5 Tips to Modify & Manage Your Journaling Practice With Arthritis

by Julie Cerrone Croner Patient Advocate

Recently, my friend Alyssa started a new venture, The Journal Deck. The premise of this love project is to bring journal prompts and oracle cards to life. Picking a card each day, The Journal Deck provides you a journal prompt to explore.

When Alyssa announced The Journal Deck, I was really excited. Personally, I think journaling is a fantastic way to work toward healing. My own healing journey is rooted in journaling, however this activity doesn’t always come easy to some. How can we reap therapeutic benefits when chronic pain and arthritis prevents us from putting pen to paper?

I’ll take you through my journey to illustrate just how I was able to keep journaling in my life.

Back in 2012, I started working my way through the book Mind Over Medicine by Lissa Rankin, M.D. In it, she has almost 100 questions to work through. (You can download a lot of the questions in her healing kit here.) These questions helped me identify areas in my life that I needed to work past, and to let go and others that I needed to more fully embrace. It wasn’t until working through my journal that I was able to readily identify the shifts I needed to make in life.

The Self-Care Spotlight podcast, presented by The Journal Deck, had me on and we chatted about self-care and journaling. Not having the ability to journal wasn’t something that Alyssa had completely thought of before. And to be honest, it’s not something I had thought about until I wasn’t able to do it.

Within the last year-and-a-half, my hands began to cause me more and more problems. Before, I could stream consciousness all day and write in my journal. Now, after a page of writing, my hands tense up and I start to have a lot of pain.

I have friends within the arthritis community who have experienced these same problems. Recently, I feel like it’s been a topic that has kept coming up more and more.

So if we aren’t able to write, does that mean we have to miss out on being able to log and reflect on our thoughts? Absolutely not.

At first, I missed journaling on a superficial level. I missed the therapeutic benefits or writing out my thoughts and identifying thoughts I didn’t consciously realize I had. It wasn’t until I couldn’t write that I realized how vital journaling was to my treatment plan. Not being able to write was impacting my health.

Each of us will have our own solutions, so I urge you to try different modifications. The following five tips have helped me. Perhaps they can help you continue to journal in some way, shape, or form!

Many of my arthritis friends — psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis — can still gain the benefits of journaling by making a few modifications.

1) Wear compression gloves

Wearing compressions gloves while writing, or using my computer, has tremendously helped my pain and stiffness from my psoriatic arthritis. Without my gloves, after a few sentences my hands feel exhausted and start to tense up. With my gloves, I’m able to write in moderation. My gloves also are extremely beneficial while I’m on the computer.

Here is an example of the type of compress gloves I wear. Compression gloves have been shown to help minimize arthritis pain and stiffness. You can even find Arthritis Foundation certified compression gloves online. I would definitely urge you to order a pair and try them out!

2) Arthritis approved pens

I’ve always loved pens. When I travel, I always pick up pens from my destinations. Before I starting having hand problems, I never realized that all pens aren’t created equal. There are certain attributes in pens that can help ease arthritis pain and help you write with ease.

Use a gel pen. Using a pen where the ink effortlessly glides onto the page will help cut down on the stress of your hands.

Also, try to find a pen with a large barrel, like this example. This will help with your grip and allow your hands to relax a bit. If you have a favorite pen that you still want to use, purchase a grip to append to the barrel of the pen. This will increase the size of the pen and help with ease of use.

3) Type it out

A few years back, my friend told me that he asked his work to provide him with an iPad and keyboard to take notes at work. He simply couldn’t write using a pen and paper anymore. I didn’t fully understand it then, but I completely get it now.

For me, typing is a lot easier than writing. Due to this fact, typing out my thoughts to a journal prompt, or working through my own thoughts, helps me. Many of my arthritic blogging friends started their blogs for therapeutic reasons. It’s so cathartic to write out and process your emotions. And they’ve found it much easier to type than physically write.

Not sure how to start? Open up a word document and start typing. There are even online blogs or journals that you can utilize and set to private. Try out LiveJournal, Penzu, or Online Journal.

4) Speak it out

Siri is truly one of my best friends. She dictates all my notes, blog posts, emails and texts. I utilize her on a daily basis, and believe we should all be using her to our advantage!

Feeling certain emotions or trying to work through a prompt? Talk to text your response.

There are programs on your computer that you can use as well. In a past article about hand pain and stiffness, I suggested purchasing Nuance’s Dragon software. It’s a software package I use daily and helps take the stress off of my hands.

5) Meditate on the prompt

Have a prompt that you want to explore? Or perhaps you experienced a situation that you want to dig deeper into. Although not the exact same as journaling, meditating on the prompt or topic can truly be a great experience.

Sit in a comfortable space and visualize yourself writing down your thoughts. What would you write? What would you work through? It may seem a bit esoteric at first, but after a while you truly can stream consciousness just like if you were writing down all your thoughts.

Depending on your hands, if you’re able to write a bit, you could jot down the highlights that you’ve uncovered after working through your thoughts. It’s a win-win for you mind, body, and spirit!

I’ll be completely honest and say that I don’t think there’s anything that 100 percent takes the place of putting a pen to paper. Allowing your thoughts to flow completely from your hand to the page can be freeing, eye-opening, and life-changing. But, we shouldn’t allow physical barriers to hold us back from obtaining the benefits journaling has to offer.

Try one of these five tips and see if they work for you. If they don’t, try another! This, by all means, isn’t a complete list of ways that you can modify your journaling. So, explore and be open-minded.

Whatever you do, don’t run and hide from your emotions and thoughts. Embrace them head-on with an open and inquisitive mind. Allowing yourself to explore the inner webs of yourself will help you unlock healing that you never dreamed possible.

Julie Cerrone Croner
Meet Our Writer
Julie Cerrone Croner

Julie Cerrone Croner is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, Patient Empowerer, Yoga Instructor, Autoimmune Warrior and the Award Winning Blogger behind It's Just A Bad Day, NOT A Bad Life. When she’s not empowering chronically fabulous patients to live their best lives, she can be found jamming out to Celine Dion, cooking, geeking out over health-related things or enjoying life in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband and daughter.