Journaling During the Pandemic Helps Me Resist ‘Blursday’
Time distortion is a struggle. Here’s how I cope with pen and paper.
“My sense of time is completely and utterly out of whack. It’s February, according to the calendar, but if you told me it was October, I’d believe you. Where have the last two years gone? I’m shocked, and a little frightened, by how time is passing.”
This confession from an anonymous journal entry echoes the voices of everyone who survived what seemed like the longest two years in history.
The journaler continued,
“Can it be that the absence of novelty, from travel, the unanticipated interactions with distant friends and family, and spontaneity, is the cause of this time distortion?”
Before the lockdown, I landed a work-from-home job. This remote role offered me more time because I no longer had to commute. Despite having virtually two more hours to my day, the days seemed to go by like a blur.
Clocks and calendars brought me anxiety. Processing the thought that the world is seemingly at a standstill while time refuses to slow down–regardless of whether the world is in a crisis or not–is frustrating.
“In the pandemic, we don’t have as many memorable experiences, and so our brain’s ability to predict accurately is altered, and prediction errors increase.”
- Aaron Heller
Being stuck at home for months made me feel helpless. No more spontaneous trips to the beach on long weekends, parties on Saturdays, or movie dates with friends on Sundays. I was mourning for lost time and going through the same motions, trying to get by and forcing myself to survive the day.
Time runs at a dizzying speed on some days, while it seems to drag by on the others. This skewed perception of time is universal. Actually, this phenomenon has a name: temporal disintegration. It’s also known as ‘blursday,’ one of the terms that defined 2020.
How I Deal With Time Distortion During the Pandemic
Desperate to have some semblance of normalcy, I tried journaling.
I first discovered the joy of keeping a diary as a kid. I had a pink one with a dainty lock and an invisible ink pen with UV light. When I reached high school, I shifted to running a (now-deactivated) Tumblr blog where I posted confessions and secrets in the form of poems and prose.
Having a place to confide in my worries and struggles without fear of judgment is cathartic. But life happened, so I stopped journaling and blogging for years.
During the height of the pandemic, I was struggling to process a whirlwind of emotions and make sense of them. I also had unusual dreams that encouraged me to stay awake until the wee hours, no matter how exhausted I was. These negative feelings and experiences urged me to pick up journaling again.
My first pandemic journal entry was dated May 4, 2021, over a year after the lockdown. I should have already gotten used to the feelings of isolation, but I was still struggling at that time.
To somehow gain a sense of control, I used a journaling app to track my mood, activities, and goals. It served as a record of my quarantine life. Instead of exciting adventures, my entries contained mundane routines due to stay-at-home orders.
Last November 2021, I switched to the traditional pen-and-notebook journaling. I found this more enjoyable and helpful in documenting my days.
The Power of Journaling During the Pandemic
Journaling every day has let me regain control of time and highlighted the color I try to add to my monotonous quarantine life. Besides coping with time distortion, it has also allowed me to:
Enjoy Better Sleep
One of the positive changes I experienced after starting journaling is better sleep. Bizarre dreams and sleep paralysis are now minimal, thanks to this habit that untangles my thoughts before bed.
I hoarded journals, but they were left gathering dust in the corner of my room. The blank page intimidated me, and I was worried that my messy handwriting would ruin its pristine condition.
Once I plucked up the courage to start journaling, sticking to the habit got easy. I already filled an entire journal, and I’m now onto my second one. It inspired me to let go of my perfectionist tendencies.
Gain a Sense of Growth
My journal is a tangible reminder that life goes on. It has become a home for my small wins and major victories. It holds the experiences and lessons I learned over time, and I’ve witnessed how much I’ve grown through it.
The Growing Popularity of Journaling During the Pandemic
I’m not alone in my pandemic journaling journey. Together with many other journalers, I’m fueled to write to gain clarity and record a historic moment that changed life as we knew it.
In May 2020, the Pandemic Journaling Project was created to provide a platform for stories, particularly those of people of color, members of marginalized groups, and others hit hard by the pandemic. It ensures the voices of ordinary people are heard.
Another resource called the Pandemic Project was made by psychology researchers to encourage expressive writing. It offers writing prompts that inspire people to explore their pandemic-related experiences.
This turbulent time calls for every effort to better circumstances, no matter how minute it might be. While journaling during the pandemic can’t exactly miraculously transform life for the better (and is definitely not a substitute to therapy), the act of writing involved can serve as a healthy coping mechanism during isolation.
The anonymous digital journal entry ended this way:
“I hope it’s that simple. I hope that once we’re past this horror, that time will return to its normal pace — too rapid for my taste, but without feeling like I’m on a runaway train, with the destination marked ‘doom.’”
I’m here for the long haul. With my journal and pen, along with renewed hope, I try to find the strength to move forward and transition to a “new normal” life–whatever that is–one journal entry at a time.