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Journaling to Help Relieve Anxiety

Photo by Evie S. on Unsplash

A month ago, I decided to request a few days off in March from my day job. I didn’t have a plan in mind for what I wanted to do with this time, but for once, I was proactive about taking time off even without a solid plan. I knew I wanted to spend the time focusing on writing, and after tossing around several ideas, eventually, Alex and I decided to spend a four-day weekend in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

We rented a small and remote cabin, packed up the Subaru, and headed out Thursday afternoon with Queso in tow.

Getting to the cabin was a breath of fresh air, both figuratively and literally. I had not realized how anxious the news about coronavirus had been making me, on top of needing a vacation from work in general.

I feel fortunate to be tucked away in this cabin as I’ve had the opportunity to absorb everything from a distance. During this time, I have journaled a bit, in the hopes of helping to center myself and make sense of everything.

Writing has helped me deal with my anxiety in the past, and I still find it a very useful tool in my current life. While sometimes it can be hard to craft a story or feel creative in moments of anxiety, journaling has proven to be a way for me to write uninhibitedly. Even when I feel at a loss for words, I always find I can write something when I open my journal. That’s the beauty of writing for yourself – it doesn’t matter what you write. There are no rules or guidelines. When I am journaling, I don’t care if my subjects and verbs are not in agreement, or whether I spelled a word correctly. I don’t care if I write just one paragraph about what I had for lunch that day. The act of writing is itself a way to de-stress and feel accomplished.

Whenever I mention that I like journaling, people often tell me they would love to be able to journal have never been able to actually do it. If you are in need of tips, here are a few that have helped me throughout the years.

Start with writing about your day

This approach can seem somewhat childish, but it can be a great place to start. An objective summary of your day can not only be entertaining to read years down the line, but it can also be healthy for you at the time of writing. Writing down the bare facts can be a step towards healing by just coming to terms with the fact that certain events did happen. I have also found that this approach helps keep me grounded in facts, rather than assumptions about what happened, what is happening, or what might happen.

Focus on one person or event of the day

Sometimes writing about someone or something that has stuck out from the day can be helpful for uncovering what is on your mind. A lot of times, I’ll start writing about something that seems so minor and only afterwards do I realize that I had so much to say about it. Writing in a journal helps me dig deeper into my thought processes and bring to light emotions about something I may not initially be aware of.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with form

Some days, I find it easier to write a short poem or bit of an essay rather than my normal journal entries. It depends on my mood, attention span, time constraints, etc. Sometimes these start with a random line that come to mind throughout the day and once I write it down, it morphs into a poem or a paragraph. It might take up a quarter of the page or three full pages. Either way is fine.

Enjoy the physical act of writing

While I tend to type most of my writing, I gravitate towards handwriting my journal entries. Handwriting changes with emotions (mine gets very messy the more emotional I am), and I find it therapeutic to write out my emotions. I also like that hand-writing entries forces me to slow down my thoughts, in contrast to typing, which is quicker but doesn’t allow me to be as contemplative. I also associate computers with work (both my day job and freelancing), so taking a break from the computer is a good way to separate yourself from work-mode.

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I expect I will be doing a lot of journaling and other writing in the next couple of weeks. I wish all you other writers out there good luck in your writing, and stay safe and healthy!

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