If you’re suffering from severe anxiety or mood issues, the first thing to do is always speak to a professional.
However, you may discover that your doctor recommends some basic activities you can try at home to help you relax and overcome feelings of tension.
Journaling for anxiety is a concept gaining a lot of positive attention right now. You don’t need to be a professional writer to make the most of this strategy.
Studies are starting to show that simply organizing your thoughts (by writing them down) can transform your mental health.
Journaling techniques teach you how to work through your thoughts in a more systematic and healthy way. You can use these strategies to slow things down when you’re feeling overwhelmed and shift your thought patterns from anxious to hopeful.
So, how do you get started with the best journal strategies?
Journaling for anxiety: The basics
The key to successful journaling is simply making time to write down your thoughts every so often. You don’t need whatever you write to be eloquent.
You’re (probably) not going to publish your thoughts or share them with anyone. Just start writing and include everything that’s going through your mind in the moment.
Begin by setting around 5 to 15 minutes aside in your day, where you can write non-stop about what’s bothering you or what’s on your mind.
Keep going until you feel like you’ve written everything you want to say but try not to let yourself go off for too long, or you might end up in a rabbit hole.
Some people prefer to journal with a pen and paper – others use their computer – there’s no right option here. Remember to focus on the moment, and what’s currently causing you to feel the way you feel.
Usually, with anxiety, your stress will be about what could happen more than what is happening. Realising that nothing bad is happening right now could ease your stress.
Once you’ve detailed the moment, list your fears and concerns, starting with the stressor you’re most concerned with. Once you have your thoughts in order, ask yourself how likely it is that your fears will become a reality.
For instance, you might write that you’re worrying about going to work tomorrow because you didn’t finish an important project. Your biggest concern may be that you’ll get fired.
By journaling, you can realise that you probably won’t get fired for one mistake. You could also find a solution, such as deciding to get to work a little early and finish the project then.
How a personal journal can soothe your mind
Journaling for anxiety isn’t a magic pill solution to stress. You’re not going to suddenly stop feeling anxious about something just because you’ve written it down.
However, you might be able to organize your mind more healthily.
Journaling techniques take an interesting approach to handling feelings of anxiety because they ask you to face your nervous thoughts, rather than just trying to push them away.
Most of us try to deny anxious thoughts or ignore them, but this can just lead to a build up of nerves in the long-term.
When you have a lot on your mind, it’s difficult to see a solution to your problems. You get so overwhelmed by all the fears and “what ifs” in your mind, that you can’t see anything positive.
Writing down your worries helps you to organize your thoughts and create a space where you can begin to look for solutions to your problems. Even just getting all of your thoughts written down can help put your mind at ease.
Challenge your expectations
Sometimes, seeing your concerns written down can be enough to jolt you into realizing how silly you’re being. If you’re worried about a difficult project, for example, you might write down that you’re scared you’ll get fired if you ask for help.
However, when you write that down, you can begin to see how unlikely that is. Even if your concerns seem more possible, you can look for ways to challenge them.
Ask yourself, what else could happen that isn’t that bad? Remember, research into neuroplasticity, tells us we can rewire our brains and change the way we think with time.
Make a plan
Using journaling techniques, you can also plan for what you’re going to do next.
For instance, say your biggest concern right now is that you’re not going to hit your deadline for your next project at work. Write in your journal what you’re concerned about, then think about how you can plan your time to make the worst outcome as unlikely as possible.
Your plan might look like this:
Get to work 30 minutes early
Ask for help from coworkers for X part of project
Speak to boss about possible issues with deadline
Determine what I need to make deadline more achievable
Journaling techniques to improve your mood
Journaling for anxiety isn’t the only way that you can use writing to your advantage. You can also use your personal journal as a source of motivation and inspiration.
Did you know that feelings of gratitude are scientifically proven to boost the happiness hormones in your brain? Dumping your worries out onto a piece of paper can make it easier to deal with them. You don’t have to stop there, however.
After you’ve addressed your anxiety, open a new page of your journal, and make a list of everything you feel grateful for.
Don’t be afraid to get really down to the basics with this strategy. There’s always something you can find to be grateful for, even if it’s just the fact that you have food on the table, or a beautiful tree in your yard.
Other ways to improve your mood with the best journal techniques include:
Use words as motivation
When we’re worried about something, we repeat the worry over and over in our heads. Counteract that negative mantra with something more positive. Open a page in your mood journal and use present-tense statements to give yourself a boost.
Things like “I can do this” or “I am strong” will help to shift your mind frame.
Create a page of positivity
Another excellent option when it comes to journaling techniques to keep you happy is to create a page of positivity. This could be a page, or a series of pages in your journal that you fill with things to make you feel more positive.
Include pictures of people or things that inspire you, or even photos of your happy self. Add some uplifting quotes, or lyrics from happy songs. Even just a list of your accomplishments would work.
Do some purging
If you’re in a space right now where you feel like your negativity might overflow, then don’t try to bottle it down and force yourself to be positive. Use a page on your journal to write down all the negative words and thoughts you’re thinking.
Once you’re done, and you’ve filled the page with scribbles, tear it up. Set fire to it (safely) and imagine all of that pain and panic evaporating from your body.
Use your personal journal to think differently
Anxiety, stress, worry – all of these feelings can be crippling. The people around us tell us not to let anxiety get the best of us – but that’s easier said than done.
The good news is that it is within your power to change your thought processes, you just need to work on making small changes.
Next time you feel your anxiety kicking in, grab your journal and try one of the options we outlined above. Initially, you might feel silly scribbling things into a piece of paper, or writing something on your word doc, but eventually, you could notice a change in your mood.
You might find that your journal becomes a place where you can let all of your feelings of anxiety out, so that they don’t feel so heavy in your head or your chest.
You may even begin to acknowledge some of the negative thought patterns in your head that are holding you back. Once you get to that point, it’s much easier to start making positive changes.