Society runs at a rapid pace. We face challenging demands on our time and energy that affect our sleeping patterns and eating habits. For some people, the future may seem overwhelmingly cloudy or directionless. If you have feelings of anxiety, you are not alone.
It’s important to give our minds and bodies resources to cope with daily demands. One resource you might try is starting an anxiety journal.*
What Is an Anxiety Journal and How Does It Help?
An anxiety journal is a place for you to record your feelings of stress and fear or uncertainty. The journal doesn’t have to be anything fancy; it is enough to have a place to write or type your thoughts.
Journaling has been shown to help individuals handle stress. It gives you time to make sense of all the rushing thoughts and emotions that come with anxiety. Consistent journaling may also help you get to the heart of what is causing your feelings. The more instances you record, the more patterns you may find.
Remember that anxiety is the body responding to detected danger. If you can pinpoint what causes your body to react this way, you may find more coping methods. The following journaling prompts can help relieve stress, or you can follow our anxiety journal guide below.
How Do I Write about Feelings?
Thoughts and feelings can be difficult to get down on paper. They are often frightening and, in some cases, may not even sound like you. Remember, the goal of an anxiety journal is simply to record the experience. It is often more helpful to acknowledge these emotions than to try to push them down, so write your honest feelings and fears.
In our resilience-building article, we discussed three ways you can foster resilience in your life. Based on what we know about resilience, here’s what we suggest when it comes to anxiety journaling.
Start Where You Are
Starting with writing about what is happening right now. Coming back to the present can help you begin to put things into perspective. Ask yourself, “What is the story I am telling myself right now?” Write down some of the fears and anxiety you have been feeling. You’ll come back and reexamine these thoughts in the next step.
Reframe the Story
Now that you have explored the story of now—the story you are telling yourself—it’s time to reframe the story. Look for ways to challenge each fear. For example, how realistic is it? Is there a positive side to this circumstance? What personal strengths have pulled you through in the past? Is it possible that this fear you are experiencing is a launching pad to greater success?
Be sure that your reframed story is a balanced one. It’s OK to acknowledge that things are hard; otherwise, you might fall into the trap of toxic positivity, which can worsen your anxiety in the long run. Research suggests that people who reframe their stories to include the good and the bad become more resilient.
Connect to Others through Your Story
Connection is a significant source of strength when a person is combatting anxiety and fears. But what do you do if your anxiety is keeping you from connection? Even if you’re feeling too anxious to reach out, you still have a few options for connection.
For example, you may be able to connect to your family, whether living or passed on, through reading their journals and stories—or even just looking at family photos! You can also reminisce about your favorite memories of love and connection and write about how you felt during those times. (These journal prompts can get you started). Warm, nostalgic feelings of connection may give you enough motivation to reach out to those around you for support.
When you’re ready, consider reaching out to those you trust to share your feelings of anxiety. Even hearing their stories can be a source of strength. Try using the #52Stories template as a guide for what questions to ask.
Lasting Impact of an Anxiety Journal
An anxiety journal can also be a resource for others. Of course, it might sound intimidating to have these dark moments written down somewhere. Yet, as humans we crave the sort of connection that comes from shared difficulties—especially when we see that there are solutions.
We are drawn to our ancestors because they were people like us. They had difficulties that they struggled to overcome, and their stories strengthen us in our own challenges. Don’t underestimate your own story. With anxiety so common, you may be that inspiration for someone else.
*While an anxiety journal can be an effective tool for coping, it is not a substitute for a medical professional.