Many successful writers have kept a journal – from Virginia…
Anxiety is a normal part of life that is brought on by periods of high stress, however it is possible for anxiety to present itself without a clear ‘reason’ and for it to persist for an unknown and often lengthy period of time. This is problematic and unpleasant for the person with anxiety. While there is no cure for anxiety, it can be managed through various methods and techniques — one of which is using a journal to document, calm yourself, and learn from past thoughts and patterns. Below are some specific ideas for you to try.
Journal your symptoms and thoughts
Use your journal to track your anxiety by regularly noting down your anxious thoughts and how you are feeling. If you also jot down what you have been doing and who you have seen, you might be able to piece together what has been triggering bad periods of anxiety and therefore make changes in your life to avoid or deal with certain situations or individuals.
People often find that when they read back through their journal and notes on their anxious thoughts, it can sound a bit ridiculous to them. However, this is a helpful reaction as it offers the writer a new perspective and helps them realise what is and isn’t a rational thought and reaction to a trigger.
Organise your thoughts
Writing your thoughts and feelings down in a journal also helps you to organise it all in your mind, which can help you feel less overwhelmed during periods of high anxiety.
Start your sentences with “I remember feeling…”
Use the prompt “I remember feeling…” to work through emotions related to events in your life. For example, “I remember feeling really happy when I won the egg and spoon race in Year 5 at school because I practised in the garden with Dad for weeks beforehand” or “I remember feeling really sad when my dog, Buster, died last year because I missed him and it upsets me that he was hit by a car and the person drove off”. This is a mindful exercise that can help you reflect on emotive times of your life.
Write a letter you’ll never send
If there’s something on your mind that is causing you to feel anxious, the chances are there’s another person involved in the situation. If that is the case, try grabbing your journal and writing a letter to them. You won’t be sending this letter, so feel free to be as open and honest as you need to be, in order to help yourself work through your feelings. You could also write your letter to someone else — even a fictional character, if you prefer.
If you are thinking of actually writing and sending a letter to someone, or talking to them face-to-face, then this can be a good way to formulate what you would like to say and get your thoughts in order.
Focus on what makes you happy
When you’re having a hard time with your mental health it can be very therapeutic to keep it simple and focus on the things that make you happy. Grab your journal and create a page full of notes and drawings of all the things that make you smile — whether that is cats, sailing, football, driving or seeing certain friends. Add lots of colour, and refer back to this page when you need to. Hang it on your wall if that helps, too.
Got some additional ideas for tackling anxiety with your journal? Let us know in the comments below.