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Measure your shoulders.

How much stress weight do they carry? Bills, jobs, kids, relationships, electing the leader of the free world and a dozen other personal/professional life obligations keep worry and anxiety around us constantly. As varied as those pressures can be, so are the approaches each of us use to cope.

Maybe you head to the gym and pound the heavy bag to release the tension. Binge-watching TV or melting into a comfortable chair have merit as unwinding techniques. Walking the dog with some music-filled headphones qualifies for a quick escape.

What’s your trick? Does putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard have a spot on your list?

As much as professional writing falls into the category of underappreciated skills and undervalued services, personal writing feels like a lost art in this digital age where texts and social media compel some folks to express every detail their lives in real time. Raise your hand if you know the friend you’d vote as “Most Likely to TMI” on Facebook.

Collecting words in a thoughtful way and expressing on them on paper or electronic screen of your choice for an Audience of One (that’s you) can be a simple stress reliever, even for the multitude of people who think they can’t write. Here’s how you can and why you should:

No rules, just write

You’ve got a mind. You’ve got thoughts. We can agree there’s a pretty good chance stress creeps into and clumps up those thoughts from time to time. Even the most measured folks get stifled in their own brain, so an escape plan is in order.

Sit down and spell out the worry, the anger, the frustration. Describe your helplessness and hopes. Complain about yourself and others. Dream of perfect fixes to problems. Be honest with yourself. Use your words (even if they’re made up), curse, misspell things, put commas in the wrong place – there are no rules because the Audience of One doesn’t judge.

Clear your mind

Ever grocery shop with the list at home? You’re already tweaked by such a simple mistake, but things can get pretty damn frustrating trying to remember whether it was tomato sauce or tomato paste you needed for that recipe.

Life’s like that almost everyday. The traffic jam in your head starts when layers of stuff (STRESS!) build up and you can’t separate them enough to push anything aside. All of a sudden the little issues – where is that grocery list? – get mixed in with unrelated angst about an upcoming project at work.

Find a moment to write until you’ve emptied all corners of your thought-clogged cranium. It’ll give you a fighting chance of finding a clear view of the whirlwind going on in your head. Assess that inventory to decide what’s important, urgent, wasting your time/energy or is so complicated that its worth talking about with someone. Seeing everything in black and white can be comforting and confounding. Call it progress, too.

Now what?

You’ve plucked a bunch of thoughts and ideas from your mind to create this written monologue for your Audience of One. So … what’s next?

Do it again. The next day. The next week. Whenever. This isn’t about becoming a perfect writer, it’s about developing a comfortable outlet for sliding some of that stress weight off your shoulders. Sure, it’ll work differently for each person – and that’s the point.

Some people run marathons to stay fit, others do sit-ups in their basement. With writing, you can dump hundreds of words out or make short lists to describe your feelings. Find a unique writing approach you like to let the Audience of One get a fresh grasp of what’s happening. Be real. Be free. Be confident.

Remember, there’s no teacher with a red pen ready to attack your grammar or punctuation. No boss looking to edit your words into corporate speak. This is for you, by you. You might not consider yourself a writer, but everyone can write when they take the moment to breathe and give it a try.

Whether you’ve written a journal for years or started writing for yourself recently, share your experiences with me by email –