Journaling Is a Great Tool for Coping With Anxiety

Journaling is a highly recommended stress management tool. Numerous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of journaling for health, happiness, and stress management. It's not just a simple technique but an enjoyable one.

There are many ways to journal and few limitations on who can benefit. You can add a journaling habit to your life whether you journal daily, weekly, or on an as-needed basis when stress gets to be too intense.

One way journaling can relieve stress is by helping you work through anxious feelings. Left unchecked, anxiety can lead to stress and rumination. Some of the roots of your anxiety can be minimized through a bit of focused examination.

Journaling can be a powerful tool for examining and shifting thoughts from anxious and ruminative to empowered and action-oriented.

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How to Get Started

Journaling

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The following plan can help you to write your own ticket out of a place of stress, and find relief within a few minutes. Ready to get started? Grab a pen (or open a document) and here we go!

Write Your Worries

Start by journaling for 5 to 15 minutes. Write about whatever is on your mind or is bothering you. Try to keep going until you feel you have written what needs to be said but haven’t delved into a mode of rumination.

You may prefer to write on a computer, in a journal, or just on a pad of paper. If you are using paper, skip a line or two for every line you use (this will be handy later!).

Detail the Moment

Describe the events that are currently causing difficulties for you. Keep in mind that with anxiety, sometimes it isn’t what is currently happening that causes stress, but the concerns you have about what could happen.

Write about what is happening right now and make a note that what is really stressful for you is the possibility of what could happen next. This realization might bring stress relief in itself!

List Your Fears

Write your concerns and fears in chronological order. Start with one stressor you are presently contending with. Then, explore what you think will happen next.

Next, write what you fear will happen after that. Include how this outcome would affect you.

Once you have your thoughts in order, you can look for ways to relieve some of the stress and anxiety within. 

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Journaling Your Way to a Better Frame Of Mind

Writing about your concerns and fears can be helpful in getting these thoughts out of your head and into the open.

Re-Read (and Re-Think) What You Just Wrote

As you review what you've written and reflected on what is concerning you right now, explore your options. Could things be different? Is there something that you could do to change your circumstances right now—or your thoughts about your circumstances?

Challenge Your Thoughts

As you write about what you are concerned about might happen, think critically, and try to argue with yourself. Write anything that calls into question whether or not your worry is truly a concern.

As yourself questions, such as:

  • How likely is it that this will happen?
    • How do you know?
      • Are you sure?
  • If what you fear actually does come to pass, is there a possibility that it could be less of a negative experience than you think it would be?
    • Could it actually be a neutral (or even positive) event?
  • Is there a way you could use your circumstances to create a better outcome for yourself?
    • Could you use what you have available to you to make the best of the potential changes that could take place?
      • Is there a change that could occur (or that you could create) that would be even better?

Challenging your fears can help you relieve anxiety. It helps you see that things are either less likely to happen than you think they are or are not as bad as you think they could be.

Think Differently

For each fear or concern, try to write at least one (but preferably more) way in which you could think about it differently. Generate a new story for yourself, even a new set of possibilities. Write these next to the fears that are in your head right now.

It can also be helpful to examine your cognitive distortions to see how you might benefit from changing habitual stress-inducing thought patterns.

Once you have come up with new ways of looking at things, here are some ways to use journaling to take action to relieve stress. 

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Action-Focused Journaling

Processing your emotions on paper can be quite helpful. Here is how to continue processing and move into a place where you are ready to take action to face the stressful challenges of life. As you write, plan for the worst and hope for the best.

What Might Happen?

Think about the biggest challenges you’ve faced and overcome. Looking at your strongest, wisest moments, do you think you could use that same strength and wisdom to prevail in this potential challenge as well?

What do you think you could learn from it? In what ways do you think you would gain strength as you face these new obstacles?

Thinking about your strengths and your best moments can help you to remember that, while you may not enjoy the current circumstances you face, you have the strength to handle what comes. You may find new strengths you didn't know you had!

What Would You Do?

Assuming what you fear did happen, what would you do? You don’t have to create a full plan, just try to jot down the resources you would utilize and the next steps you’d take.

Thinking through your plan takes away the fear of the unknown. If you know that you would have the resources available to you should you need them, your mind is more likely to stay away from the worst-case scenarios (toward which we all sometimes gravitate).

How Can You Prepare?

Come up with at least one thing you can do right now that would improve your life and prepare you for what you fear. Perhaps you want to build your resources by reaching out to friends and strengthening your relationships.

You could develop skills that you can use now, but would also come in handy if your fears were realized. Maybe you want to work on creating an effective stress management plan to help you be more emotionally resilient should you face a big challenge or need to endure some extra stress.

Putting your energy into doing something can help you move out of a place of anxiety and toward a place of empowerment. Even if you don’t need them, you have resources that can help you in your life right now. Plus, you’ve distracted yourself in the process.

Coming up with a list of such possibilities is the first step. You may also want to read up on resilience and find resilience-building tips.

A Word From Verywell

A simple journaling technique can provide you with a tool to help you through situations where you need to manage anxiety and stress in your life. However, some issues require more help than an article can provide.

It is important to seek help if you need it, such as by talking to your doctor or a counselor. You can also find help dealing with symptoms of anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.

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