The other day my brother posted a tongue-in-cheek post that he had to go back to using a paper calendar just to keep track of the days because of all that was happening since we’ve been working through COVID-19. That got me thinking about how we might want to take this opportunity to capture and record how life has changed with COVID-19. It seemed to happen so fast. It did for me, at least. One day I was packing and planning my next international trip, and the next I was trying to figure out how to keep not just myself but 10 others traveling with me safe and healthy. Ultimately, we had to reschedule that trip, along with so many other things. I’m sure you have similar stories.

In one of our teaching workshops on spiritual formation, I share about the value of journaling. The practice of writing things down helps us see where God is working, where prayers have been answered, and what to keep praying for. Journaling also provides a record in our own words of what is happening in our homes, work, community, ministry, and daily life. Depending on where you live right now and the extent of the impact of COVID-19, you might be living a totally different life right now. Working from home, not able to go out to eat, trying to help your kids with schoolwork, adjusting future plans, trips, activities. All of that can be overwhelming to process and even just keep track of. Journaling provides an outlet for you to record these life changes. Having a record of this time can help you process your feelings at a time when things are changing so quickly you may not have time to even think through what you’re feeling. It can also be a great way to pray and talk to God about what is happening, allowing Him to work through you as you journal. It can relieve anxiety and ease stress to know you have a place to write things down that you might not be ready or able to share with others. Share them with God. Let Him hear from you.

I want to encourage you to start journaling your way through COVID-19. If you’ve never done this before, don’t be intimidated. It’s a pretty simple process and easy to get started.

Here are some tips for journaling and keeping track of the days through COVID-19:

  • Get a journal or notepad. Perhaps you have a journaling book around the house. Just find something with several pages in it that you can call your own to write in. A spiral notebook or even a simple legal pad will work, too. Steal one from your kids’ school supply stash now that they are home and probably not using notebooks as much.

  • Set aside time. Journaling doesn’t need to take a lot of our time. Just find a few minutes during the day that you can call your own to sit quietly and write. Find a quiet place and write. Put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your home office or favorite place in your house, and let others know you need a few minutes of “quiet time.” 

  • Don’t overthink. Start out with a very simple “mind dump.” Write the first things that come to mind. It could even be just a list of things, words, or phrases. Don’t try to make this polished writing for your first Pulitzer. With pen in hand, write what comes to your mind.

  • Journal by hand, not on a device. With more people working from home, devices are taking over more of our life and daily activity. Journaling by hand gives you an outlet to step away from the screen and make a physical connection with pen and paper. Journaling by hand also helps us make a connection among our hands, our brains, and our hearts that digital technology simply can’t.

  • Keep a consistent format and system. Write the day of the week and date, and start a new page for each day. This will help you keep track of the days and will also help as reference when you look back and read through your journal.

  • Don’t be concerned about writing style, grammar, spelling, or what someone else will think if they read your journal. It’s up to you whether anyone reads this or not. Don’t worry about what someone else will think of your writing. This is between you and God. And we know God is not going to judge your grammar and writing skills. In fact, you know He’s not going to judge any of it!

  • You can tie your journaling to Bible study, but at first you don’t have to. I’ll write more later on journaling and Bible study methods, but for now, just start with your own thoughts, ideas, and feelings. You can certainly pray and have a God conversation as you do this; that will help a great deal.

Your journal during this time will be not just an important record of a historic global event, but also a very useful tool and resource to help you sort through what is happening in real time each day. I hope you’ll take a few moments each day to write down and track what is life for you as you navigate your way through these changing days.

Stay home, stay healthy, and wash your hands!

Tracee J. Swank is a Certified Leadership and Spiritual Formation Coach. For the month of April, Church Doctor Ministries and Tracee are offering free coaching to any pastor or ministry leader in need of coaching support during COVID-19. To take advantage of this coaching offer, email Tracee at tracee@churchdoctor.org or Bethany at bethany@churchdoctor.org to schedule your coaching call.