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Journaling: Giving Myself Permission to Pause

Post title image of a woman sitting at a table with a cup of coffee and her journal

For many of us teachers, the summer of 2020 was not a traditional summer of fun and rejuvenation. It was spent preparing for a school year that would look and feel like no other.

It was a summer of work, stress, and the unknown.

It quickly became obvious to me that I would need to do something to help me deal with the upcoming school year with grace and patience so I would not drown in stress and project that onto my students.

On a whim, I joined Teach Write’s Time to Write Workshop and participated in the Notebooking 101 Workshop. I bought a notebook and started to write. Much to my surprise, I enjoyed this time. In fact, I could not wait for the next meeting.

During the workshop, another writer recommended the Permission to Pause Journal by Dorothy VanderJagt. Writing for myself was new at the time, and I had never written consistently in any way for any reason, but I immediately ordered it. Give myself permission to pause? YES, please! It was almost as if this book was calling my name.

Image of the Permission to Pause journal with link to AMazon

Journaling as Self-Care

For the past twenty years, everything and everyone in my life have come first. I never gave myself a second thought. Self-care was a foreign concept to me.

I was surprised to find that journaling 3-4 ways that I will care for myself each day and picking a mindfulness focus changed my daily habits. I started taking more walks, drinking more water, coloring, and sleeping more soundly. The actions I highlighted in my journaling turned into daily practices that I crave.

Writing has become an important way that I take care of myself. I do everything I can to arrange my schedule to attend Time to Write, and journaling has become a part of my nightly regimen.

Navigating the New School Year

Typically, a normal school year would have me stressed. In the past, I have struggled to focus because my brain was overwhelmed with all of the tasks and work weighing me. I would complain and spin my wheels, getting nothing done.

However, this year, a year that is far more difficult and emotional than any other year I've been in the classroom, I find myself calm, positive, and focused.

I attribute this to my journaling practice.

Journaling Has Changed Me

In my daily journaling habit, I focus on gratitude and impact each day. I like this time to pause to think about someone or something I am grateful for each day. It also pushes me to identify the impact I have on others, which is not an easy thing for me to do.

My new writing practice has led me to send notes, call friends and family, or make special visits to let people know that I appreciate and care for them. These are all positive ways to connect with the people around me to let them know they are special to me and also makes me feel good about myself.

This personal writing routine has been an essential exercise for me and has been incredibly therapeutic.

I have learned that I need to give myself permission to pause with my journal to explore who I am, what matters to me, where I have been, and where I want to go.

I never thought that writing would be that exploration.

I never thought that I would crave this Time to Write and need a notebook to find joy and take care of myself.

Writing has changed me. Writing has helped me.

I am a writer.


Heather Morris teaches literacy in a small suburb outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Heather loves inspiring young readers and writers. Her favorite thing to do is write alongside her teacher-writer friends during the Time to Write Workshop through Teach Write.

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