When your thoughts and emotions feel overwhelming, it can help to get them down on paper.
But that isn't always easy.
First, it's hard to prioritize finding a chunk of time for journaling when you're already feeling overwhelmed. And on top of that, staring down at a blank page can make you feel like you don't even know where to begin.
A journal prompt can help you express yourself and find a way to manage your emotions that feel intense or hard to understand.
Not only does journaling provide a comforting outlet, it has proven to be an effective tool in managing our emotional and mental well-being. Below we’ve gathered some journal prompts that you can use to help relieve stress and anxiety, along with tips on how to use your journal.
Benefits of journaling
Here are the different ways that journal writing can help benefit your emotional and mental health.
Journaling can help you express yourself. When we’re feeling anxious or stressed, we have a tendency to keep things bottled up. We feel obligated to put on a happy face. We tell ourselves that it’s no big deal. But when we suppress our emotions, we risk intensifying them even further.
Rather than trying to pretend that everything is okay, allow yourself to vent and let it all out.
Journal writing is a productive way to release our emotions and express ourselves, and can make us feel a whole lot better in the process. This is especially helpful for people who have a hard time with communication, or worry about what people will think of them. The blank page is a neutral observer. You can write freely without worrying about criticism or judgment.
Journaling can help you see things in a new perspective. During times of stress, it’s hard to see the big picture or stay in the present moment. We ruminate on the past or we fret about the future.
Journaling allows us to take a step back and gain a new perspective on things.
For example, let’s say you’re nervous about starting a new job. You’ve convinced yourself that you don’t have what it takes. You’re worried that you’ll get fired immediately.
Through journaling, you can re-examine the situation. When you write things down on paper, sometimes you’ll realize that a situation is not as daunting as it seems. Yes, you’re nervous about starting a new job, but that’s a normal reaction. And maybe you’re putting too much pressure on yourself to start off strong. You’re allowed to learn and improve.
While journaling may not always give us an a-ha moment, it can certainly put things into perspective and shift our mindset.
Journaling can help you organize your thoughts. When we’re feeling stressed and anxious, our thoughts are all over the place. Journaling helps us articulate our thoughts and see things a bit more clearly. By seeing everything laid out on paper, we get a better handle on the situation as well as our thinking.
Journaling can be cathartic. When you get it all out on paper, it just feels good. Period.
Journaling can help you feel like you’ve lifted a huge weight off your shoulders. Instead of keeping everything inside, you’ll feel an immense sense of relief.
Plus, there’s something deeply satisfying about pressing down with the weight of your hand and getting the words out on the page. This act feels like both a physical and emotional release.
How to use a journal
Not sure how to use a journal? Here are some answers to common journaling questions that might be helpful if you’re new to journal writing.
How often should I write in a journal?
Some people like to maintain a regular journal writing routine, writing in their journal everyday or once a week. While others turn to their journal only when they need an outlet.
How often you write will really depend on your needs. Once you start journaling, you may find yourself writing in it everyday. Or, you may find that once a week is more than enough. You can let your needs determine your routine and how frequently you write.
How many pages?
You can write several pages or even just a few lines. A good rule of thumb is to keep writing until you feel some sense of relief. Of course, one journal entry won’t solve all our problems at once, but it should provide a small comfort.
What’s the difference between free-writing and writing with a journal prompt?
Free-writing is a form of stream of conscious writing. You’re allowed to write on any topic you want and deviate from your thoughts. You can write about what you had for breakfast one minute, and work stress the next. Many people prefer free-writing for its unstructured nature, and find that it helps them discover solutions or new perspectives in an organic way.
Others enjoy journal prompts because they offer guidance. Staring at a blank page can be intimidating, especially if you’re new to journal writing, and a prompt is a structured way to get started.
9 anxiety journal prompts to help you wind down
Here are some journaling prompts that you can turn to during times of stress or anxiety.
These prompts can serve as a coping tool, and help you find comfort and strength during tough times. They also make good starting points. A chance for you to reflect and figure out a way to move forward.
Feel free to follow these prompts or use them as inspiration.
- What can you do to prioritize your self-care today?
- What are things that you are dwelling on from the past? What can you do to release them?
- Make a list of things that you are proud of.
- Make a list of your strengths.
- Write about a moment in your life when everything went better than expected.
- Write about a time you surprised yourself and exceeded your expectations.
- Pick a mantra that inspires you. Are there certain habits you could make or break to put these words into action? What’s holding you back from reaching the full potential of this quote?
- What is an activity from your past that you used to love to do? Maybe it’s a dance class or playing board games. Make a point to try doing that activity this week.
- What are five things that bring you comfort? Maybe it’s a candle with a calming scent or a comforting bowl of soup. See if you can turn to one of those things this week.
Note: While journaling can help with managing stress and anxiety, you may want to consult a professional for guidance on your specific needs.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s national helpline is a free, confidential, hotline that provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to find more resources.