By Emma-Louise Elsey
Are you looking for ways you can journal to help reduce anxiety?
Below I share the 3 journaling techniques that have most helped me with anxiety – for you to try. I don’t use the second one very often any more – where I let loose with my feelings – but it sure can be useful sometimes! Finally, these techniques may have other “official” names, but this is how I think of and describe them. I hope these help:
1. Hold a CONVERSATION with yourself: This helps to understand the cause of the anxiety. This is a free-flowing technique. Simply ask yourself a question and then answer it. The easiest way to approach this is to put pen to paper and write whatever comes up. It’s helpful to start with something like, “Who am I talking with?”, “Why have you showed up today?” and, “What do you need (from me)?” Then allow a back and forth – whatever comes – without any judgement! Usually over the course of this conversation you’ll have an, “Ah – that’s why I’m anxious” or “No wonder I’m anxious if I’m talking to myself like that!” moment. Then take care of yourself: Ask yourself, How am I now? What do I need? Then say “I love you” or “I accept you” and wrap up by writing something like “I am always here for you”.
2. Give yourself an OUTLET for extreme feelings*: Sometimes when we feel anxious it’s because we have anger (or fear, rage, frustration or resentment!) inside that we are resisting. These are just feelings – like any other, except that we probably feel we shouldn’t have them (which is part of the problem). So, instead of trying to hold it in, you can safely use your journal to get this out of your system. For example, I allow the anger in my journal – scrawling across the page at myself, at my critic, at someone else. I know no-one else will see this, and it’s extremely cathartic. So let it ALL out – whatever form the words take. Usually if I am this “upset”, I am gently tearful afterwards – and then feel better. It’s a relief not to feel those feelings boiling inside us. And it’s important to ALWAYS wrap up these conversations by taking care of yourself (see example of what this looks like at the end of technique 1 above).
3. CALMING Sleep Tool: I use this technique before I go to bed, or If I am having trouble getting to sleep. Simply write down everything that is on your mind. And I mean EVERYTHING! This could be a thought about what to have for dinner, that you missed your yoga class, that someone gave you a funny look, the dentist appointment you need to book, that you don’t like your hair, and actions that keep popping up for the party (or work project) you’re planning. Keep asking, “What else?” until you have exhausted every thought – and inkling of a thought – that comes up (this can take 10-20 minutes). Then a) Strike through those thoughts/actions that you can’t do anything about, b) Circle anything you need to action urgently – and DECIDE to do those tomorrow. If necessary, make a separate list, tear it out and put it somewhere you can’t miss seeing it in the morning. Then finally, write out actions (with dates if possible) for anything else longer term that needs taking care of. You’ll be amazed at 1) how much there is going on inside your mind and 2) how calming it is to have everything out of your mind, onto paper – with a plan for the important stuff. Now your brain can relax and go to sleep!
So, there you have it. The 3 techniques I have found most helpful in dealing with anxiety. I hope these help you – or give you some ideas for new ways to use your journal to grow! I have learned about how my mind work so much from these techniques alone. This knowledge empowers me – has enabled me to learn my patterns of thought – and gradually retrain my mind so I take care of myself, and can let go of the inner critic and fear.
*IMPORTANT: If you have trauma in your past or feeling something that is frightening for you, please get support and discuss with someone who is trained eg. a counsellor or therapist.
Guest Author Bio
Emma-Louise Elsey is a life coach, entrepreneur – and anxiety sufferer. She is the creator of The Coaching Tools Company.com with over 100 Coaching Tools, Resources and products. She is also the creator Fierce Kindness – a self-development website to support people on their journeys to express their authentic selves and create a meaningful life they love. A lifelong learner, and as someone who has always felt extremely capable ‘at life’, it was a shock when anxiety began taking over. Emma-Louise began journaling in 2006 as one of many techniques to help her cope with her anxiety, difficult feelings and a vicious inner critic. And although it was an awkward start, she still journals today as an essential part of her ongoing development.