New schools… new family dynamics… new relationships… new jobs… new bodies… new projects…new perspectives…

September has always been a season of change for me. As a mother, wife, daughter, teacher and business professional, many opportunities for development and growth seem to present themselves in September in almost every aspect of my life. It’s up to me to choose which paths to follow. And, whether the upcoming changes are welcome or not, there’s something unsettling about change. So I find clarity and guidance in journal writing.

I’ve come to know that change occurs in its own time. We can “do” all sorts of stuff to try and control what happens in our lives. We can plan for change. We can resist change. We can avoid change. We can try to accelerate change. And through it all, we experience a full spectrum of emotion – anticipation, excitement, anxiety, frustration, sadness, dread, elation and joy. Whether we decide change is “good” or “bad” is entirely up to each of us individually. So in the end, when the rubber meets the road, we only have control over HOW we act when circumstances change in our lives. And, if our actions are indeed manifestations of our thoughts, then effectively managing change is simply a matter of changing our perspectives. Isn’t that what change is all about?

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Transition is a shift – an actual movement of our physical, mental and/or spiritual selves from one point to another. Journal writing can help us create shape for the change occurring in our lives – ultimately helping transition in a healthy manner.

The following journal writing tools are perfect for navigating change:

1.Use the Brain Dump to Gain Clarity

To effectively navigate transition, we actually start with the ending of a previous event, relationship or state of being. Putting our thoughts on paper helps us release emotion. I recommend rising a half hour earlier than you normally do each day to write. Find a quiet place with pen and paper and just write. Write whatever comes to mind – without judgment, without editing and without re-reading. Write for 20 to 30 minutes every day for one week. Explore your feelings about what is ending in your life, what is on the horizon and how you might manage to move forward. When I decided to downsize my home, the task at first seemed overwhelming. Through journaling about what I would miss about my current home, I was able to better leave it behind without regret. I was also able to “brain dump” all the anxiety I had about transitioning to a smaller space.

2.Build Lists to Build Action

List building is a powerful tool that can be used to prioritize tasks and plan the steps necessary to navigate through the transitioning period. I suggest constructing three sets of lists; taken in total, they are centered on the health of your physical, mental and spiritual selves and are designed to keep you grounded through unsettling times of change.

* Five Actions: Identify 5 major actions you need to take to successfully make the change you are facing. For each of the 5 major actions, pen a list of tasks for each. For my home downsizing, I used my journal to list my main change categories based on area of the house such as bedrooms, kitchen and outdoor areas. Under each major category, list the functional tasks needed to accomplish your goal in that area.

* Three Self-Care Solutions: List 3 ways you will nurture yourself during the transition time. Will you increase your workouts? Add an evening walk? Take more baths? Find and read a new poetry book or take time to write some short stories? Vow to call a friend more regularly? Whatever you decide, ensure that you make a solid commitment to maintain your health and wellness during the time of change.
* Three Life Lines: Create a list of 3 ways in which you can strengthen your spiritual support system. These might include specific people you want to call on for support, spiritual reading material, time for prayer and reflection or listening to uplifting music.

3.Find Your Way Through a Mind Map or Cluster

Choose one word which summarizes the “place” (physical, mental or spiritual) that you want to be at the other end of the change you are currently facing – in other words, what one word describes your new beginning? Place that word in the middle of a page in your journal. From that word, branch off into another word (connecting it to the main word via a straight line). Then branch off into another word from the second word, and so on and so on until the train of thought ends. Return back to your main word and begin again until you’ve created a large diagram of words connected to a root word at the center. Now go back and take a highlighter and mark the words that have significance for you. Take those words, list then on the next page of your journal, and write about what they mean as you become the new person you need to be.

These three journaling techniques – brain dumping, list building and clustering – are powerful tools when writing to help navigate times of change. Use them often together for major or minor points of change in your life.

Author's Bio: 

Debi Wacker is a Journal Coach and co-owner of Write to Health, a creative writing adventure dedicated to helping people discover the healing benefits of journal writing. Write to Health’s journal circles explore and celebrate health through writing about spirituality, addiction recovery, cancer survivorship, life transition, grief process and life legacy. Write to Health’s online journal writing courses teach a variety of techniques including letter writing, clustering and lists. Inspirational blank journals and guided meditations complement the writing programs and help clients begin a writing practice in the comfort of their own homes. Debi is also co-author and publisher of The Sacred Purse, a collaborative book of women’s poetry and essays, and continues work on her first novel. She is president of LightSource Marketing, a marketing and business development consulting firm with offices in Virginia Beach and Washington D.C. Debi specializes in strategic and market planning, program design and development, and copywriting. Debi recently returned to the college campus as a part-time professor. Reach her at