Stress and anxiety play a major part in our modern life. The price we pay for packing everything in, always being on call, the multiple demands of relationships and family and the business of the modern world, is often our peace of mind.
Fortunately in recent years new teaching and learning has emerged which has studied the cause and effects of stress and anxiety in our lives. This movement has started to understand the brain better, and to understand what we need to help control and eradicate the toxic levels of stress and anxiety that some of us face.
From being something that was never talked about in the work place for fear of losing your job or being labelled weak, stress and anxiety are now much better regarded as signs and triggers that something is not well and needs dealing with.
And we are so better placed to deal with stress and anxiety now because of all the research into the brain, into trauma, and health in general. Living life to its fullest capacity is now as eagerly sought, as a marker of a successful life, as making a million dollars and driving a big car.
From all the work that is available online we have brought together a small selection of helpful tools in the form of journal prompts for stress and anxiety. You could work through these when you feel stress and anxiety levels rising in your body, or even use them as daily journal prompts as part of your daily routine to keep you calm and grounded.
How to journal through your feelings of anxiety
Firstly, try and have your journal always to hand for when you need it. I would recommend writing in your journal first thing in the morning when you might be overwhelmed with a huge number of thoughts competing for space in your brain.
If you are not a morning person then write in your journal at the end of the day. Don’t stress about when you write, just try and make it part of your daily routine. Commit those thoughts that might interfere with your sleep to your journal and leave them there.
Journaling prompts are a great way to work through anxiety. You don’t need to think about what to write or how to feel better you can just work through a list of prewritten prompts. You could also create a list of your favorite journal prompts so you have them to hand when you need them.
In the rest of the blog post below I have identified different kinds of stressful situations that we face and made suggestions for what kind of journaling practice you can use to help you in those specific situations.
Go through the list below and see which ones you think could help you the most.
Don’t forget that good nutrition, regular exercise, a self care routine will also really help to control your levels of stress and anxiety. In conjunction with journaling, which I like to think of as both yoga and weights for the mind at the same time, you can really help to control and alleviate your symptoms.
A stressful situation is one which is not a regular part of your life, although it can remain for extended periods of time. A stressful situation could be an issue which causes other people no stress or anxiety, but which does cause you stress.
For example, you may have a busy morning and the busyness of it may cause you stress, but other people might not find that stressful. Having multiple competing priorities all of which need to be acted on immediately can also be stressful.
Family life can be stressful to some people and not to others. The multiple challenges of managing a family, maintaining order in the home, coping with different personalities and the busy schedule that comes with it can be extremely stressful
Everybody talking all at once in a room is very stressful to some people and to others not at all. Parties are stressful to some people and not to others and the way different people deal with those situations vary great.
One of the benefits of journaling is that it can really help alleviate your stress in these situations. Use your journal and go through the prompts below if you are in need of some stress relief from these kind of situations.
- Sit and stay with the present moment and be conscious of your breathing.
- Acknowledge that you are in a private space with just you and your journal.
- Write down what is making you stressed in a short sentence or short paragraph.
- Then write for as long as it takes to get all the thoughts about this stressful situation down on paper.
- Then take a break and breathe, go and make yourself a drink and come back. I actually find that taking a break with a cup of tea for 10 minutes is sometimes all I need to be able to regroup and you may find the same too.
- With many stressful situations it can be useful to also work out what you might do differently next time to avoid this situation or what habit you could change or add to your life in order to avoid the same occurence in the future. This can be the best thing about this kind of practice: it helps you for next time, because you are building habits for yourself to make life easier for yourself.
For example, I am very absent minded and twice in the last week I have been in the middle of doing a financial task and thought to myself, “Do you know what, I’ll leave this for a couple of days so I still have online access before I cancel”. And do you know what happened?
Both times I missed the deadline and ended up paying for another month of subscription. And both of those occasions gave me stress from a budgetary point of view and also with both of them I woke early and the first thing that came into my head was the fact that I needed to cancel asap as the deadline was running out.
So I had a huge amount of adrenaline coursing through my body. So my learning is to always cancel when I think about it and not wait until the very last day to do so.
A gratitude journal is a great daily journaling practice and it is a powerful tool to help our brains tune out negativity and tune in to the positive frequencies that often get pushed out of our daily lives.
I have written about gratitude journaling in other posts such as:
Journal notebook ideas – type of journal to keep
How different types of journals benefit your mental health
Take a blank notebook and use your journal entries on the blank page to create your own gratitude practice. Choose how many things you would like to be grateful for each day. It’s fine to pick a low number if you think you might struggle to find lots! So your list of things could be just three items if you’re unsure and twelve if you’re feeling bold!
Each day, write out what you are grateful for. It’s as simple as that. It amazes me that this practice works. It is so simple, but try if for yourself for a month or three months or even a year. The value of being grateful is really great for our bodies and for our minds. And the actual practice of journal writing is very calming. Plus you are creating a safe space for yourself where you feel secure. So definitely give it a try, you have nothing to lose.
Even going through in you mind what you are grateful for is very calming and restoring, so the double impact of thinking it and writing it down reinforces your thoughts. Plus you can re-read your journal entries and see the growing trail of gratitude that you have created for yourself.
A tough time
Tough times last longer than stressful situations and they affect all aspects of our life. A tough time could be: redundancy; illness; a series of events that occur over a similar period of time where you feel there is no let up in your situation and you have to dig deep to cope each day.
If this is your situation be reassured that your tough time will not last. There will be an end to it. One of the most important things to remember about a tough time is that most of us go through a season like this at least once in our lives.
You may feel like you’re the only one going through a tough time, but you are not alone.
Try and use your journaling practice to reassure yourself that you can cope with the situation, to remind yourself that other people experience similar times and to keep the flame of hope alive that this tough time will be over soon.
Using your journal:
- Each day journal about how you are feeling. It doesn’t matter if you say the same thing each day.
- Try and address what your worst fears are. Write them down
- Use your journal to address the negative experience and create positive experiences from your situation. Going through a tough time is a great life teacher if you will let life teach you.
I have found that one of the best ways to do this is to write about how you are coping with the situation on a daily basis. Because when you are going through a tough time you are actually coping with it.
For example if you have to ring the bank, and the credit card company and the local council all in the same morning, write the list in your journal of who you need to ring.
You could journal about how you feel about the phone calls, then make the phone calls. Then journal how you feel after you have made the phone calls (which is inevitably better than before).
- You can also use your journal to address situations that are arising in your tough time and decide now how you are going to deal with them. So this practice deals with your tough time in a different way. It makes it like a game.
An example of this could be, “Today I know I’m not going to have enough money so I’ll challenge myself to create dinner for $5/£5”. Or “Today I know I’m feeling ill but I will make myself as comfortable as possible.”
Often our worst fears are exactly that, fears. By journaling about them you are calling them out. You will still be going through your tough time but you will be creating an environment for yourself where you are learning to cope with and thrive through these tricky times.
Traumatic events are hard to navigate: the death of a loved one, a sudden death or loss, a serious life changing accident, a change of life. These are situations which are beyond our control.
They are so far beyond our control. It is a hard time in your life. There is no escaping them, come, uninvited, with the potential to change your life instantly.
If you are experiencing a traumatic time, then I hope you will discover that journal prompts for stress and anxiety can really help alleviate some of your daily anxious thoughts.
You could also consider creating an anxiety journal specifically for the traumatic event your are going through. There will be an end to this time and you may feel good that you can close the book on it when it is finally over.
If you are experiencing any sort of trauma, then being kind and gentle to yourself is going to be a priority. Here are some ideas for how you could navigate this time:
- Use your journal to write daily. Get your thoughts out on paper whatever they are.
- Try and clear your mind as much as possible by just writing it out
- However hard it may be find one thing to be grateful for each day.
Even in the midst of your trauma there will be positive things around you so try and look for those. Even if it is just one thing and it might seem small and insignificant.
- Write about your emotions. Listen to how you are feeling and be honest about what you commit to paper.
- If you are able, reread your writing and reflect back on what you have read.
- Does rereading your journal inspire you to do something differently, have a different attitude, or cope differently?
- If this kind of trauma relates to someone else, do you feel able to write about them?
- If you have experienced bereavement of any kind, could you write a love letter to that person?
A challenging time
Challenging times are difficult because they are often the time in which we see the most personal growth. However the way that we grow is by learning something new or changing our mindset about something and this can be extremely challenging and tiring.
Challenging times are situations like a new job, a change of lifestyle, basically an alteration in our pattern of life. This alteration may actually be a good thing but it requires change from us and that change is hard.
A new job is great news. Often it brings with it a requirement to learn new skills and interact with new work colleagues. This can be challenging. A change in lifestyle can be challenging: Moving to a new part of the country and having to learn to renavigate your daily life can be extremely challenging.
I think a really healthy way to deal with this is to create you “Life Challenge Journal”. Give it a name and the time it deserves. You are going through a time of learning or difficulty so acknowledge that. Be kind to yourself. Change is hard. Here are some ideas for your Life Challenge Journal:
- Give it a title, “My new job journal”, “Moving to Missouri”, “Leaving London and Embracing Edinburgh”
- Create a time log. Write each day for say 5 minutes about this challenging time. Write about your thoughts and feelings
- Give yourself some easy prompts like:
- One thing I will do today that I am looking forward to
- One thing today that I am not looking forward to and will be glad when it’s over
- One new thing I learned today
- One thing I’m proud of myself for today
- One way my life is better because of my challenging time
- One way I think my life is worse because of my challenging time
- One area where I still have an anxious mind about this time
A difficult situation
A difficult situation happens over a short time period, but it can be quite an intense time. It’s a difficult time where you need to deal with whatever has happened and find a resolution.
You may face these kind of situations on a regular basis in your work and even if you do your stress levels may be quite high so being able to journal through them could be really helpful.
Firstly, use your journal firstly to get a good sense of perspective. Difficult situations rarely last long. How long do you think your difficult situation will last?
Btw difficult situations are different to difficult time. Difficult times are a longer time period. Difficult situations arise, are tricky to navigate, and then go again.
- In your journal reassure yourself that this situation will pass soon.
- How long do you think this situation will last? 24 hours? 1 week? 1 month? Giving yourself a timeframe can help alleviate runaway stress and anxiety.
- If you are keeping a daily journal for stress and anxiety then in your diary entry for the day, list out what is causing the stress, and list it as factually as possible. For example you could say, “We have a meeting today at work to discuss X.”
Then under that sentence write how it is making you feel. And then under that sentence engage some positive thinking and write what you can do to help manage your emotions, or negative thoughts, in that particular situation.
So you would write, “We have a meeting today at work to discuss X.” Then under that you would write, ‘I feel anxious about dealing with all the people in the room.’ And then under that you write how you are going to manage that. So, for example, you would write, “Each time someone talks I am going to give them my full attention and not focus on anyone else.”
Stress management in general
Anxiety is triggered by many different factors. Journal prompts for stress and anxiety are great ways to manage your general stress levels. Even if you are not at home with your journal and experience anxiety, you can create impromptu writing prompts for yourself and work through a situation on the ground. Take some deep breaths, use one of the techniques above and deal with your situation.
Anxiety attacks and deep levels of stress can be very serious. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Sometimes it is just too overwhelming. Don’t feel ashamed of yourself or blame yourself for how you are thinking. It is just a question of how to deal with the brain in such a way that you are able to remain in a calm, joyful state for the majority of the time.
If you liked this blog you may also like:
8 easy benefits of journaling for mental health
How to create art: Easy art journal ideas for beginners (the practice of art can help alleviate many symptoms of stress and anxiety)
5 simple reasons to journal that improve your mental health