COVID-19 Journal ChallengeOur world has changed dramatically. For those in the U.S. this change has occurred in the last few weeks. How are you coping? What are you thinking? What are you feeling? How are you processing those thoughts and feelings? 

In researching journals for another project (ask me about Lewis & Clark, I dare you!) I recently came across a journal, written by a young girl in 1918…during the Spanish Flu pandemic. The book, “If I Die Before I Wake – The Flu Epidemic Diary of Fiona Macgregor”, chronicles the experiences, observations and feelings in a way history books never do justice. It is raw, it is honest, it is personal. In fact, there are dozens, if not hundreds of journals from 1918 and 1919 that give us a glimpse into life during a pandemic. 

“I wanted to hug her but Aunt would not let me get close until I put on a mask. She wears one every time she goes near Fan. Of course, I did not look like myself in the mask, but at last she knew my voice and gripped my hands with her thin fingers. Oh, Jane, her pretty hands are like claws.

They tried to order me out but Fanny cried out for me again. It was terrible. She seemed to quiet a bit while I held her hands in mine. Aunt still tried to argue with me but she is too tired to do battle. Theo is not allowed even in the doorway of her room.” from Dear Canada: If I Die Before I Wake, copyright © 2007 by Jean Little.

We are on a journey through uncharted waters. A key component to a successful journey is the practice of journaling. Explorers, inventors, and leaders have been using journals as a way to record their days, their thoughts, and their ideas for over a thousand years. Without the “map” of a daily journal it is too easy to forget the nuances and challenges of the journey. These two concepts, that of journey and journal, are inextricably tied. Each trace their roots back to the latin “diurnal” or daily. 

This practice of journaling extended far beyond explorers, inventors and leaders. Much of what we know about the past comes from journals, diaries, and letters written by people like you and me. People living their lives. Writing down their experiences. Writing down their thoughts.

The Challenge

You may not be witnessing the ravages of this disease first hand as Fiona did (or, you might be), but you do have a story to capture, thoughts to process, questions to ask. I invite you to join me, no, I challenge you to join me in writing the story of COVID-19. I guarantee it will help you to process your thoughts and feelings about this new reality we find ourselves in. Don’t want to do it for yourself? Do it for your grandchildren and your great grandchildren. Do it for those in 2120, looking to the past for answers for their reality. In the words of Nike….just do it! 

Accepting the challenge? I would love to hear from you. Visit COVID-19 Journal Challenge to let me know. Want a daily reminder or a prompt to keep you journaling? You can opt-in on the page as well. 

Want to accept the challenge, but don’t know where to start? Read on! Already a veteran journaler, but want a prompt to get rolling? Read on! 

The “Art” of Journaling

There are many different types of journaling. In fact, google “types of journals” returns dozens of articles about types of journals: ”17 Types of Journals to Keep your Life Organized”; “5 Different Types of Journaling & How to Select Best One For You”; or, “7 Different Types of Journals with Examples”. At its simplest form, journaling is a written record of something. It might be a food journal, a weight loss journal, a bullet journal, or a dream journal. For our purposes, your COVID-19 Journal will be a place to keep track of, well, your journey through these uncharted waters of COVID-19: your thoughts, feelings, insights, and ideas along the way. 

Just as there are many types of journals, there are different ways to journal. You can put pen to paper and write a physical journal, you can put fingers to keys and keep a digital journal. You might choose to use a journal app; a leather bound journal; a pad of paper; or the swag journal from the last conference you attended. I am going to encourage you to hand-write your journal. There are many benefits to writing in a physical journal. It forces you to slow down and be mindful. Studies have shown the act of writing forces your brain to focus on what is important. With all that said, the ACT of journaling is more important than the HOW for our purposes. 

If you are new to journaling, developing the habit is easy. As you begin the process there are five key elements to keep in mind. 

  • The Frequency in which you journal is important. To help form the habit, set a specific cadence. For our purposes, your cadence should be at least once a day. While frequency is important, don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day here and there throughout the journey. 
  • When you journal will be a matter of personal preference. Regardless of when, set a specific time of day and stick with it. Knowing you have a designated time will help to form the habit. You will need 10 to 30 minutes each day (uh, including Saturday and Sunday). For me, personally, I find early mornings are best. The house is quiet, the whirlwind of the day has not yet encompassed me. Try setting your alarm (you are still setting an alarm, right?) 10 minutes earlier each day until you are getting up 30 minutes earlier than normal and then spend those minutes writing in your journal. 
  • Place can be a great tool to center our thoughts and set the mood for journaling. Journaling in the same place each day also helps to create the habit. I use my home office, you may want to sit in your favorite comfy chair or couch. 
  • Knowing what to write in your journal can, at times, be the most difficult. Your COVID-19 Journal is more than just a daily diary of your activities of the day, though that is a good place to start. Theodore Roosevelt kept extensive journals throughout his life. Once, on a very tragic day, he merely wrote a large X on the page. No further explanation was needed. The journal is yours. I will help guide your writing with some prompting questions, if you’d like. 
  • Reflect on your Journal – The primary purpose of a journal is to keep a record of your thoughts and activities. However, once written, it should not just sit on a shelf. Reread portions of your journal periodically. What stands out for you? Do you feel the same about a given event a week later, or a month later? What did you learn from the event in retrospect? 

Let’s Rock ‘n Roll

To start your journal, write your story. (Hey, you never know, someone 100 years from now could be reading your journal!) Don’t worry about the quality of your prose or your storytelling abilities…just write. Use as many pages as you’d like. Where were you born? What was your family like? Where did you go to school? Who were your friends? What was your first job? What did you like about it? What didn’t you like? What other jobs have you worked? Where are you working today, or where were you working when this damn thing started? 

Now that you have written your story, let’s start processing this new world we find ourselves in. I want you to think back over the last three months. When did you first hear about the Coronavirus? What were your first thoughts? As the threat grew, how did your perspectives change? 

Accept the Challenge here: COVID-19 Journal Challenge

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Realizing, of course, this pandemic has affected different countries at different times and in different ways. Even in the U.S., it has affected different states at different times. If you are like me, you need some reminders. Here is a timeline of major developments in the COVID-19 pandemic. (Source: NBCNews.com & CNN.com). 

  • December 31, 2019 – Dozens of confirmed cases of pneumonia from an unknown source in Wuhan China. 
  • January 7, 2020 – The outbreak is identified as a new coronavirus. 
  • January 11, 2020 – First known death from the coronavirus. 
  • January 20, 2020 – First cases outside China documented. 
  • January 21 , 2020 – First case in the United States (Washington state)
  • January 23, 2020 – Wuhan China placed under quarantine. 
  • January 30, 2020 – World Health Organization declares a global health emergency 
  • February 2, 2020 – First death outside China. 
  • February 4, 2020 – Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined. 
  • February 9, 2020 – Death toll in China surpases that of the SARS outbreak. 
  • February 11, 2020 – Disease caused by the coronavirus named COVID-19
  • February 14, 2020 – First case in Egypt (first on African continent) reported. First death outside China occured in France. 
  • February 19, 2020 – First cases reported in Iran, first deaths reported in Iran
  • February 20, 2020 – South Korea reports first death from the virus. 
  • February 24, 2020 – Italy becomes the worst hit country in Europe. U.S. Stock Market plummets.
  • February 26, 2020 – California announces first confirmed case with no known source of exposure. Brazil reports the first case in South America.
  • February 28, 2020 – Iran becomes the country with the highest death toll outside China. 
  • February 29, 2020 – U.S. announces additional travel restrictions. First death reported in the U.S. (Washington state). 
  • March 6, 2020 – President Trump signs emergency spending package as cases worldwide surpass 100,000. SXSW in Austin, TX is canceled. 21 passengers aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship test positive. 
  • March 8, 2020 – Italy quarantines 16 million people in the north region of the country. U.S. cases top 500. 
  • March 9, 2020 – Ireland cancels St. Patrick’s Day festivities. 
  • March 10, 2020 – Italy’s quarantine extended to the entire country. 
  • March 11, 2020 – World Health Organization officially labels coronavirus as a pandemic. NBA suspends all play after a Utah Jazz player tests positive for the virus. New international travel restrictions imposed. 
  • March 12, 2020 – Major League Baseball suspends spring training and delays the start of the season by two weeks. National Hockey League suspends season. NCAA cancels the men’s and women’s national basketball championship tournaments. 
  • March 13, 2020 – Death toll in Italy surpasses 1,000. Europe becomes the epicenter of the outbreak. President Trump declares a National State of Emergency. Schools in several states announce closures. 
  • March 14, 2020 – Spain announces a spike of 2,000 new cases. English Premier League soccer suspends season. 
  • March 15, 2020 – U.S. travel ban extended to include the U.K. Iran reports a spike of 1,365 new cases. Italy’s death toll surpasses 1,800. The Centers for Disease Control recommends no gatherings of over 50 people. 
  • March 16, 2020 – U.S. stock market plunges again. Germany seals its borders. Cases in Italy rise above 28,000. Canada announces plans to close its borders. San Francisco implements stay at home order. President recommends no gathering larger than 10 people. France imposes stay at home order for the country. NASCAR postpones all races. 
  • March 17, 2020 – Kentucky Derby postponed until September. Some states postpone presidential primaries, others continue as planned. European Union bans non-essential incoming travel. West Virginia reports its first case of the virus, which now reaches all 50 states. Cases in the U.S. exceed 5,800 and the death toll passes 100. 
  • March 18, 2020 – U.S. and Canada closes border to non-essential travel. Belgium locks down the country. Wall Street halts trading for the fourth time in two weeks. Italy announces its deadliest day, 475 deaths in 24 hours. 
  • March 19, 2020 – Australia and New Zealand close their borders. Spain becomes the second worst impacted country in Europe. Italy overtakes China with the most coronavirus related deaths. Cannes Film Festival postponed. California issues statewide stay at home order. 
  • March 20, 2020 – Death toll in Spain surpasses 1,000. U.S. announces plans to close the border with Mexico. Death toll in Italy climbs above 4,000. Cases in California exceed 1,000, doubling in three days. New York City becomes the epicenter with 5,151 cases and 29 deaths. 
  • March 21, 2020 – Cases in New York state exceed 10,000. Virus cases in Switzerland jump 25% in a single day. 793 new fatalities in Italy brining its death toll to 4,825. 
  • March 22, 2020 – Riot in Columbian prison caused by fears of the virus kills 23. U.S. National Guard activated in several states to help with relief efforts. Canada announces it will not send athletes to the Olympic Games. 
  • March 23, 2020 – Saudi Arabia issues a curfew nationwide. Hong Kong bans all tourists. Iran reports 1,400 deaths in 24 hours. Spain’s death toll surpasses 2,000, doubling in three days. Massachusetts, Washington, West Virginia and Michigan join a growing list of states with stay at home orders. Worldwide cases top the 300,000 mark. South Africa announces 21 day lock down. U.K. announces a three week lockdown. 
  • March 24, 2020 – Chinese officials announce travel restrictions to and from Wuhan will be lifted April 8. Egypt announces a curfew. India issues a three week lockdown affecting 1.3 billion people. The Olympics are postponed until 2021. France enters a two month state of emergency. U.K. death toll jumps 25%. U.S. cases surpass 50,000. Residents of New York told to quarantine for 14 days if they leave the state. 
  • March 25, 2020 – Prince Charles tests positive for the virus. Spain surpasses China in number of deaths, now only second to Italy. Italy’s death toll surpasses 7,500. Minnesota and Idaho issue stay at home orders. U.S. Senate passes a 2 trillion dollar stimulus package. 
  • March 26, 2020 – U.S. death toll rises above 1,000. Iran bans intercity travel as death toll reaches 2,234. New Zealand announces a one month lockdown. Russia announces plans to ground all international flights. The Indianapolis 500 Mile Race is postponed until August. Cases in California surpass 3,000 and the total cases in the U.S. surpasses China at 82,474. 
  • March 27, 2020 – FDA approves 15-minute coronavirus test. Number of cases in the U.S. surpasses 101,000. Madrid builds a temporary morgue to hold the bodies of COVID-19 fatalities. 102 year-old Italian woman recovers from the virus. Schools using 3-D printers to produce personal protective equipment. 
  • March 28, 2020 – Zandaam cruise ship allowed to pass through Panama Canal. NYPD reports over 700 officers with the virus. France reports 4,611 cases in last 24 hours. Naval ship USS Comfort deployed to NYC. Italy’s death toll reaches 10,000. 
  • March 29, 2020 – Amazon workers threaten to strike amid concerns about their safety. President Trump extends social distancing guidelines until April 30. Estimates of death from the virus in the U.S. range from 100,000 to 200,000. 
  • March 30, 2020 – 160,000 cases reported in the U.S. with 519 deaths in 24 hours. 78% of Americans under stay at home orders. Government warns of a second outbreak in the fall. 
  • March 31, 2020 – Russia ships personal protective equipment to the U.S.. National Guard being deployed to hard hit areas of the country. 41,000 positive cases in NYC, 185,000 across the country. Major retailers announce furloughs. New cases in each of five states top 1,000. Death toll in France reaches 3,500. New Orleans becomes the next emerging hot spot.
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