Journaling has long been touted as a way people living with anxiety or depression can help reduce symptoms, stress and make sense of the thoughts running through their minds. Living with anxiety can be stressful, and many people find the impact of the symptoms can have a detrimental effect on their day-to-day lives and relationships.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US and are thought to affect over 18% of the population each year. It is thought that many people who have an anxiety condition also have depression too, globally, WHO estimates that 267 million people are living with depression.
Despite anxiety disorders being highly treatable, under 39% of people actually seek treatment for anxiety, and only 61% of those suffering from persistent depression seek treatment. This indicates that a high portion of the population is struggling alone with this.
Circling back to journaling, exactly how can it positively impact anxiety disorders and those living with anxiety every day?
Journaling and Depression
There are a variety of ways to journal, and there are few restrictions on who may benefit. When stress becomes too much for you, you can start journaling regularly, weekly, or on an as-needed basis, and you can choose the journaling method that works best for you.
Journaling can help you work through nervous emotions, which is one way it can alleviate tension. Anxiety, if left unchecked, can lead to tension and rumination. Any of the causes of your distress may be addressed with a little in-depth investigation.
The purpose of journaling is to write down your concerns so you can break the cycle of rumination, question those feelings, and come up with solutions. Here’s where to begin.
Write Down Your Worries
Begin by writing in a journal for five to fifteen minutes about whatever is on your mind. Continue until you believe you have written all that needs to be said while avoiding rumination.
Describe any situations that are causing you problems. Keep in mind that with anxiety, it’s not really what’s going on that triggers tension, but also your fears of what could go wrong.
Write down what is going on right now, and make a list of what is causing you the most anxiety: the prospect of what could happen next. This realization may be a stress reliever in and of itself!
Review Your Worries
Examine your choices when you go over what you’ve written and focus on your questions. Is it possible that things will change? Is there anything you might do right now to change your circumstances—or your feelings about your circumstances?
Ask yourself the following questions:
Is it possible that this will occur? How did you figure that out? Are you certain?
Is it possible that it will be a less negative experience if what you fear happens than you imagine? Is it possible that it is neutral or even positive?
Is there any way you could make your situation work in your favor? Can you make the most of what you have to work with to make the most upcoming changes? Is there a shift that could happen (or that you could make) to make things any better?
Change Your Thought Patterns
Try to write down at least one (but ideally more) alternative ways of thinking about each fear or concern you have. Create a new plot, or even a new collection of possibilities, for yourself. Put these next to the worries that are currently occupying your mind.
Examining your cognitive distortions can also be beneficial in determining how you could benefit from altering habitual stress-inducing thought patterns.
Journal Options for Anxiety
There are a few different ways in which you can express how you are feeling via journaling. If you feel confident enough, you can write freestyle—whatever and whenever you choose. There is no structure or flow except for writing your worries as they appear and your feelings as you go about your day.
If the thought of a blank fills you with dread, why not look at journals with prompts or look online for a selection of anxiety journal prompts that can help you. Why not add some quotes to each page to give you something positive to focus on. These helpful quotes for depression are a good way to help you focus and give you something to think about.
Keeping a thought diary can help you identify your thought pattern and recognize any triggers or situations that induce or encourage these feelings. Once you see the triggers and processes written out in front of you, you can resolve your feelings and determine a strategy to overcome this thought pattern and associated behaviors.