Back in March when it became clear just how serious the coronavirus pandemic really was, my anxiety hit an all-time high. Like so many people, I had big plans for 2020, both personally and professionally, and it suddenly felt like everything was coming crashing down around me.
It certainly didn’t help that I was anxious about my health, the health of my family and friends, and worried about the fate of my company. I spent a few days paralyzed, staring out the window of my apartment that suddenly felt way too small, wondering what the path forward looked like for me. It certainly didn’t help that the investors in my rapidly growing mental wellness startup, Silk + Sonder, told me to “prepare for the worst.”
I wish I could say I snapped out of it all at once, but it was more like a slow, steady emergence from a fog of anxious and sad thoughts. I was able to do this by turning to a tool that I’ve relied on many times before during challenging times: Journaling.
When we think of journaling, we often think about it in the stream of consciousness, “Dear Diary” sense. By this I mean jotting down our feelings, and maybe summarizing the events of the day. I love this kind of journaling, and it’s definitely helped me at various points in my life. But the kind of journaling that pulled me out of my COVID-induced slump had less to do with free-flowing thoughts and more to do with structured bullet journaling.
Through bullet journaling, which is at the core of what Silk + Sonder is about, I could take control of what there was left to control. I had already established healthy habits in my pre-quarantine life, but I had no idea what those looked liked in my new, isolated environment — so I turned to my mood and habit trackers to figure that out.
For example, I quickly noticed that I felt a lot more down on days when I stayed in my pajamas all day instead of getting dressed, so I set an intention to put on real clothes first thing every morning and used my habit tracker to hold myself accountable. I also noticed that without daily movement I was more anxious, so I prioritized home workouts and (masked!) daily walks. The same went for Zoom dates with my loved ones — while there was no way they would ever replace in-person interactions, feeling some version of the social connections I’d felt pre-COVID was important.
I took further control by structuring and planning out my days with a daily to-do list, and tracking my expenses in my spending tracker. At a time when I was worried about my income and the fate of my company, at least I could control spending less than usual by cutting back on how much I was buying, which meant cooking at home more, a therapeutic practice on its own. Last but not least, I did do the more classic style of journaling: I set daily intentions, positive affirmations, and wrote down how I was feeling.
The fact that journaling restored my sanity wasn’t totally surprising. It had happened before. What was surprising? That it restored the sanity of tens of thousands of Silk + Sonder members, as they fought for the same sense of control, joy triggers and moments of calm and happiness that I did.
It’s hard to find silver linings in this pandemic, but one for me has been that I realized that I hadn’t just built a successful company — I’d built a community. We came together for weekly virtual events called Sonder Circles and took the time to journal together. We supported each other in our private Facebook group, talking about everything from creative new ways to use certain pages to more serious issues like our mental health, issues with family, loss, and more.
While I certainly understand why my investors told me to “prepare for the worst” when coronavirus first hit, I’m proud that journaling didn’t just save my mental health during this time, but the mental health of so many of the people that put their faith in the product I created.