Why Track Your Symptoms?
Have you ever had your doctor ask "When was the last time you had this symptom?" and you weren't able to come up with an answer other than "sometime in the past three months?" I know I have and it's common for us to forget in our busy lives. No matter how much we think we will remember how we feel at the time, you inevitably forget when you actually have to explain it to someone.
How Bullet Journaling Can Help You Track Your Health
Keeping a daily log of everything that has to do with the symptoms of your illness(es) is immensely helpful, not only for showing your doctor but for reminding yourself where you've been and how far you've come. This is an easy way to collect data on your health so you can see how well you are doing.
Not going to lie, it will be scary at first. Making a list of all the things that could go wrong in a day can be overwhelming. Sometimes it is even difficult to admit that you are having a certain symptom, especially when it comes to mental health. So, start with the easy ones if you have to and work your way up to the more difficult ones (baby steps!). Maybe the first month you only track one or two symptoms. That's fine! Any step is a start, right? This is progress!
Once you have those symptoms written down and have a place to record their severity every day, you will find yourself wanting to keep track of them. It is a way to unburden your mind and organize your thoughts about your illness. It is a way to quantify and take control over something that feels uncontrollable. Plus, you can easily view how well you are doing and show it to close friends, doctors, family, counselors, or whoever you choose.
Be Creative and Have Fun!
Make the page pretty so you are more likely to look at it. The symptom tracker is especially useful if you are taking medicine(s) for your mental health. Remember that getting information on yourself (even when hard or embarrassing) is the first step in accurately assessing your health and proactively creating a plan to be better.
You probably don't go into business meetings or school classes without notes, so why not bring notes, charts, and data to your doctor!
What Should I Track?
The symptoms you could or should track are very dependent on your individual illness(es). Your symptom tracker will be most useful in tracking symptoms that occur daily or weekly, though. Symptoms that generally occur less than once a month can be added as notes, but having an entire line to track them is probably not efficient.
For mental health, some symptoms that could be tracked are
- Anxiety level
- Panic attacks
- Attention difficulties
- Cancelled plans or sick days from work
- Thoughts of or actual self-harm
- Pain level, e.g. headaches or body aches
- Shaking, trembling, or twitching
- Hair or skin picking
- Restlessness, fidgeting, hyperactivity
- Depression level
Other illnesses could have other symptoms that you may want to track.
- Pain in different areas
- Sleep quality
- Breathing difficulties
- Bowel movements, constipation, or diarrhea
- Vision changes
Obviously every illness and every person is different. If you are not sure what to track, talk to your doctor and ask what they would suggest.
Personalize Your Journal
How you track your symptoms is up to you. You can use a numerical scale, where 1 is little to none of that symptom and 10 is the worst it can be. You can use a color scale, with different colors assigned to different severities or manifestations of the symptom. I like to use dots, stripes, and solids as low, medium, and high levels. You might use circles, triangles, and squares. Or emojis! Or a count of the number of times that symptom occurs in a day. Whatever makes the most sense for you is great. And don't forget that this is YOUR journal, so you can make changes or start over on another page if you don't like your first try. That's the beauty of the bullet journal!
I am not a doctor, and these suggestions should not be used as a replacement for medical care. Always talk to your doctor or therapist if you have questions or concerns about your physical or mental health.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2018 Charlotte DeKoning