by Jas Rawlinson
Anxiety. It’s something that most of us struggle with at one time or another, and as someone with lived experience of both anxiety and depression, I can tell you this: when it flares up, it can make the simplest of tasks that much more stressful or difficult.
Over the years I’ve had to experiment with many different things to help manage and reduce my stress levels, and like many, I’m always searching for new things to add to my self-care toolbelt.
My favourite? Writing. Or more specifically, journaling.
Think journaling is just for kids? Think again!
Take a moment to think back to your youth…if you’re a child of the 80s or 90s, like me, you probably spent a lot of your teen years scribbling down every sappy thought, love letter, or ‘emo’ moment in a diary.
(Come on, I’m sure I’m not alone here!).
And while the term ‘journaling’ probably conjures up nostalgic memories of younger years gone by, it is still one of the best things we can do for our mental health as adults.
Even psychologists and therapists swear by it! As quoted by psychologist Barbara Markway, “There’s simply no better way to learn about your thought processes than to write them down.”
It’s a quote I couldn’t agree with more. Whilst my love of journaling and writing first began in childhood (primarily as a way of positively coping with the trauma of my father’s mental and verbal abuse), it still plays a huge role today in my mental and physical health.
And the best part is, it can work for anyone. So if, like me, you struggle with anxiety, here are three simple writing exercises to help relieve stress and worry.
1. Brain Dump
Anxiety got your stomach in knots and your heart racing like a train? Try putting aside five minutes at the end of each day to write down a list of all the things that are causing you worry or stress. Once you have a list, choose 1-2 points from your list that you can — at this point in time — start to ‘chip away at’ or address in some way. Then, write down one thing you could do tomorrow in order to begin working on this issue.
For example: ‘I’m feeling exhausted and overwhelmed with everything that I have to get done this week at my new job. So, tomorrow, I’m going to make a list of what needs to be done, when it’s due, and then start on the most important things first.’
2. Gratitude Journaling
Feeling down? Overwhelmed and short on time? In my experience, even the simple act of writing down three things you’re grateful for each day, can work wonders for your mental health. While not every situation in our lives may feel manageable or in control, sometimes simply focusing on some of the positive things in our life instead of everything that’s bad, can help us begin to shift unhelpful mindsets and instead begin attracting more positive people and experiences.
Recently I had a pretty awful situation with a stranger who was sending me abusive and threatening emails. As someone who is naturally sensitive, I found it difficult to disconnect from her words, and with every email she sent, my anxiety continued to rise. One thing that I did throughout this time, was to write down (and speak) positive affirmations about myself, my abilities, and my worth.
For example, here are a few affirmations I have written/told myself over the past week:
- No matter what this person says, I am still worthy of respect and love.
- Even though this person’s words are hurtful and awful, they are not a physical threat to me. I am safe, and I am calm.
- My voice and my experience as a survivor of trauma is valid and important, and it makes a difference. I have many people around me who love and support me, and I don’t need to take on this stranger’s opinions.
Is writing something that you’ve tried in the past in order to shift anxiety or stress? Have you had any success with strategies like these? Jump in the comment section and let me know!
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