Feeling extra stressed lately? You’re far from alone there. Especially right now, we’re all looking for ways to center ourselves as we navigate these uncertain times—the catchphrase of the moment. For some, that might involve a weekly Zoom session with their therapist, and for others, it may take form in a Bob Ross style coloring book served with a pack of crayons on the side. We’re here for it!
If you’re anything like us, you’ve probably googled various mindfulness methods in the last few months and have been instructed by your overly-positive friend—you know, the one who sends you #MotivationMonday quotes in your group chat without fail—to drink green tea and do a yoga flow in order to manage stress levels. Jessica isn’t wrong, but that’s certainly not the only way to increase calmness and clarity. Lately, we’ve tapped into a different kind of meditation called EMDR Therapy Writing to help us get in touch with our inner selves, and learn more about our behaviors, feelings, and moods.
Before we get started on how to do this, let’s backtrack and breakdown what EMDR therapy actually is. According to EMDR.com, EMDR Therapy stands for “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing,” and was developed by Dr. Francine Sharpiro in the late 1980s. This style of psychotherapy treatment was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories. There are many phases and forms of EMDR therapy, but we’re going to focus on the writing portion. After all, journaling is good for the soul. Get ready to channel your inner diary-keeping tween as we share exactly how to practice EMDR writing therapy at home.
The Benefits of EMDR Meditation
Whether you’ve experienced past trauma or are coping with daily stressors—i.e. passive aggressive emails from your boss about how it’s not okay to keep your camera off during your daily Zoom call—studies have shown that journaling is a great way to unpack your inner thoughts and feelings. The practice allows you to thoroughly reflect on what’s going on in order to help you understand triggers and problematic patterns in your current life or past.
Take the concept of Queen Regina George and her Burn Book, then flip it to align more with your own inner thoughts and feelings about yourself and those around you—minus all the Janis Ian rumors. Regularly recording these things, then reflecting on what you’ve written, has been shown to free up mental space, and allow you to understand symptoms while helping you figure out next steps to handling each issue.
And just like there are many methods to cooking that cauliflower gnocchi from Trader Joe’s, there are many different approaches to writing therapy. Regardless of how you start, here are a few tips for setting yourself up to be most successful.
Get Yourself a Journal
First, it’s important to have the proper tools on hand. Investing in a cute notebook or journal (yes, that Lisa Frank diary you’ve had your eyes on for over a decade counts) can help motivate you to start. Amp it up even further by decorating yours with stickers, decals, or anything you want to make it feel more personalized. It also doesn’t hurt to have colored pens on hand to match your mood for that day. Basically, tap into the avid journaler you once were in middle school, and run wild.
Set a Time and Place
Next, set a goal to write for a certain time each day, but be mindful about when that is. If you know you have to be available from 9-5 each day (like most working professionals), schedule 5-15 minutes in the early morning or late evening to write down your thoughts and feelings. It also helps to have a dedicated space like a cozy corner nook or a comfy cushion on the floor where your computer and, of course, phone are nowhere in sight. Create a routine that works with your schedule, and stick to it.
What to Write About
Things will probably evolve from the time you start writing to the time you end, but according to positivepsychology.com it’s best to write about a specific instance or moment you need to work through. If nothing comes to mind or you’re just feeling generally a bit stuck, stick to free writing at first. Meaning, write whatever comes to mind as you go rather than giving yourself a prompt to start. This typically can trigger what’s really going on and will flow from your head to your pen. The only rule? Don’t stop writing. Set a timer for that 5 to 15 minute window you’re giving yourself, and allow all of your thoughts to flow without interruption. When done correctly, some describe this as an almost out of body experience that taps into their higher selves.
Things to Keep In Mind While Writing
Like any form of therapy, it may feel a bit weird at first, but hear us out. Just focusing on the actual writing itself is a great place to start. Let go of any fears of how well you write or if your thoughts make sense—this is a judgement-free zone. Just know that whatever ends up on the page, your thoughts and feelings are completely valid.
What to Do After
A crucial step in EMDR therapy is the mediation portion after. Here’s how to do it. Once you’re finished writing and the time is up, it’s important to reset the timer for the same amount of time, re-read what you’ve written in order to process and digest the info, and thoroughly meditate and reflect on what you wrote. Wrap up the experience by jotting down a few thoughts about your meditation.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, you can get started with your fist at-home EMDR writing session. Also, try it for at least 7 consecutive days before throwing in the towel. It’s important to see how you feel at the end of the week.
Regardless of whatever you’re dealing with or want to unpack, keep these three words in mind: You’ve got this. Go forth and write your heart out, you badass, you.