When you first think about journaling it may conjure up an image of a teenage girl, giggling and drawing hearts in a notepad but this is the stigma attached to the idea or thought of recording the day to day for adults. The belief that maintaining a journal is solely for young adults trying to understand who they are and what they want from life.
This is not the case, learning to journal can provide you with a powerful tool to explore and shift anxious, chaotic thoughts, lessen feelings of distress, and increase well-being. It can help to relieve anxiety and stress by helping you work through anxious feelings bringing more focused examination of difficult feelings, experiences and events. Journaling can help you process your emotions and highlight thought processes, patterns and triggers. It can help to rid negative thoughts and release pent up feelings.
It can even be enjoyable!
How to Journal to Relieve Anxiety and Stress
Think about how you are feeling now, what are you feeling anxious about?
Are there specific situations or people that you find stressful?
What aspects of these situations or people do you have the power to change?
On a scale of 1 – 10 where would you rate your level of anxiety?
How do you identify your feelings of anxiety?
Do you have a nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach?
Do you have a sense of dread or are you fearing the worst?
Are you feeling restless, on edge and irritable?
Do you feel like the world around you is speeding up or slowing down?
Sometimes other emotions can be lurking beneath anxiety, are you able to identify any other feelings beneath your anxiety?
What coping skills do you use to deal with your anxiety, what works for you?
Make a list of things you can do to help reduce your anxiety e.g. “I will go for a 15-minute walk after work today”.
Identify 3 positive things that have happened today.
Identify 3 of your strengths.
Identify 3 things you would like to achieve.
Learning to manage anxiety can be difficult and challenging. It takes practice before a new behaviour can become a new way of thinking or a new habit can be formed. Journaling can help you to make sense of your thoughts and emotions and to identify the early signs of stress and anxiety and help you to implement new coping strategies.
Decide when is a good time of day for you to write your journal, allow between 5 to 15 minutes daily.
Find a quiet, private space where you wont be disturbed.
Give yourself time to reflect and rebalance yourself both before and after writing.
Don’t try to structure your writing, feel comfortable in your flow of thought. Journal about what feels right in that moment, try not to overthink it.
Write freely don’t worry about spelling or grammar, don’t interrupt yourself to correct mistakes; just keep writing.
Write with the freedom of knowing no-one else will read it.
Take the time to reflect and gain insights into yourself from what you have written.
Your journal doesn’t have to be in a traditional notebook you could decide to keep an electronic journal on your computer or phone, use whatever is easiest for you.
To begin with, the process may feel a bit clumsy and awkward but stick with it and it will become easier.