As part of my therapy to recover from severe generalized anxiety, it was suggested that I created a new habit and it was to start writing down my thoughts and feelings daily. I was introduced to journaling to overcome anxiety in 2015 when I had major nerves break down due to stress.
So what is anxiety?
When most people say that they have anxiety, they are usually using shorthand to describe a condition that they have been diagnosed with.
The truth is that anxiety isn’t a condition, it is a feeling. It can be symptomatic of a number of different conditions including but not limited to a group of disorders called anxiety disorders. On the other hand, it’s a natural emotion that is normal and healthy to feel from time to time.
How do you know when your anxiety is abnormal or unhealthy and what do you do from there?
Understanding anxiety requires understanding something called the “stress response” or the “fight or flight system.” This is a natural body process that prepares you, mentally and physically, to deal with challenges. It starts with a stressor, usually some kind of perceived threat. This triggers the release of hormones, one class of the “messenger molecules” that help different parts of your mind and body communicate with each other.
These chemicals lead to a number of changes in the way in which your body works including changes that you probably don’t notice, like slowing down your digestion and changes that you probably do notice – a faster heartbeat and faster breaths. The faster breath helps more oxygen get into your blood and a faster heartbeat helps to circulate that oxygenated blood through your body, especially to your muscles.
Usually, these symptoms come on somewhat gradually due to something that you have good reason to worry about. It usually isn’t scary, and it may even help you to do what you need to do to resolve or leave the situation.
Sometimes, however, it comes on quickly. It may be brought on by fears of things that aren’t likely to happen. Those changes to your heartbeat and breathing may be so severe that they cause chest pain and lightheadedness. You may even feel like you are going to die. This is called an “anxiety attack” or a “panic attack,” and it’s a major sign that you might have an anxiety disorder or a related condition.
Does Having an Anxiety Attack Mean that a Person Has Anxiety?
Having one panic attack doesn’t mean that you have an anxiety disorder, and having an anxiety disorder doesn’t mean that you are always having a panic attack – or even that you have them often. Above we discussed the physical aspect of anxiety but those physical aspects are brought on by emotional feelings of anxiety.
These feelings are usually worrying about or being afraid of things. As the physical aspects of anxiety, the emotional aspects of anxiety is normal and healthy if it only happens from time to time when there is actually something to worry about. (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition suffered by people who experience high levels of stress or anxiety over a legitimately frightening event like combat, violent crime or abuse, or even bad traffic collisions).
People with anxiety disorders, however, experience these feelings of stress, fear, and anxiety most of the time, even when nothing stressful or scary is happening. These feelings may be so severe and so constant that they interfere with the way that people live their daily lives. The physical symptoms of prolonged stress can also lead to health problems.
One of the main differences between anxiety disorders has to do with what kinds of events or fears trigger the feelings of anxiety. General feelings of anxiety that don’t seem to be caused by anything characterize “Generalized Anxiety Disorder,” while fears of very specific things are called phobias. These are some of the most common anxiety disorders but there are others as well.
What to Do if You Think You Have Anxiety? How to Overcome Anxiety?
There are a number of quizzes and symptom checkers online that you can use to try to determine whether you have anxiety. None of them are substitutions for the diagnosis of a medical expert, however.
There are no real tests for anxiety, so the diagnosis of anxiety disorders and related conditions is usually based on the symptoms that a patient describes to a general healthcare provider or mental health expert. You should definitely consult your doctor if you have any of the trademark signs and symptoms.
Treatments may range from prescription medications to talk-therapy, to diet and lifestyle changes. These will depend on the nature and severity of the disorder and on the preferences of the individual.
In my specific case, I used all of the mentioned treatments and one, in particular, is what I want to talk about here today. It is Journaling. I use Journaling to Overcome Anxiety.
I must say that I always liked writing when I was in school, so the idea of writing was not too much out of my comfort zone. Except, this time, in full blown anxiety moment, I had to write about my own anxious thoughts and feelings. All had to be about myself and that’s when I immediately started to feel a wave of emotions came up before I even started. Did I mention I have anxiety?
I couldn’t grasp the idea of writing about myself in details, without feeling stressed. I was really sick at the time, so everything was overwhelming to me, to say the least.
Journaling is a very therapeutic exercise and the consistent practice of it has helped calm my mind, get rid of negative thoughts, decompress from the daily stresses and work through my anxious feelings to start focusing on what’s really important: Live a better, calmer life.
At each therapy session, we would go over my notes from the previous week and we would talk about the situation, thoughts, fears and feelings I had written down.
The best part of it all is when you go back and read your own notes a week later, you will notice that whatever worry you had in the past had either sorted itself out or maybe it was not that big of a deal after all anyway. This simple exercise helps you get a different view on things, a different perspective and as a result, you start feeling better, knowing that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
There are better ways to deal with negative thoughts and emotions, we just need to be willing to pay more attention to catch ourselves doing it.
Self-awareness is key here and once you have that step figured out… the rest is just practice.
When you have a negative thought, stop and redirect your attention to something positive. Change the direction of the thought. It takes practice, but it really works.
Daily journaling is a wonderful habit that can transform your life, but you have to be willing to do the work required to experience the transformation.
Journaling works best when you create space for it in your life.
I know there could be a bit of resistance at first, you might feel silly having to write what’s on your mind, but once you get over that first negative thought and give it a try, if you stick with it, you will understand the freedom that comes with this practice as you enter the journey to discover who you really are.
Some people prefer to journal first thing in the morning so they can start their days feeling energized. Others prefer the quiet of early afternoons or late nights. I have to be in a quiet room, away from distractions to be able to fully concentrate on my thoughts, especially when I’m feeling anxious.
Whatever your preferred time to write is, choose a time that feels right to you and set aside 20-30 minutes to write your thoughts and feelings.
Keep in mind that your journal is a judgement free zone. Just write what’s on your mind. I’m sure you will have lot’s to write about once you get started.
It’s OK if you misspell a word, use a run-on sentence, or even forget punctuation altogether. It’s your journal, you can do whatever you want. You are not writing to impress others or earn an “A” on your report card. Don’t stress over it.
You’re writing for yourself and you’re the only one that will ever read these words.
“A day thinking about what could happen, should happen, or what might have been, is a day missed.” – Headspace App
If you think you don’t know what to write about, start by asking yourself some questions, then writing the answers down. It shouldn’t be complicated, Here are some examples:
- How do I feel at this present moment?
- What happened that made me feel this way?
- Does feeling this way help solve the problem or issue?
- And so on…
And to make the journaling experience even more relevant to you, I’ve created a document that you can either print to fill it out later or do it right from the document itself, as it is a fillable PDF file, then save it to your computer for future reference.
There are so many known techniques that can help you manage stress and anxiety. This simple journaling technique helps me overcome my anxious feelings every time!
Journaling to Overcome Anxiety is a process, it gets better the more you do it. It’s for anyone that can write and it offers many benefits to your mental health.
So what are you waiting for?
Grab a cup of coffee or tea, download the Journaling to Overcome Anxiety document (it’s FREE) and start journaling!
Let me know if you found this information helpful, and if you have any questions or you just want to say hello, leave a comment below! I would love to hear from you!