Living with a chronic health condition, it can be hard to see patterns in all the different things that are going on. That’s especially true if brain fog gets in the way of being able to remember things. That’s where tracking in a bullet journal (or in an app, or elsewhere) can come in handy. In this post, I’ll talk about the tracking system that I use in my bujo. In a previous post, I’ve covered the basics of bullet journalling.
For each month, I create a one-page overview calendar. On this, I make note of any major stressors, mood changes, and anything out of the ordinary.
I also make note if it’s a bright sunny day or a rainy day, mostly because it’s a habit I got into. I’ve figured out that my mood fluctuates a bit based on how light it is, but my illness overall doesn’t, so it’s not that useful to track anymore, but I do it out of habit.
This is another one-page calendar. For each day, I do a mood rating and make note of the prominent emotions that day. I’ve never been a big fan of mood rating, but it gives some idea of patterns. I don’t use a scale of 1-10; 0 is my neutral. A -2 a few months ago may be very different from a -2 now, so the numbers are most useful to look at changes over the span of a few weeks.
Some days I don’t have much going on emotion-wise, but I make note if there are any emotions that stand out on a given day. I’ve created an emotion list, and each emotion has a coloured 1- or 2-letter code, so I can easily fit multiple emotions into a given day on the calendar. Tearful days get a blue teardrop. I’ve recently started to make note of bothersome thoughts about the past, present, or future. Those are also colour-coded. Yes, I’m a geek, and I’m good with that.
Habit & symptom tracker
This is where the geeky magic really happens. I have a 2-page grid set up for each month with a list of habits and symptoms, then I make note of anything that’s going on each day. Habits are things I do, like showering, getting out of the house, health appointments, and any alcohol I consume. I keep track of what’s going on with my body, like periods, headaches, eczema, GI issues, respiratory issues, etc. I also track mental health stuff like concentration, energy, psychomotor slowing, suicidal ideation, and sleep.
I’ve got codes going on here too. Some things are simple, like a plus sign on the showering grid line if I showered (or leave that grid square blank if I didn’t). A few things, like concentration, may get multiple plus signs depending on how bad it is. Some lines have multiple entry options; for example, on the line for headaches, a + sign is a tension headache, while an M is a migraine. On the line for GI issues, there are even more options (B for bloated, D for diarrhea, etc.). Because it’s all symbol or letter codes, I can fit a whole schwack of information in a 2-page spread that’s really easy to scan and see what’s happened when.
It also makes it really easy to look back and see what’s been happening over the last few months or even years. If I want to know when I’ve had migraines, for example, I just look back through my grids and look for that M on the headache line. I can also easily see if there’s a relationship between my migraines and periods, for example.
I’m lazy about showering, because I just don’t care, but the bullet journal serves as a good reminder that it’s been a few days and it’s time. I would probably brush my teeth more than once in a blue moon if I added it to my habit tracker, but I don’t quite care enough to do that.
Why this is useful
Okay, I get that not everyone is as gung-ho geek as I am. This is something I only started doing a few years ago when depression was kicking my ass. It wasn’t something I needed to do before or ever really had any desire to do, although I did track symptoms during hospitalizations.
It works well for me because my memory is crap, and I would have no clue what happened when if I didn’t write it down. It only takes me a few minutes each day, so it’s quick and easy. It’s good for self-reflection, and also for doctor’s appointments because I can say exactly what’s been going on.
It takes a little while to set up for each month, but then each day is really quick to fill out.
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) has a downloadable wellness tracker tool if you’d like to work from a template.
Do you do any sort of tracking of health-related things? What kind of system do you use?