By Sooraya, BA, The Strategic Recipe Developer
Beep, beep, beep.
“And there it goes again. Stupid clock.”
You feel paralyzed.
Unable to hop out of bed.
The knot of fear in your stomach is strangling you.
“I’m not letting my anxiety win this time!”
You close your eyes, trying to calm yourself.
But the conversation you had last year with your relative keeps playing in your mind. And today you’re visiting her.
“Help yourself, dear.”
“Thank you, aunty. These cakes look scrumptious. But I don’t consume gluten, eggs, sugars, and dairy. This works best for my health.”
“Oh, I see. How about you eat this one here. It’s a date bar with almonds and coconut.”
“I can’t have it, aunty. It’s next to all these other cakes.”
“Huh, that’s a bit too much, don’t you think?”
And she stomped off to her kitchen fuming.
How Anxiety Journaling Can Save You (+ Action Tips)
In a previous article, you discovered how to befriend your inner critic with gratitude journaling. And learned that expressing thankfulness for euphoric moments can knock down depression. But also boost your physical health.
Being grateful and appreciative can indeed rapidly decrease your anxiety level. However, anxiety journaling takes it to a deeper level.
Using a diary or journal, you explore what’s happening in your life and around you. You ask yourself questions such as:
- What am I thinking?
- How am I feeling deep down?
Triumphantly cope with your anxiety by journaling it. Writing about what’s making you all tensed up is an invaluable tool because:
- It helps you comprehend your inner self.
- It prevents your stress from running loose.
How to Get Off the Anxiety Journaling Roadblock
Anxiety Journaling Roadblock #1
“My anxiety comes from nowhere, I’m telling you. I was born anxious. Ain’t nothing gonna solve that 🤷♀️.”
This mindset is exactly what’s holding you back. It’s preventing you from identifying your trigger thoughts. Let me tell you a short story so that you get the picture.
It was her very first day in Canary Wharf high school.
She was ecstatic, counting every second to her first class.
She yearned to share her hard earned knowledge.
Layla, a high school teacher, walked elegantly through the staff room doors.
But as soon as she stepped in, fear kicked in. An overwhelming sense of dread engulfed her. She could hear her heart pounding against her chest. Perspiration trickled down her face. And she had an intense urge to throw up.
Rack your brain:
Can you guess what happened to Layla?
At that precise moment, she didn’t pay attention to her thoughts. And that’s why she had no clue as to what was happening.
The moment she entered the staff room, she recognized some of her ex-classmates from when she was in college. And the following thoughts flooded her mind:
They’re still best friends while I don’t even have one.
If I say ‘hello’, they’ll probably sneer at me like they used to.
I hope my place isn’t reserved next to them.
What if they’re teaching the same subject as me? And I have to collaborate with them and be in the same department as them?
What if nobody wanna talk to me? And they seize the opportunity to bring back past wounds?
Picked up gem:
Isn’t it astounding that so much info flashed through Layla’s mind without her realizing?
It’s quite obvious why she felt perturbed, right? Notice how one seemingly harmless thought resulted in many more crippling ones.
Ready for your mission? 🎯
🔹 Strategy #1:
Step 1: Any time you face similar situations, pause for a second. The goal here is to discover what triggered this series of negative thoughts.
- Analyze your thoughts.
- Investigate the reason behind this sudden anxiety attack.
Step 2: Ask yourself the following questions + note down your answers.
- Did I see a person in particular?
- Did anyone talk to me?
- What was happening around me?
- How did I feel before this episode?
- How did I feel during that moment?
- When did my mood become normal again?
🔹 Problem solved:
Can’t figure out what’s going on in that complex mind of yours? No problem. Start writing anyway.
Make it a habit of journaling your anxiety. You can jot down something like, 👉 “My thoughts aren’t clear… Does my anxiety have something to do with…?”
Come up with all the possibilities that you can think of. Don’t content yourself with just one. You’ll be surprised at how transferring your thoughts to your journal can guide you to unearth significant insights.
🔹 Heads up:
I’m not telling you that it’s gonna be a piece of cake. This exercise requires practice and patience. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll be a pro at catching your thoughts and turning them over. That’ll certainly help to alleviate your anxiety.
Anxiety Journaling Roadblock #2
“Spend my precious free time on that? This is a stupid thing. The kinda thing you do in junior school. Forget about it, dude.”
Yeah, I know. I still have my diary from back in the day 🙈.
🔹 Good to know:
It can seem like a chore on top of everything you’re already juggling with. But there’s one thing you need to know: anxiety journaling doesn’t mean detailing all your thoughts. This would be impossible anyway.
🔹 Strategy #2:
Step 1: Grab your journal when your anxiety bubbles up in your stomach. Take this as an opportunity to face your anxiety.
Step 2: Write down exactly everything that you’re feeling in that moment. Not an option? Do it as soon as you can. That way your thoughts and feelings will still be vivid in your mind.
🔹 Heads up:
Anxiety journaling isn’t something that you need to do until the end of time.
Doing that for a few weeks will yield a lot of information. Plus when you go through this process numerous times, you’ll automatically monitor your every thought. And challenge any negativity that comes your way positively.
Once this comes naturally to you, you’ll be able to skip the journaling part altogether. And devise your own coping strategies.
But for me personally, doing a brain dump makes me think through my thoughts. It provides me with much more clarity. And even though I’m not anxious anymore, I love journaling.
Anxiety Journaling Roadblock #3
“Wrote down my thoughts. Great. Now I feel like a dumb fool.”
Well, that’s a good start, my friend.
Yep, you heard that right.
🔹 Picked up gem:
Think about it. When these ‘dumb’ thoughts were partying up there, they sounded pretty logical, right? And now that you’ve dumped them on paper, they look completely irrational.
Meaning that you uncovered a brand new perspective by merely laying your thoughts on paper.
And guess what? Recording your thoughts makes you realize how perfectly unrealistic they are. When you’re conscious of that, you’re in full control to transform them.
10 Things Anxiety Journaling Can Do For You
Do you hate writing and would rather spend time watching videos? Ones that’ll help kick away your anxiety? Well, here’s the deal. Watching videos ain’t gonna help. Continue reading to see why.
1. Anxiety journaling helps you catch negative thoughts.
Psychologist Barbara Markway says that the best way to learn about the way you think, is to jot it down. Before dealing with your problematic thought patterns, it’s a must that you first find out what they are.
👉 Anxiety journaling is instrumental in such a case. It helps you uncover how you automatically talk to yourself. In a negative, demeaning way. And from there, you can dig deeper to find the root cause of your anxiety.
2. It calms your mind + weeds out the garbage that got stuffed in all these years.
Take the time to write down what you’re afraid of or are concerned about.
👉 You’ll end up with clearer thoughts and tangible feelings. Thus obtaining crucial knowledge about your own special self. You’ll feel better ‘cause you broke free of your thoughts when you jot them on paper.
3. Writing your emotions on a piece of paper is key to processing them.
It helps you come up with a plan + discard negative thoughts, bitterness, and hate. Not just towards others but towards your own self first.
👉 If you can forgive others, why can’t you forgive yourself? Did you ever think about it?
4. Anxiety journaling helps you process how you’re feeling right now.
After you’ve written about all the events that form part of your life, take a second.
👉 Think about how you emotionally responded to every single one of them. This will help you process your feelings. And even help you come up with strategies about how to address them.
5. It helps you get over past events.
Did you ever think to write about:
- Your struggles,
- Your inner fears,
- That pain you buried a long time back,
- That betrayal that still makes your eyes sting, bringing back a metallic taste in your mouth?
All of this still affects you because you never took the time to process them. You just trashed them in a corner of your mind and tried to suppress them. Yet, you seem to be reminded of them all the time.
Maybe these events:
- Left you traumatized.
- Robbed you of your self-confidence.
- Left you feeling like you’re nothing but a bag of scum. A piece of trash. Someone who isn’t worthy of being loved. Someone who deserves to be alone and in pain the rest of her life.
👉 When you journal about past events, you give yourself permission to dig deeper into your past. To release all the emotions attached with it. To learn from it and grow stronger.
6. Anxiety journaling helps you uncover what triggers your anxiety.
Exploring your own self can prove to be invaluable. You get to know your triggers.
- Is it someone in particular?
- Is it a certain place?
- Or maybe even a certain dress?
7. It allows you to let go of buried emotions that are draining you.
We live in a funny world. We have oodles of likes on FB and followers on Instagram. Yet we feel terribly alone. With no one to talk to.
Anxiety journaling is a fabulous way to let go of all the feelings and emotions that you bottled up. It was proven to decrease anxiety in patients with multiple sclerosis . Who knew?
👉 Write down what stressed you. Think about how you can remediate to this. (Hint: Gratitude journaling can be of some help here.)
8. It helps you avoid anxiety episodes.
You’ll never believe how many solutions anxiety journaling can bring to the table. Writing about a problem makes it much easier to come up with solutions than just thinking about it.
👉 In an experiment, participants regularly journaled their mood changes. This helped them notice the early signs of a relapse. But also prevent any relapse or avoid worsening their condition by coming up with their own strategies.
One participant said that whenever she had a relapse, her strategy was to sleep only 7 to 8 hours every night. And take a nap the next day. Her goal was to sleep less than 12 hours in a row.
9. Anxiety journaling can assist you in those parts of your life where you feel behind. The ones on which you seriously want to focus.
What better way to address your health problems than with anxiety journaling?
👉 Studies showed that this technique causes a drop in physical symptoms, and health issues. But most importantly: anxiety in women.
10. It helps you manage both your stress and your anxiety.
Did anxiety turn you into:
- A person who’s always alone?
- An introvert who feels uneasy around people?
Well, allow anxiety journaling to work its magic.
👉 In one study, researchers found that anxiety journaling helped students manage their stress and anxiety. And guess what? The students became more involved in the classroom.
Try These 3 No-Brainer Anxiety Journaling Strategies to Stop Anxiety Right in Its Tracks
Anytime you feel anxiety kicking in, grab your journal and try these 3 techniques.
Strategy #1: Rate your level of anxiety. Reclaim your power.
Step 1: Conduct this experiment as if you’re an investigator. Be curious.
Step 2: Analyze how you were feeling before and how you felt after your anxiety attack. On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being completely Zen and 10 drowning in anxiety and worries.
For example, you can write down, 👉 “Wow, I’m nearly at a 9 right now. I think I’ll sit down, close my eyes, and do some breathing exercises. Let’s see what effect that has on my anxiety level.”
Step 3: Take a few minutes. Get some deep breaths.
Step 4: Reassess your stress level. Has it decreased to an 8 or maybe a 7? Even if it has lowered by 1 or 2 points, don’t give up. The goal here is to make you realize that your anxiety level isn’t constant. When this happens, you’ll relax knowing that your high level of anxiety is temporary.
Step 5: Note down the results.
🔹 Strategy #2: Take the time to be present.
Sit down with your journal. And answer the following questions:
- How do you feel?
- What can you physically feel?
- Look around you – what can you see?
- What can you smell?
- What can you hear?
Take the time to notice and write down every single detail.
👉 My neck and shoulders are all tensed up. My heart is pounding against my chest. Sweat is trickling down my face. My palms are all sweaty.
👉 I can feel the cushion behind my back. I can feel my journal and pen in my hand.
👉 From here, I see my work table with a pile of books on it. It badly needs to be dusted.
👉 I can smell the fragrance coming from the red roses in my vase.
👉 I can hear the smooth scratching of my ball pen on my journal.
Now, how do you feel? Notice any difference?
When you’re anxious, all sorts of future catastrophes race in your mind. This little trick is here to:
- Help you ground yourself in the present
- Halt your anxious thoughts right in their tracks
And when you do so, you no longer notice your sweaty palms or your stiff shoulders.
🔹 Strategy #3: Stop focusing on yourself.
It’s hard to believe that others have anxiety, right? I mean, how can that always-cheerful girl have anxiety?
Step 1: Train yourself to take your focus off of you. Do this the moment you realize that you’re focusing on yourself.
Step 2: Look around you. Bring your focus on other people.
Step 3: Once again, become a detective. Sit back and analyze the situation.
🔹 Story time:
In 2016, my dad had to try out AIP and the mere thought of having to attend lunch meetings made him slightly anxious (although he wouldn’t admit it).
While everyone eats biryani (Spiced rice with potatoes and meat cooked in A LOT of ghee), he gets to eat something completely different. People ask questions and then blurt out silly comments.
To comfort him, mum cooked some steak with oven fried sweet potato chips. And accompanied it with cabbage and carrot salad. All the others eyed his food that day. They couldn’t help but state that it looked absolutely appetizing.
And that’s not all. When dad conducted this experiment, he noticed that someone brought his own paleo biryani. This guy was as nervous as he was. But fortunately for him, it looked SO alike that nobody realized he was eating something else.
👉 Dad reported that when he focused on the attendees, he managed to shift gears and enjoy his meal.
Set off on your own mission
Step 1: Now it’s your turn to conduct this experiment. Instead of focusing on yourself in a meeting/gathering, focus on other people.
Step 2: Note down everything you’ve discovered in your journal.
Ready to knock down your anxiety and invite peace of mind back into your life? You’re one single page away from that 😉.
Don’t let apprehension cripple you. You have both the power and the strength to strangle that feeling of hopelessness that’s tugging you. And step into a life filled with calm.
All you’ve gotta do is act. Now. Even if it’s one small step at a time, don’t get discouraged. The next time anxiety comes knocking at your door, take your anxiety journal and start writing.
 Hasanzadeh P, Fallahi Khoshknab M, Norozi K (2012). Impacts of Journaling on Anxiety and stress in Multiple Sclerosis patients. cmja. 2012; 2 (2) :183-193.
 Villaggi, B., et al. (2015). Self-management strategies in recovery from mood and anxiety disorders. Global qualitative nursing research, 2, 2333393615606092.
 LaClaire, 2008. The influence of journaling on the reduction of physical symptoms, health problems, and anxiety in women. Adler School of Professional Psychology, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2008. 3324362.
 Flinchbaugh, C. L., Moore, E. W. G., Chang, Y. K., & May, D. R. (2012). Student well-being interventions: The effects of stress management techniques and gratitude journaling in the management education classroom. Journal of Management Education, 36(2), 191-219.