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Journaling to Relieve Anxiety and Improve Mental Health

Gabrielle Applebury
hands with pen writing on notebook

Journaling can be a great tool to employ when you are experiencing a spike in your anxiety levels. Journaling can not only help you process what you are experiencing, but can also be used to track your stress and anxiety levels over time.

Journaling for Anxiety

Journaling can be a great way to process your feelings, organize your thoughts, and identify your triggers. For individuals who experience anxiety on a day-to-day basis, journaling can be a helpful addition to other tools that can assist with decreasing these uncomfortable feelings. For anyone who doesn't normally experience anxiety, but has see an increase in anxious feelings, journaling can be a gentle place to start to understand why these symptoms are showing up now.

How Does Journaling Decrease Anxiety?

Anxiety has both physical and mental manifestations that can impact your overall quality of life. This can be especially difficult to get a handle on if you've never experienced symptoms of anxiety or prolonged anxiety before. Journaling may:

  • Help you process and organize your thoughts
  • Help you identify what is triggering your symptoms
  • Help you track how intense your symptoms are and for how long they last
  • Help you see issues from a different perspective- there's something about writing versus thinking that may give some individuals clarity
  • Help you begin to understand your thought process
  • Assist you in better understanding your triggers
  • Allow you to release your emotions in a safe and private space
  • Increase your ability to connect with yourself and your innermost thoughts

How to Begin Journaling

Journaling can be done on paper or on a computer or laptop. For some writing on paper can lead to more of a release, so be sure to experiment with different mediums to see which one works best for you. To begin:

  1. Pick a quiet area and designate a certain spot for journaling.
  2. You can create relaxing rituals around your journaling process like lighting a candle, burning incense, and listening to relaxing music.
  3. Close your eyes and go inward.
  4. Try to identify your emotions and where you feel them in your body.
  5. Begin writing whatever comes to mind.

Journal as often as you'd like and try to schedule 10 minutes or so every day to check in with yourself if possible and add or reduce your journaling time as needed.

cozy woman reflects in her journal

Journaling Prompts for Anxiety

It can feel challenging to know what exactly to begin writing about if you've never journaled before. If you are able to write in a stream-of-consciousness way, that can be a great place to start. If that isn't your style, you can use prompts to help you begin this exercise. Some options include:

  • What does my anxiety feel like?
  • Have I felt similar anxiety symptoms before?
  • Why does this feel difficult to work through?
  • What do I have control over in this current situation?
  • If I could pull my anxiety out of my body and have it take a physical form, what would it look like?
  • If my anxiety is a message, what is my body trying to tell me about the situation?
  • What triggered these anxious feelings? How intense do they feel on a scale of zero to 10?
  • What's another way I can look at this situation, or reframe it? What positive or neutral takeaways are there?
  • What are three behaviors I can do to help ground myself?
  • What are some negative beliefs about myself that are coming up? If I viewed these negative beliefs differently or more neutrally, what would that look like?

Reasons to Journal

During confusing, stressful, and scary moments that occur in your everyday life, locally, or globally, journaling can offer a moment of peace where you can take time to process what you are experiencing. This may help you sit with the feelings you are experiencing in a healthy way and eventually release them. Some reasons to journal include:

  • Epidemics or pandemics may lead to global anxiety
  • Work stress
  • Family and relationship shifts
  • Life changes that were unforeseen
  • Loss and illness
  • Global stressors like war and climate change

When to Seek Help

Journaling is a great tool, but it can't replace the help of a professional counselor or therapist if you are experiencing truly distressing symptoms. If you are experiencing thoughts of harming yourself or others, or are having a difficult time engaging in your normal day-to-day activities, it's a good idea to reach out to someone immediately who can help you better process what you're going through.

How Journaling Can Help

Journaling is an incredibly helpful activity to engage in if you begin feeling anxious for personal or global reasons. If you are experiencing heightened stress or anxiety, try to get into the habit of journaling as a healthy coping mechanism to use and track if your anxiety begins to shift.

Journaling to Relieve Anxiety and Improve Mental Health