the world. And if you don’t know what to write or how to begin, simply make it up as you go along.

Patty Bechtold

Patty Bechtold

Welcome. I'm a Santa Rosa therapist and life coach, and I help women who feel like something’s missing in their lives or themselves. I specialize in self-esteem, anxiety, depression, grief, life transition, and women's groups. On this blog I write about different approaches to help you find your way back to your deepest wisdom. Thank you for being here.