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Journaling for anxiety
What Whitney Wrote

How To Start Journaling For Anxiety

In this guide you will learn what anxiety is, exactly how journalling can help you overcome it, plus a simple guide to start your own journaling practice. If you’re on the way to a panic attack a solution might seem impossible. But it isn’t.  Journaling has helped me work my way through my anxiety and I’m sharing how you can use it too.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety and journaling
Anxiety can feel terrifying and lonely

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as “an emotion characterised by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”

Normal levels of anxiety and stress are completely normal. This fight or flight response keeps us safe and has ensured human survival for thousands of years.

However, when anxiety becomes your daily norm, without the presence of any dangers then it becomes a problem.

If you’re reading this you probably know what I’m talking about? That chronic worry tugging at your stomach, causing you to overthink everything, anything and sometimes absolutely nothing…….

Personally, I know very few people who haven’t experienced unnecessary anxiety in this modern world. Research supports this, with about 2 million Australians suffering anxiety every year (Beyond Blue).

Anxiety is a modern epidemic. A lonely and frightening one at that.

However – don’t lose hope. Know that there is a way out of the anxiety prison through journaling. It’s my mission to be able to show you how.

How Journaling Can Help?

Girl Journaling for mindfulness

Journaling is a great tool for coping with anxiety for many reasons. Below I have listed the top 5 reasons incorporating a mindfulness practice – like journaling – can reduce stress and chronic anxiety.

1. Calm racing thoughts

Calm racing thoughts

Your brain can’t help but slow down and focus on one thought at a time when you funnel them into words on a page. You’ll feel less overwhelmed and give your brain a moment to ‘breathe’ between each thought. It’s a bit like brain yoga…. Mindfully holding each thought, leaning into the discomfort…. then letting it go!

2. Eliminate worst case scenario thinking

eliminate worst case scenario thinking

Journaling helps you to put the events in your life into perspective. This is especially useful for nonsense anxiety spirals (I’ll put my hand up for this one).

Nothing will snap you out of it faster than having to actually write a sentence like “I’m worried people think I’m a slacker because I had to take a bathroom break during that meeting” … really?… yeah – that’s probably not true.

3. Creates new neural pathways

Journaling can help you break the ‘loop’ of destructive thought patterns and replace them with positive and uplifting ones. Our brain loves to revert to the neural pathways we’ve spent years building (Health Transformer).

Just like we don’t think about how to brush our teeth, ride a bike or put on a t-shirt we also don’t think about those anxiety inducing beliefs we’ve held onto for a long time. “I’m not smart enough”, “I’m too fat”, “people don’t like me” could be playing on repeat in your mind and you may not even realise it.

Writing about the things that trouble you brings them to the surface. It shines light on the thoughts that don’t serve you and gives you the opportunity to question the validity of these beliefs.

4. It is always available & costs very little

Journaling tools

If you have access to this post, chances are you also have access to a pen and paper.

Journaling doesn’t have to be pretty. There’s no required format. Just get your tools and get to work!

In fact, if you find yourself saying you can’t journal because you don’t have the right pen, paper, weather, astrological alignment…. Know that you have a serious case of procrastination going on and do it anyway! As a recovering perfectionists I can tell you, with heart on hand, that done is better than perfect my friends! Always!

5. Forces you to focus

Research has shown that mindfulness reduces anxiety and depression (Harvard Health & Anxiety Org).

By focusing on the present moment and funneling our energy into writing that down we take our brain out of the autopilot anxiety loop (did I pay that bill? I shouldn’t have had dessert? Was my boss pissed at me today?).  

Mindfulness is the first step towards reducing stress and anxiety. If you hate yoga and think meditation is too much for you right now I strongly suggest journaling as you first step.

The 3 Step Process To Start Journaling

Here’s some commonly asked questions & answers, plus tips that will help you become clear on how to start journaling.

1. When Should I Journal?

best time to journal

Find a time that works for you. Personally, my brain is firing first thing so I like to journal at sunrise. That being said, journaling in the evening can be a nice way to wind down for the day and set your intentions for tomorrow.

2. Where should I journal?

Where to journal

Try to find somewhere quiet where you won’t be interrupted. I like to sit on my deck or by an open window so I can feel connected to nature. But don’t get too caught up in finding the ‘perfect’ time and place to journal – that’s a surefire way to never do it. Make the best of what’s available to you in each moment.

3. What should you write in your journal?

what to write in your journal

If you’re new to journaling a great place to start is using journaling prompts. Here are three prompts that I regularly use.

  • Why does {insert goal} mean so much to me?
  • What am I grateful for right now?
  • How will it feel when I am living my dreams / have achieved my goals

Now that you know how to journal your thoughts, the next step is to get started!

A great way to make the commitment to a journaling habit is to take my popular, Free 5-Day Journaling challenge.

In it I’ll help you discover your journaling personality, then provide you with daily guidance, support and journal prompts specific to where you are in life right now.

journal challenge

I hope these tips have been helpful for you, and I would love to know what other mindfulness practices you use to help tackle anxiety? Let me know in the comments below.

P.s Does someone in your life struggle with anxiety? If you feel this guide would be useful I would love you to click share …..

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