The Power of the Pen: How Writing In Times of Distress Can Help You

Have you ever had a ton of overwhelming and no-so-pleasant emotions come at you that all you wanted to do was crawl in a corner and cry? 

This was me a few weeks ago.  I’m usually a “glass half full” kind of gal, but my positivity pouch was leaking fast!  I had so many pent up emotions that I would wake up weepy, sad, and frustrated and the feelings wouldn’t go away. 

Maybe you can relate.  Is the pandemic wearing on you?  The tanking economy got you anxious?  The rising unemployment making you fearful? How about the rioting, the social distancing, the mask-wearing, and the virtual schooling? All these things can be overwhelmingly hard to handle.  In my case, it was the shocking death of a friend, the disappointment of no college graduation ceremony, the separation from my tribe of friends, missing my Dad, my unexpected appendectomy, summer quickly slipping by, and the cancellation of our annual family reunion that had me down.  

No Keyboard Allowed

Writing notes by hand forces your brain to stop doing loop-de-loops and slow down. It also allows you to express your ideas, feelings, and confusion more clearly, deeply, and without apology.   


  • helps you organize your thoughts 
  • allows you to check thing off of your to-do list 
  • can cement your ideas
  • often compels you to action 
  • lets you tell a story

For the sake of this blog, I’m going to focus on how taking pen to paper will help you in times of distress and overwhelm.  

Get ‘Em Out and Get ‘Em Down on Paper

Back to my positivity pouch leaking. After days of feeling beat up and beat down by heavy emotions, I decided that something had to be done about it. I grabbed a piece of paper and drew a vertical line down the center.  I labeled the left side “what I hate about this season” and the right side “what I’m grateful for in this season.” Without much thought I began to “mind dump” on the left side all of the things happening in my life that were wreaking havoc with my emotions.  I held nothing back and my “left side list” quickly reached the bottom of the page. I then took a deep breath and began jotting down things I was thankful for.  The right side filled up too! You know what happened?  As my paper filled up my heavy heart felt emptied, I felt lighter and happier than I had in days! So simple and yet so powerful! 

The Head Thinks and the Heart Feels

Let’s name some emotions or feelings that bring them on that are often hard to corral.

  • anger 
  • grief
  • disappointment 
  • frustration 
  • stress
  • trauma 
  • unexpected life developments    

It’s important to allow ourselves to express ourselves as our feelings arise otherwise we’ll feel stuck. Changing our thoughts from “should I be feeling this way?” to “what am I feeling?” is important.

 I recently wrote a blog about our feelings being like visitors knocking at your door and how important it is to let them in. You can read it here. If we don’t address our feelings we may shut down or close off from others. Where the head is a logical thinker the heart is an emotional feeler. Both must have a chance to express themselves. 

Pick Up Your Pen

When emotions overwhelm you, don’t despair! Pick up your pen and write. Check out all of the great things that can come out of getting your thoughts and emotions down on paper:

  • Writing helps you break free!  Oftentimes we experience endless mental cycling between brooding and ruminating and thinking that the “sky is falling.” Getting words on paper can help you make sense of all of the emotions flying at you.
  • Writing brings clarity! Labeling our underlying emotions can give us power over them.  They’re no longer a bunch of jumbled emotions that can paralyze us. They each now have a name such as  “sadness,” “frustration,” “grief,” which makes them easier for us to process.
  • Writing about your emotions shrinks their impact! They’re often big in our minds and cause abstract fears in our brain. Writing helps you sort fact from fiction. I wrote about this in a recent blog titled Replacing our Fears With Facts. Organizing and writing about your thoughts and emotions allows you to give yourself permission to feel them and have control over them. 
  • Writing helps you keep a record! When you revisit your writing you’ll often see the record of your development.  You’ll see how far you’ve come in mastering the emotions that at one time had you “stuck.”
When emotions overwhelm you, don't despair! Pick up your pen and write.Click To Tweet



So, how about you? Do you have a lot on your mind?  Do you feel like you’re losing control? Friend, do me (and yourself) a favor and write about it! Don’t wait any longer. Pick up your pen and begin. Trust me, you’ll be so glad you did.  Ready. Set. Go!

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” – William Wadsworth


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