Using a Journal for Better Mental Health

Photo by  Heath Vester

Photo by Heath Vester

The mental health of diplomats is often a taboo topic. Young graduates wanting to move into the Foreign Service need to bring excellent record of performance, which includes passing a very challenging set of assessments of their health. The old adage “survival of the fittest” comes to mind” which automatically qualifies diplomatic positions as one that requires a high level of stamina and persistence. However, it is known that diplomats abroad, especially in high-level security environments, are in danger of getting ill.

Diplomats take responsibility for political and sensitive topics, deal with challenging government counterparts, have a complicated personal and family life, work in dangerous areas around the world, and start their lives afresh, typically every 3-4 years. That’s a lot of emotions to deal with and one way to benefit from the pressures of our working life in by writing them in the form of a journal.

From page 136 of the Diplomatic Planner, we get you to write out events in your life in the form of a Trigger Awareness Journal. Research shows that keeping a diary of our activities from childhood are still beneficial for in our adult lives. A study by the University of Rochester said: “If you struggle with stress, depression, or anxiety, keeping a journal is a great idea. It can help you gain control of your emotions and improve your mental health.” 

As diplomats who constantly move around, we highly recommend keeping a journal on a digital platform that can easily move with you. In our highly connected society, online journaling is becoming the norm for those who wish to empty their minds once in a while.


Online journals, such as Penzu, is one of the best journaling tools that we recommend diplomats to start using as part of your mental health training. Penzu is easy to use and has a flexible method of dealing with mood, emotions and distressing triggers.

Notably, the pro version of Penzu has excellent customer support, trash recovery and encrypted documents that will provide diplomats with a high level of security without the stress of another WikiLeaks happening in the near future. Since diplomats work with discretion, this feature is quite key.

You may wish to consider other journaling apps that may be cheaper and are more adaptable to your style.

Here is a short list of other online journals you may wish to consider. A full disclosure on the pros and cons of each app can be found via Zapier.

  • Day One (Mac, iOS, Android)—best for writing quick journal entries in a simple, intuitive interface

  • Diarium (Windows, Android)—best for dictating journal entries and seamless integration with Windows

  • Glimpses (Windows)—best for free journaling on Windows; free

  • Journey (Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Chrome OS, Web)—best for seamless journaling and syncing on any platform

  • Penzu (Web, iOS, Android)—best for journaling in a blog-like environment while keeping your entries secure

  • (Email)—best for journaling by email

  • Momento (iOS)—best for automated journaling from your social media feeds

  • Grid Diary (iOS)—best for templated journaling

  • Five Minute Journal (iOS, Android)—best for quick morning and evening reflections