Coping with anxiety can be difficult. As you face challenging demands each day, you may not know how to deal with the resulting stress. Your body and mind need help, and journaling is a useful resource. Here is everything you need to know about journaling for anxiety.
What Is Journaling?
Journaling is writing your thoughts and feelings. There are no rules about how you should journal. There is also no exception to who can use this practice for stress management. Whether you find comfort in writing or not, journaling offers quick relief from the buildup of negative emotions.
Some journaling techniques are better than others. The technique you choose depends on your anxiety triggers and personal preference. In total, there are 8 journaling techniques for mental health.
Not everyone is good with words. Some people may get anxious at the sight of a blank paper, knowing they have to fill it with writing. Others may prefer drawing to writing. Visual journaling is more focused on visual design than words.
You can use mixed media for visual journaling. Pencils, paint, paper, and photographs are useful for expressing emotion. Visual journaling can be inexpensive, depending on your choice of media.
Would you rather tell your story through music? You can express joy, sadness, anger, and frustration through musical journaling. You do not have to be a talented musician to use this technique. You do not have to spend money on expensive equipment either.
Turn anything in your house into a drum, and express your emotions through it. Record the music so that you can reflect on it later. An autobiographical song, for example, is great for deep reflection.
When you have anxiety, it is easy to obsess over negative things. You may get so wrapped up in everything that might go wrong that you ignore the good things you have. Gratitude journaling refocuses your mind on all that you have to be thankful for. Write five things you are grateful for each day. Have morning and evening gratitude journaling sessions as you prepare for and reflect on your day.
Extreme stress and anxiety can get you out of touch with your intuition. You might be unable to trust your gut. Because you are distressed, your decision-making might be impaired. Intuition journaling helps you navigate your thoughts and realize what you truly want. It requires you to write a question that is bothering you and listen to your inner voice for an answer.
Stream of Conscious Journaling
Sometimes your mind and heart are so full that you do not know where to begin. In this journaling technique, you start writing and pour out your anxieties on paper. Do not control what you write and do not worry about grammar. It is okay if your sentences are poorly punctuated. Just let it all out, keep going until you feel better.
Unsent Letter Journaling
Some things are better left unsaid. However, they can cause a significant amount of stress. If you are feeling burdened by something, you cannot say aloud, write it down. Phrase it as a letter, even though you will not send it. You can address someone specific even though they may never get to read the letter. It is a cathartic journaling technique that helps relieve pent-up emotions.
Take daily notes of everything that is going well. Identify things that worked in your favor and write them down. This journaling technique encourages positivity and makes you determined to take each day at a time.
How To Use Journaling For Anxiety?
Yes, it is. Journaling requires you to use the left side of your brain. This is the rational, analytical component of your mind. Using the left side of your brain frees up the right side and makes you feel creative, intuitive, confident, and inspired.
Hundreds of studies have proven the benefits of journaling.
For people with anxiety, the practice positively impacts their moods and symptoms by:
- Allowing them to explore the experience with anxiety
- Helping them get rid of intrusive thoughts
- Calming them during an anxiety attack
- Releasing negative feelings and thoughts
- Keeping track of anxiety triggers
- Recording failures and achievements for review
- Measure progress while treating the disorder
Journaling for mental health works by letting out emotions rather than stuffing them down. People with anxiety may feel shame, guilt, fear, or embarrassment. Through writing, the pain gets translated into words. It is a cathartic outlet for these feelings.
Putting down thoughts into words also works because it forces you to organize, examine, and learn from experiences. You can review cause and effect and gain a new understanding of different events and situations. In a way, writing effectively processes trauma and gives one a sense of control.
How to Start Journaling to Deal With Anxiety?
There are no rules when it comes to journaling. It can be done anyhow, anywhere, and by anyone.
Here are some steps to follow when you want to start journaling to cope with anxiety:
- Decide whether you want a paper or digital journal
- Set aside a time of day when you can be by yourself and journal
- Start by writing about your present emotions and thoughts
- Explore the story you have written
- Reframe your story, looking for ways to challenge each fear
- Consider reaching out to someone you trust to share the contents of your journal.
6 Journaling Prompts You Can Use
As simple as it sounds, journaling can be challenging to begin. You might not know what to say or how to frame your thoughts. These prompts below can help you get started.
What Is Bothering You Today?
Your anxiety stems from the voice in your head. What is it saying to you today? Write whatever is on your mind and keep going until you feel you have said it all. Be careful not to go into rumination, circling the same thoughts.
What Events Are Causing Difficulties for You?
Detail current events in your life. Remember that anxiety is often the fear of what could happen in the future. If you are worried about a certain event getting out of hand, you will realize that nothing bad has happened yet. It might bring you some relief.
What Are Your Fears?
What are you afraid of? Is a certain event triggering your anxiety? What do you think will happen next? List all your fears and review them pragmatically. Sometimes, you will realize your fear is unreasonable. Other times, you will identify the best course of action to alleviate your fears.
What Are Your Immediate Goals?
Creating a list of goals gives you a sense of purpose. Set small goals that are achievable within a day. Do this in the morning as you prepare for school or work. As you achieve each goal and tick it off your list, you will feel relieved and accomplished. Having clear goals is calming because it reduces uncertainty.
Write an Unsent Letter
If your anxiety stems from someone else’s words or actions, you might not always be able to confront them. Write a frank letter that you will not send. You can even write a letter to yourself. Be completely honest in your letter as it is a no-judgment outlet for your emotions.
Sometimes it helps to let it all out without holding back. Set a timer and write until the timer goes off. Do not worry about what you are writing and whether it is grammatically correct. If you need to doodle, do it provided you express your emotions.
Using Your Journal to Track Your Mood and Identify Anxiety Triggers
During the day, take note of your emotions. Write down when you are feeling happy, sad, angry, or anxious. Provide some context to each emotion; is there a specific event that made you feel a certain way? Doing so will help you identify what triggers your anxiety. Journaling for anxiety is more effective when you know your triggers.
Reflecting on Journal Entries to Better Understand Your Feelings
Reflection is an important aspect of journaling. It allows you to review your feelings and thoughts pragmatically. Ask yourself whether your fears are reasonable. Think of what you can do in the worst-case scenario; if your fears come true. Understanding the root cause of your feelings helps you find solutions and overcome anxiety.
The Bottom Line
We hope that our tips on how to use journaling for anxiety will help you learn how to gain control of your emotions. In high-stress situations, putting your thoughts and feelings into words is cathartic. It helps you reevaluate your fears and take a positive, solution-oriented approach. If you are struggling with anxiety, you can share your journal with a therapist. Your therapist will help you establish your triggers and find effective coping mechanisms.
Kate has a B.S. in Psychology and M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has worked in healthcare since 2017. She primarily treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, and grief, as well as identity, relationship and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience has focused on individual and group counseling, emergency counseling and outreach.Read more