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There are many reasons to write in a journal. Journaling need not be rational, pretty or coherent. It just needs to be your pen on paper, and your slew of thoughts. As exams at Stellenbosch University creep ever closer, journaling can be used to mitigate your stress and anxiety. 

According to the University of Rochester’s Health Encyclopedia, journaling can help to “control your symptoms [of anxiety] and improve your mood by helping you prioritise problems, fears, and concerns.” 

It can also help locate your stress and anxiety. The idea is that you can work on addressing and resolving these issues, after you have identified your specific stressors.

“It makes a huge difference when you put something down in black and white, [rather] than just having it hover around in your brain,” said Benita du Plessis, second-year BEng (Industrial) student. 

She affirms that writing brings her clarity and perspective. “I feel so relieved after writing, as if I cleared my brain out and put everything in order a bit,” Du Plessis added.

“I started doing it as a method of self-care,” said Marié Mouton, second-year BAcc student. She started journaling during lockdown, and has benefitted from writing and being mindful. 

“I usually use my journal to express all my thoughts and allow myself to see it on paper and be able to draw a conclusion,” Mouton said. 

Journaling should not be seen as a chore, and it also does not have to be a commitment. Mouton, for example, tries to write at least one page when she journals. However, she does not put pressure on herself to finish when she has nothing to say. 

It may be daunting, but you do not have to write consistently. “I like to only write when I feel I need to get something off my chest, or if something special happened that I want to remember one day,” said Du Plessis. 

A journal is a powerful tool to prevent overwhelming thoughts, especially during the isolating times of COVID-19 and tiresome studying schedules. Not only may your journal be a means of catharsis; you will also have a handwritten collection of your thoughts to look back on and learn from. 

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