How Writing Helped Me Overcome Stress and Become Happier

Two years ago, I had a nervous breakdown. Let me tell you how that happened.

I had just moved to New York. I’ve always been dreaming about making that big step. You know those people from small towns who make plans about moving to New York City and becoming successful? Yup, that was me.

I came from a small place where everyone knew everyone. The bonds were strong and friendships lasted forever. Suddenly, I launched myself in a completely different environment. If I had to think of a single word to describe it, this would be the one: crazy. I had to make huge efforts to build new friendships and relationships.

People here are living in a hurry. They don’t have time to grab a cup of coffee and have small talk with you. When you observe this crazy lifestyle, it looks like a complete mess. And I was part of it. The people I met were not interested in deep talks, and I couldn’t even find people to call friends. The neighbor next door had the silliest look of surprise on his face when I said a simple good evening.

I’m not judging. I knew this was how it was going to be. I found myself at a place I’d been envisioning for a very long time. I had the job I wanted, the apartment I could afford, and the life in New York City I was striving for. I wanted to be busy, ambitious, and prosperous.

The Breakdown

My spiritual teacher once asked me: “Who are you trying to run away from? Do you think you can abandon your problems? No. You’ll carry them wherever you go. When you’re trying to run away without resolving the conflict, you’re running away from yourself. The only right way to run is towards yourself.”

I was thinking about that conversation a lot during all those evenings I was spending alone. I got the job and I was aiming for the life I wanted. The fact that everyone was a stranger here gave me a surprising courage to talk to women and invite them home. We all shared the same fear of being alone, but we didn’t want to make deep bonds at the same time. It’s the paradox of New Yorkers.

I had everything I wanted, but I wasn’t happy. The job demanded huge responsibility. The office culture was based on “how are you today” and “could you please do this for me?” No contact, no communication. Just tasks I needed to complete and issues I was asked to solve.

You know those moments when you’re sitting alone, you’re tired of everything and you don’t know how you’ll wake up the following day? You don’t see the reason. You don’t see the point.

The Solution: Writing

After the nervous breakdown, which I’m still not ready to describe in detail, I tried calling the only person I could call anytime: my best friend back home. He was too busy at the moment, so he said: “just write me an email.

I started writing. That was the most liberating feeling I’ve ever experienced. It’s like you’re digging below the surface, trying to find the right words. When I read this email I wrote, I came down to the realization I was looking for: I was running away from myself. It was about time I started working on personal growth.

I continued writing. When I read my old entries in Penzu today, I clearly see the moments when I struggled, and I can recognize the point of realization and solution. It’s like the journal witnesses my growth. There’s one entry I particularly like reading from today’s perspective; the one when I wrote: “I saw an ad today. It’s a writing job. I think I might try this one.

I applied for a job as a writing tutor at EduGeeksClub in Newark, New Jersey. It’s close to New York, so I didn’t want to add the stress of moving to all of this. This job literally saved my life. It’s relaxed, and I get to develop true connections with my coworkers and the students I work with. The change helped me understand myself better, and I essentially became a happier person.

The Tips: How to Keep a Journal the Right Way

There’s no complex technique to it. Just start your online diary, which you can do through Penzu or WordPress. If you’re not ready to share your thoughts and feelings with the world, just keep it private. In fact, I recommend you to keep it private, so you won’t be blocked by the expectation of feedback.

  • Write every single day. How are you feeling today? That’s the main question to ask.
  • Don’t start with a plan on what to write. Just sit down and the words will flow. Maybe you’ll struggle with the first few entries, but keep doing it. It gets easier.
  • Be completely honest with yourself. You’re not trying to impress anyone. Instead of suppressing your thoughts and emotions, you’re laying them out in the open. They seem much less serious that way.
  • Review your daily entries from time to time. That’s how you’ll see the progress.

Give writing a chance! That’s the most honest recommendation I can give.


Originally published at possibilitychange.com on August 29, 2017.