Journaling is a great way to deal with anxious thoughts since it brings awareness to the present. With the right mindful journaling prompts, you can find more ease in your daily life.
A journal is the one place where you can be yourself. It is a safe space to explore negative thoughts without fear or judgement; an invitation to slow down and move through feelings of anxiety—instead of denying them.
Journaling will leave you feeling more calm, focused and capable. Whether you already have a daily journaling practice or are new to the idea, certain prompts can help to ease anxieties.
Simply put, it’s the act of conscious writing. It can be helpful for anyone that struggles with meditation because you go to the extra step of taking the thoughts from your mind and making them tangible by writing them down.
Mindful Journaling allows you to uncover the root cause of your stress, easing anxiety. One of the benefits of journaling is that it’s a reflective process. It helps you organize your thoughts, and because they’re written down, you have the chance to reflect on them too. This is for stressful situations because it provides you the time and mental space to think a problem through. This is important because unchecked stress or anxiety is what usually leads to problematic coping methods. Mindful journaling provides a new way to face your feelings and concerns head-on.
It’s not about escaping your problems or pretending that a difficult situation isn’t happening. Instead, it’s about accepting and addressing it.
If you are new to journaling, “writers block” is expected. Any new behavior or practice can take getting used to. You may find it helpful to set a 5 or 10 minute timer when you first begin, this will help you stay on task. BE INTENTIONAL: turn it into a ritual by making yourself a warm drink, lighting a candle, or choosing a nice spot to write in. This may help you turn it into a daily routine for the future.
The following list of journal prompts may help alleviate anxious feelings.
Each problem is different so one prompt may benefit you more than another, but it is worth giving a try until you find the perfect one for how you are feeling!
Use when: You feel like you need to empty a racing brain.
This prompt aims to create space to think. If your mind feels busy are crowded, it is a great prompt. By the end, your mind should feel empty, calming anxious feelings that come from an overactive mind.
To do this, ask yourself, “what do I feel in the moment” which will allow for all thoughts to come through.
Once you start writing, don’t stop until you feel there is nothing else to write. This means you should write everything down, even if you begin to veer away from the prompt. Don’t pay any mind to spelling mistakes, your handwriting and don’t edit what ends up on the page. Free-write!
You may feel tired after doing this, the same what you may feel tired after a physical workout. But a fresh feeling of release will come with it as well.
Use When: You are overcome with worry.
A lot of the time, anxiety comes from fear. By confronting our worst fears, we give ourselves the chance to move with and through them.
To journal through your fears, start by writing them out one at a time. Ask yourself what are the worse case scenarios, how they might affect you, and what you would do. Ask yourself how likely it is to happen, why you think it might happen, whether its occurrence would be positive or negative and why.
It is a chance to discover how you would address these fears, which can make you feel more prepared. By journaling through our fears, we’re doing something proactive, which can help us work through our fears rather than letting them fester.
Use When: You need to feel grounded.
The 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique for anxiety is all about bringing your attention back to the now. Many people simply think through this exercise, but writing it out can be more effective if you are stressed. In your journal, write the following:
• Five things that you see
• Four things that you can touch
• Three things that you can hear
• Two things that you can smell
• One thing that you can taste
Bringing attention to your senses gives you a chance to pause and acknowledge where you are in detail. It will stop your mind from bouncing between thoughts and give you a moment to focus on a sensory experience that will ground you in the present.
Use When: You are feeling negative.
Gratitude is one of the healthiest emotions to sit with. It has the power to shift your mindset from negative to positive, which can be helpful when you’re feeling stressed or just having a bad day.
Write down what you are lucky to have, be or experience and why. Get into detail. Be creative with this. If you struggle to list things, try reflecting on:
Keeping a gratitude journal can help to shift your focus and change your outlook.
Use When: You are feeling agitated, stressed or anxious for no apparent reason.
When we feel anxious for no reason, it’s usually because our cup needs to be filled. But sometimes, knowing what we need isn’t obvious. To practice the most effective self-care, we should try and inform our approach.
If you are feeling overwhelmed to the point you can’t think about how to care for yourself, turn to your journal. Start with the line “I feel unwell because…” and let the thoughts flow. Answering this question may lead to the discovery of what you need (rest, connection, creative work, etc.). By diving into why you may not feel like yourself, you can learn what you may be able to do about it, caring for yourself.
Ff you’re struggling with anxiety, don’t be afraid to seek out professional help as well, if available. Journaling is a powerful tool, but it never hurts to expand your support system. At the end of the day, asking for help is often the best thing you can do for yourself.
Samantha Morel, Ph.D.