Anxiety can be terrifying, stressful, horrible, unmanageable and overwhelming. It can feel like your head is spinning out of control and your thoughts are taking over everything you do. And it may feel like there is nothing you can do and no way you can get better. The good news is, there are things you can do to improve it. As you might know, journaling is a useful tool for your mental health. It helps to be more organised, to process emotions and thoughts, and to develop a reflection on the events of the day. But it also has another, unexpected benefit: journaling can soothe anxiety.
Here I am going to take you through a list of 8 ways you can use your journal to ease your anxiety. You don’t need anything other than a notebook and a pen. These simple, but easy steps will guide you to become more confident and let the healing process begin.
1. Face your Anxious Thoughts
A natural reaction to anxious thoughts is to try and deny them — push them to the back of your mind or distract yourself. However, this only suppresses our worry, and usually comes back to bite us harder.
Although, according to research, writing down your anxieties can make them go away — kind of like you are transferring them out of your head and onto the paper.
Rant and scribble down all your anxious thoughts into your journal. This will make you feel more calm and relaxed.
2. Challenge those Anxious Thoughts
If you want to take this a step further, you could challenge your anxious thoughts.
Alarmingly, research found that 91% of people's worries were false alarms. Of the 9% of worries that did come true, the outcome was better than expected about a third of the time. Your anxiety can catastrophize situations, think about the worst case scenario, overthinking and spiral into a deep pit of worry. But you can challenge those anxious thoughts by questioning them. Once you have ranted all your worries and thoughts onto the page, think about the answer to these questions and write it out:
- What actually happened?
- Has the thing I’m worried about ever happened before?
- What have I done in the past to cope with it? What was the result?
- What evidence do I have for and against this thought?
- What’s the probability of it happening? If the probability is low, what are some more likely outcomes?
- If the worst case scenario happened, how would it affect me in one day, one week, one year?
- How will worrying about it help me? How will it hurt me?
Can I even do anything to control this situation?
3. Relax your Brain
Sleep can be difficult when you have anxiety. You spend hours rolling around in bed, stressing and worrying about all sorts.
A method that can be very helpful to remove that pressure is to write down all the tasks you need to do for the next day before you go to bed. This will help your brain relax, letting it know that it’s all taken care of, and you won’t forget what you have to do.
If you need to do more, you can take this a step further. Before bed, sit down with your journal and describe what your day tomorrow will look like. Include your tasks, meals, how you want to feel, who you will meet, etc.
4. Change your Beliefs
Getting through your to-do lists and tasks can add even more anxiety, making it more unlikely you will get through them. However, you can combat this by changing your belief that you are not productive.
Research has claimed that we have the power to rewire neurons and change the way we think and behave.
Therefore, if you create a very easy list of tasks you can do that are impossible to fail, you will re-learn the feeling of accomplishment. This will ease your anxiety. A big to-do list will eventually stop being an anxiety-provoking event and lead to productivity.
- Very easy tasks you can do are:
- Drink a glass of water
- Make your bed
- Journal for 2 minutes
5. Have a ‘brain dump’ page
Our brains are constantly coming up with ideas, thoughts, plans, etc. and it can cause anxiety having all these thoughts and not being able to organise them or worry about forgetting them.
An easy solution to this is to have a ‘brain dump’ page where you are able to just dump your thoughts onto the page. This can include:
- good ideas
- Lessons you’ve learned
- that amazing book someone mentioned to you
- Reminders for tasks
Then, set a time every week to go back to your “brain dump” page and choose what to do with those things (perfect task for a quiet Sunday!)
6. Practice Gratitude
Research has shown that the feeling of gratitude boosts happiness hormones in our brains. It helps our mental health and it makes us feel less anxious.
Something you can do after dumping your worries onto the paper, you can focus on the positive by making a list of everything you feel grateful for. Let yourself focus and soak in it — if you are not fully in it, it won’t work. Basically, you need to deep it. There’s always something to be grateful for, even if it’s more difficult some days.
In order to be completely immersed in that feeling of positivity, write anything and everything that comes to your mind, no matter how ridiculous it may seem (even if it’s just the thought of eating chocolate).
Here’s an example…
I am grateful for…
My family. Water slides. Gossip Girl. Nature. My journal. My clothes. Having food on the table. Being healthy. Being able to write. Being able to see. Being alive.
7. Write Down Affirmations
Self-Affirmations are positive statements aimed at yourself to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts. It is said that by practicing positive self-affirmations it can motivate yourself, encourage positive changes in your life, boost self-esteem and help your anxiety. It is also super easy to do! All you need to do is pick a statement, say it to yourself and repeat. Positive self-affirmations are for those who find themselves talking negatively about themselves all the time.
Open your journal and write down how you want to be feeling, but write it in the Present Tense. For example, ‘I am a strong person’, ‘I am a beautiful person inside and out’, etc.
One way to truly dedicate yourself to this is to take 5 minutes to feel those words taking over your body and soul. Close your eyes. Repeat them over and over inside your head. They are not the right words for you and they don’t make you feel anything? Then write different words, until you find the ones that work.
8. Build a ‘happy place’ in your Journal.
It is known that our surrounding environment can influence the way we feel.
If you surround yourself with stress, negativity and toxic people, you will feel anxious. However, if you surround yourself with calmness, happiness and peace, you will feel calm and peaceful.
Let your journal be this environment. Create a “happy place” — a space in your journal full of positivity that you can visit anytime you feel anxious. You can include:
- uplifting quotes
- pictures of your happy self
- Pictures of the people you love
- pictures of places or people who inspire you
- your vision board
- your goals
- your accomplishments
- Anything that makes you happy
There are no rules to this. Make it yours. All that matters is that, whenever you open, it feels good and nice. It feels soothing — it feels like serenity.
You can use your journal to relieve anxiety in many ways. Just act — one simple step at a time. The Anxiety Journal is something that comprises all of these aspects. There are pages to vent, challenge your anxious thoughts, be mindful, practice gratitude, write down what makes you happy, ‘brain dump’ pages, etc. Check it out here.