Inside: Chronic illness is often traumatic. Here are 20 therapeutic writing prompts to help you feel restored and get back to better mental health.
Are you struggling with your mental health after getting diagnosed with a chronic illness?
Grieving over your health is normal (and even encouraged).
You might grieve a time when you trained for half marathons and spent hours in the kitchen cooking pinterest-worthy meals for your kids.
Or you may be grieving a future life – one where you envision yourself spending thousands of dollars on medical bills and failing to achieve the goals you desperately desired.
Either way, grieving is inevitable when your health no longer allows you to do the things you once loved.
Limitations of Talk Therapy
I’ve found that sometimes when you’re dealing with something as profound as chronic illness, it’s not as simple as changing your perspective on the situation. The thing is, no matter how you look at it, your health is failing you.
In a situation where I don’t feel like the other person can reciprocate what I’m feeling, I find it more therapeutic to write out my feelings.
I write about how I’m feeling.
And I feel a lot better afterward.
How can writing be therapeutic?
I originally started this blog several years ago as a way of processing the difficult emotions that come from finding out you have a rare disease. I didn’t really like talking about my anxiety with other people, so I would air out all of my thoughts through writing.
According to one study by the British Journal of General Practice, expressive writing may have the potential to heal mentally and physically. In early experiments, participants wrote about their most traumatic thoughts and feelings related to a stressful event for up to 20 minutes over three or four writing sessions.
As a result, this group later observed better physical health, improved immune system functioning, and fewer days off due to illness.
What should be included in a therapy journal?
According to GoodTherapy.com, “Journal therapy is primarily used with people in therapy to increase awareness and insight, promote change and growth, and further develop their sense of self.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t start your own therapy journal.
The goal of therapy journaling is to guide you toward your goals, provide clarity and release built-up tension through the process of writing. It’s also helpful for tracking your progress.
I would always recommend talking to a professional. However, if you’d like to start slow and do some of the work on your own then here are a list of therapeutic writing prompts to help you started.
20 Therapeutic Writing Prompts to Help You Feel Restored (+ FREE PDF)
- Describe the place that makes you feel the calmest. Is there anything that could be added to make it even better?
- What makes you feel like the best version of yourself?
- Is there someone in your life that you need to forgive? You can write them a letter now. It’s your choice whether you send it or save it for yourself!
- Are there any goals that you would like to set to improve your physical health? Now is the time to start writing them down.
- Make a list of 10 not so obvious things that you’re grateful for. They can be as simple as the breakfast you ate or how well you slept last night. Describe why you’re grateful for them.
- Think about a situation that has triggered anxiety in you. Why did it trigger anxiety, and can you name the emotion that you felt? Why did this situation make you feel this emotion?
- Make a list of 100 reasons to get up in the morning.
- Sit down, close your eyes and empty your mind from any thoughts. Try to do this for one minute and then imagine a bucket of paint falling over your head and washing over your body. What color is the paint? Why did this color feel like a natural choice?
- I have trouble sleeping when…
- How does your spirituality affect you? What is your belief system like and how does it help you?
- Imagine yourself a year from now in a better place than where you are now. What does that look like?
- What has dealing with the hardships in your life taught you? What advice would you give to someone else going through the same thing?
- What qualities do you admire in yourself?
- What are you proud of in your life? Are there habits you could create to help continuously add to this achievement?
- Write a letter to your former self.
- What would you consider your top three values in life and why?
- Make a list of things that are holding you back from your wants, needs, goals, and desires. What are some ways you can overcome these obstacles?
- What is something that you wish people knew about you? How do you wish to come across to people?
- Describe a time that you were truly happy. What are some things that you could set in place to recreate that happiness?
- Write down what it would feel like and look like to be at peace with the changes happening in your life.
Tips for Therapeutic Writing
- Try to silence your inner critic as much as possible. Remember that no one is going to see this but you.
- Set a timer for 3-5 minutes and don’t stop writing until the timer goes off.
- Try not to lift your pen off of the paper (if handwriting) during the duration of your writing prompt. This will help you keep the thoughts free-flowing.
- Be honest with yourself and don’t try to censor your thoughts or emotions in any way.
Finals Thoughts on 20 Therapeutic Writing Prompts to Help You Feel Restored (+ FREE PDF)
Getting diagnosed with a chronic illness can be as dramatic as losing a loved one. It’s HARD. It’s even harder if you don’t have someone you feel like can relate to you.
One of the best things that I’ve done is create a community online. It’s comforting to find others who can sympathize with you and cheer you on because they truly understand just how hard it is to get out of bed every single day.
I hope these therapeutic writing prompts help you release built-up, negative emotions. Please let me know if there’s anything that I missed or any additional writing prompts that you’d like to see on Disability Dame.
Have you tried writing as a way of therapy? Tell me in the comments below!
Allie Schmidt is a rare disease advocate and disabled mom living with motor neuron disease. She founded Disability Dame in 2020 to provide tips to other moms living with disabilities and chronic illnesses.
In her spare time, you can find her traveling with her husband (she's been to 38 states and 16 countries!), watching reruns of Survivor, or tending to her near-constant sunburn from spending too much time outside. You can follow her adventures here.