Writing can take on many forms and do many things for people. It can be a fascinating or soothing hobby, a career, a passion, a job. But writing can have a more important role. Writing can be a coping strategy that can assist in stress relief, can increase feelings of positivity, can help manage anxiety, and can help to process trauma. Writing can be a form of therapy. Writing may do this in the following ways:

  1. It can help you honor yourself and your life story.

Vocalizing your story can be hard. Putting words to your pain can be excruciating. Putting your inner words and dialogue onto paper can be an effective alternative to speaking your story out loud. Moreover, it can provide emotional release and can validate your experience.

  1. It provides a way to share your story with others.

Some stories are traumatic. Some stories are hopeful. Some stories are either, or and both.  Sharing your story for others to read can provide normalization to others – that is, it can let others know that other people share similar pain. This, in turn, can provide positive benefits for the writer. Writing can provide a loud voice in order to share experiences.

  1. Writing can let unconscious material become conscious.

Writing out a traumatic event can help process trauma with the help of a professional therapist. Often we cope with stressful or traumatic things by compartmentalizing. It is as if our brain contains different compartments in which we can put different memories and emotions in an attempt to store them away for later.  Some memories and emotions can end up in our unconscious. Writing whatever flows out of your mind, called free association, is a way to tap into what may be stored within the unconscious mind.

  1. Writing has a calming effect on the brain.

Writing, particularly by hand, stimulates the same areas of the brain that meditation does. It engages the brain’s motor areas and memory pathways, and forces the mind to slow down while the hand catches up. This has the potential to allow more space for learning and memory integration.

Moreover, writing in cursive has further benefits. Handwriting is rhythmic and provides sensory soothing to the brain, which can decrease a negative emotional experience. It integrates sensation, movement control, cognition, and causes a calming slow-down effect.

  1. Writing can inspire hope.

Writing your future story can instill hope, create soothing imagery within your mind, and produce calm. It can also help you to set goals and perhaps start to plan a way to work towards the goals.

  1. It can help heal pain from relationships.

Writing apology and forgiveness letters can help right wrongs. Further, penning undelivered letters to those who have hurt us can assist with healing the hurt without ever having to make contact with that person.

There are many ways that you can write. Here are some practical suggestions:

  • Get a notebook and start a journal.
  • Create a blog and type out your story.
  • Write letters to your future or past self.

Remember, you are the author of your life-book. Every day can be a blank page on which to record, explore, hope, uplift, remember, and design. Writing regularly can restore, rebuild, and heal.


20181009_113447Erin Newman is a therapist by day, and a writer by night. She is also a parent, student, advocate, artist, and teacher.

As a mom, almost every day there is a moment where I think to myself, am I messing up my kid?  Is she eating too much sugar? Am I on my cellphone too much? Is the TV on too often? And, even when she has my undivided attention – is it truly undivided if my mind wanders? Can any or all of these concerns screw up my kid for life?

As a therapist, I know how ridiculous this line of thinking is. Every day, I see kids whose lives are truly negatively impacted by their past or present. Their parents are on the streets as drug addicts and we now have a teenager questioning her very existence and contemplating suicide. A youth diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD is moved in and out of various residences and can’t quite connect to anyone because he was severely emotionally abused as a child. Sugar, phones, TV, and thoughts do not cause trauma as drugs, abuse, and dysfunction do. And while it is important to consider all factors when raising our children, I also know that somethings are more harmful than others.

But let’s back up. Why would a parent turn to drugs? What leads someone to take their frustrations out on a child? How can someone sexually abuse their own?  Are they only an individual problem? Many agree that most of these issues are systemic, inter-generational and related to widespread trauma. When these associated effects accumulate in certain communities, the possibility for these terrible social side effects multiplies for everyone involved.

As a Metis and white person, I’ve never had to wonder in which generation things went “wrong.” Fortunately, I’ve never had to live with the stigmas that come with addiction, trauma, and other mental health issues. As a Metis person who looks fully white, I’ve never had to live with discrimination on a daily basis. But I do live with dissonance – like feeling exceptionally close to the First Nations community but always considered to be an outsider, treating racist individuals in therapy, and raising my multi-race child to be open and inclusive and loving to all, while protecting her from the problems of the world that I see everyday.

The biggest way I could screw up my child would be allowing her to live a life of ignorant bliss. As a society, we mess up our kids by allowing them to embrace or ignore the discriminatory racial values of society, to view mental illness and trauma as an individual problem, and by not embracing, helping, and loving those whose lineages constrain the choices for their future course in life. Next time you see that an allegedly “thugged out” POC kid walking around downtown – give her a smile and then get to work on educating your kids about these important subjects. A little compassion goes a long way to breaking social isolation and she needs to know that you care about not messing up kids.


erinErin Newman, M.Ed. is a mental health therapist specializing in the treatment of youth in both private practice and in the public sector. She is also passionate about feminist issues, Indigenous rights, and advocacy for children and youth. Academically, Erin was the recipient of the Indspire Scholarship and the Metis Bursary Award for social services. She hopes to pursue further graduate studies exploring how movement, dance and therapy can assist in healing trauma. Erin uses gardening, nature, and animal therapy for her own personal growth, is a dancer with the integrated and political performing group, CRIPSIE, and spends the rest of her spare time chasing after a toddler.

This article was written by Rachael Heffernan – new staff Writer and Researcher for The Drawing Board.

If you’ve ever struggled with depression, you’ve likely heard all of the mainstream advice – eat well, exercise, talk to a counselor, take medication, get lots of sunlight. I have found, though, that there are little tricks that can bolster you up if you are finding it difficult to get out of bed in the morning due to your depression. Please note that this is anecdotal advice from my personal experience and is, in no way, a replacement for medical advice.

50c195121cf255765cd19f6d2d459796Talk the talk.

A long time ago I read an article exploring why evangelical Christians generally have better mental health than their secular counterparts, and it turns out that part of the reason has less to do with religion and more to do with how they talk. “I’m so blessed.” “I’m so loved.” “Look at the gifts all around me.” It’s an appreciative, grateful, and generally positive way of looking at the world.

And I thought to myself, “I can do that.”

So I do. I talk about how wonderful my life is. I am openly thankful for the things I have. I focus on how lovely people are. Whether or not God is included in those conversations is entirely up to you – but no matter your belief system (or lack thereof), you can start saying (out loud) how great your life is and how appreciative you are of it. It makes a huge difference and is loosely related to psychological techniques including Behavioural Conditioning and the interruption of Automatic Negative Thoughts.

il_fullxfull.738763364_69vkSurround yourself with lovely reminders.

When I’m having a rough morning, I try to clothe myself in gifts – a dress my mom gave me, a scarf from my sister-in-law, or a shirt from my partner. I wrap myself in these things and I feel all the love that has been shown to me, and I suddenly become much stronger, and much more outward looking. Plus – I look fly.

runawayRun.

This is one of the hardest, but ultimately (to me) one of the most important ways to stay happy. And by “run,” I don’t necessarily mean “Strap on your shoes and hit the treadmill” (although that helps too!).

I mean, every time I start to feel those monsters creeping up – lethargy, apathy, lack of appetite – I run: I go shopping. I go to the movies. I go to the mailbox. I go over to a friend’s place. Every opportunity I have to get out of the house, I take: Yes, I’ll help you move. Yes, I’ll go to the park with you. Do you need help painting your house? Planting a garden? Organizing your sock drawer? I’m available to volunteer. I’m available to work. I run and I keep running until I can happily collapse, safe in the knowledge that, at least for that day, the monsters couldn’t get a grip on me.

hijab-fashion-2014-4Dress up

If you’re like me, you have no real reason to get dolled up, and about a million reasons – including sweaty gym sessions and an inordinate love of the snooze button – not to. But getting dressed up can be surprisingly helpful.

Just like slipping into pyjama pants after work can be instantly relaxing, putting on dress clothes and doing your hair can immediately make you feel more productive. After getting dolled up, I suddenly feel weird sitting in bed. I feel the need to accomplish things. I look great; I feel great; and I itch to get things done. It’s a good combination.

So yeah, you might mess up your makeup the instant you hit the gym, and yeah, you might need to do more laundry as you systematically mudify all your nice clothes, but if it means you feel better, then it’s worth it.

tumblr_lvwdafR7351r27f9oo1_500.pngImprove your space

I used to think I didn’t care about how my place looked. And maybe if you’re reading this, you think the same about yourself. But space can be tricky – for myself, as a perpetual renter, grad student, and generally cluttered human being, I didn’t get attached to spaces and didn’t see the point in investing time and effort into the apartments I was only staying in for 8 months. But speaking from recent experience – it’s worth the time. It’s worth the effort. It’s worth the marginal cost. The moment everything is put away, sparkly clean, and looking fabulous, I can instantly feel the clouds lift from my brain. A clean sense of space leads to less cluttered, more thoughtful behaviour in other areas of my life. I clean up my workspace (my computer) by closing my millions of useless tabs. I manage to maintain only one glass of water rather than grabbing a new one every time I get up. I update my phone. It’s remarkable, really.

So break out the Pinterest inspiration board, go buy a mop, and get to work!