Using a Bullet Journal for Mental Health Care
I’ve done a few videos on mental health care and written a blog about my 2017 bullet journal. I’m a believer in the power of the bujo. I’m a convert, but a bujo isn’t for everyone. If it isn’t for you, but you need to up your mental health care game, try making the two trackers I’mma show you in this blog. They’ve been freaking amazeballs goodness when it comes to improving the quality of my life, friends.
Note: If you’re looking for fancy schmancy, beautifully crafted bullet journals with gorgeous lettering, this isn’t the place. I’m just a mentally ill writer who likes to doodle and keep lists. Check out my Pinterest board, Getting My Shit Together, for some of those gorgeous bullet journal pros.
I use a couple of spreads specifically for mental health care, but these spreads work in conjunction with others. Monthly, weekly, and work spreads help keep some order in what is typically a spasmodic lifestyle. I tend to do whatever I’m inspired to do, but I still need to work on my novel and wash the dishes, right? All of these spreads function as a reminder and hold me accountable.
The two most important spreads I use for tracking certain behaviors are my self care and incident/strategy trackers. The behaviors I track are particular to me. Yours may be different. An important function of the self care spread is a daily reminder to take my medication, but I can also look back on it and make observations based on the data I’ve entered. This is particularly helpful when I visit my psychiatrist every three months.
I’ve been using variations of this tracker off and on for 14 months now. These two simple pages have been invaluable in improving my mental health. I can see trends. Have I gone a few days without showering? Am I sleeping more? Not leaving the house? For me, those are all indicators of a depressive episode. If I see changes in my moods, I can take a step back and assess what’s going on in my life, especially if suicidal ideation pops up. The data allows me to see correlations between behaviors and events.
Shorthand I use to track moods: g- good b- bad mb- mixed bag e- episode.
I’ve fine tuned the categories on my tracker, but I can make changes from month to month.
Making the bed and fixing supper may seem like odd things to track. When I do these things each day, I set myself up for success and wellness. Maybe you’d track things like walking your dog, talking to a friend, or journaling. Whatever helps you feel grounded or keeps you present is helpful to track.
Oh, and that fun category? Lemme tell y’all why I added that to my tracker. My psychiatrist always asks me what I’m doing for fun. I struggle with that every single time he asks. I eventually reply writing. Writing is my damn job. Sure I enjoy it, but I want more. Tracking is helping me focus on that important part of life. Am I playing games with my family? Watching television? Being spontaneous with trips or dates or having coffee with friends? Am I crafting, thrifting, decorating, or volunteering? What exactly do I do for fun?
I take notes throughout the month. What’s going on from day to day that may impact my moods? What specifically did I do for fun? Did something happen to cause more or less sleep? How’s my physical health? If you’re going to do a spread like this, I recommend leaving ample room for notes and then, commit to keeping those notes. For me, the tracker doesn’t work without the note taking.
This spread has been a real game changer for me. I used to journal about episodes or incidents (and I still do), but keeping a concise series of notes I can access easily is powerful for making positive change. Was I feeling particularly anxious? Where was I? What was going on? How did I get through it? I can track how effective specific strategies are. This is how I realized that counting backwards as a form of distraction wasn’t as effective for me as focusing on specific colors when I’m in crowds. This is also a nice way to employ new strategies.
After 14 months of experimenting, this is my favorite weekly spread. If it ever fails to serve its purpose, I’ll change it up. That’s the beauty of the bullet journal. This spread was inspired by Kate Louise. I used to track yoga and walking on my self care spread, but it wasn’t working for me. I leave my journal open on my desk during the week, so I can see it as I work throughout the day. It serves as a reminder and helps with accountability. I don’t track those two things on the weekends.
I start every month with a spread. It includes all the important dates and a whole page for my budget, ’cause damn. Adulting is freaking hard.
Here’s where I track my daily work. Unless you’re writing a novel about a witch named Honey (and, man, I hope you’re not), your spread for work will look different. This spread, along with the monthly and weekly spreads, helps make the self care tracker work. Am I working every day? What am I doing? Am I getting shit done around the house? Am I functioning like an adult by performing chores, going on errands, paying my bills, and whatnot? It’s a symbiotic relationship.
A final word of advice: Go into this with a commitment to suspend judgement. I didn’t shower for three days (or five)? I didn’t clean the cat box on Wednesday? I had an episode last Sunday? Okay. That happened. Tracking is meant to improve my mental health, not add a bitter layer of guilt to an already complex and serious condition.
Leave thoughts, questions, and suggestions in the comments. I’d love to hear from you. Go forth and be well, friends. Peace and love, B.