Discover the Power of Journaling to Help Stress and Anxiety
October 21, 2020 | Published by Adrenal Fatigue Team
Various aspects of each of our lives comes with different stressors. For teenagers, this may mean stress due to the anxiety of making new friends, peer pressure, and deadlines for schoolwork. Adults often struggle with the stress of unpaid bills, toxic colleagues, destructive relationships and marriages, and unemployment. Older individuals may have to deal with the burden of disease, retirement plans, or being forced to live in a retirement community.2
Different types of people respond to stress differently. Regardless of our response, we can all learn to better our stress management abilities. This includes finding new ways to manage stress. Some of the more common destressing activities include exercise, dance, yoga, gardening, being creative or listening to music.2 Another beneficial stress relief method can be journaling. Journaling can help reduce stress as it helps people process their thoughts and emotions and can help people think critically and review circumstances in a different light. Other possible benefits of journaling include1:
- Decreasing the symptoms of asthma, arthritis, and other health conditions
- Enhancing cognitive functioning
- Fortifying the immune system response
- Counteracting many of the negative effects of stress
How to journal3
One of the most difficult parts of journaling is not the writing itself but finding time to write. It’s important to block off about twenty minutes each day to write, but if you find it difficult to set aside that much time, even taking five minutes to jot down a few ideas is better than waiting until you have the full twenty.
Many people prefer to write in the morning to start their day, while others prefer journaling before bed as a way to reflect upon and process the day’s events. Try to write every day by setting aside at least a few minutes. This will help you to write in your journal regularly4. Other tips include:
- Try to keep it simple and keep a pen and paper near you at all times. Then when you want to write down your thoughts, you can. You can also keep a journal in a computer file if you find that easier.
- Just try writing whatever feels right. Your journal necessarily doesn’t need to follow any certain structure. It’s your own private place to discuss whatever you want. Let the words flow freely.
- Don’t worry about spelling mistakes or what other people might think. If you do want to share your thoughts with trusted friends and loved ones though, you could show them parts of your journal.
Other strategies to try
Journaling is a highly effective tool for stress relief and can take several forms, so there are multiple options that can work for you. We already mentioned free journaling by just writing anything every day, but here are some other journaling methods that may work better for you. If you already have a favorite journaling habit, by all means, keep doing it. However, you may want to try something new in addition. And if you’re new to journaling, here are several practices to try.1
Some people keep a daily gratitude journal where they list three or more aspects of each day for which they are thankful. This is a highly effective strategy for relieving stress because it helps you to focus on the resources you have in your life already and create a more positive mood at the moment, both of which have been shown to build long-term resilience. An added benefit is that you are left with a record of the many nice things that have happened throughout your day, so if you’re feeling down in the future, you can cheer yourself up with a few pages of reminders for the things you have to appreciate in life.1
You may also write about your emotional responses to events that have happened throughout the day as a way of dealing with the stress. This can help you to handle what you are feeling and perhaps even explore more positive reframing options. When writing about positive experiences, this allows you the ability to maximize and savor the positive feelings you may have for the good things that have happened in your day. This is also a great way to expand on the positive and manage the negative things that happen in your life, increasing your positivity ratio, which is an important aspect of stress management.1
Personal Planning Journal
Some people keep journals to track what they need to do each day, goals they have, memories they create, and other things they want to remember. Because writing things down can help keep your mind organized and help you to remember what’s important to you, this can relieve stress as well. Being more organized and balanced is a great way to feel less stressed.1
- Morin, A. The Benefits of Journaling for Stress Management. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/the-benefits-of-journaling-for-stress-management-3144611
- Relieve Stress By Reading And Writing. Thrive Global. Class, J. https://thriveglobal.com/stories/relieve-stress-by-reading-and-writing/
- Watson, R et al. Journaling for Mental Health. University of Rochester Medical Center Rochester, NY. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=4552&ContentTypeID=1
- Waters, E. How to Begin Journaling for Stress Relief. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-to-begin-journaling-for-stress-relief/