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  • Writer's pictureStacy G. Smith, MS, LPC

Overcoming Anxiety: Tip #26

Many individuals cringe at the thought of journaling. They may quickly roll their eyes, sigh, and think the following thoughts:

  • "I don't have time to journal."

  • "I tried it in the past and it wasn't helpful."

  • "I wouldn't know what to write, or how to start."

  • "It's boring."

  • "It's more of a chore than a relief."

  • "What if someone finds it?"

Can you relate?

The problem is, many individuals are unaware of what it means to journal. If I were to take a quick survey, most would believe it includes starting off with, "Dear Diary...." and recounting your day. Others may feel they need to journal every day for it to be effective, and to include their deepest secrets and emotions. And yet, some may get caught up with writing styles, grammar, and having the entry read smoothly and appear well-written.

Journaling is a very personal experience, and will look different from one person to the next. But, keep in mind, the purpose of journaling is to find calmness, increase our self-awareness, and find relief from our struggles. It helps put our thoughts on paper so that we can sort through them, look at them from a different perspective, and problem solve. If journaling feels more like a chore than anything else, all that means is you have not found a specific journaling style that works best for you.

To help you out, here is a sampling of journaling exercises worth exploring that may have never crossed your mind:

  1. Create a list of what you felt grateful for during the day. This can be done nightly, once a week, or whenever you're feeling down.

  2. Make a list of positive quotes and sayings you find online, in books, magazines - or ones you make up.

  3. Doodle randomly across the page to help release some tension and channel your focus away from your thoughts.

  4. Bullet point what you feel is making you anxious (or sad, frustrated, angry...) and one or two thoughts about each point.

  5. Writer a letter to your anxiety, depression, or anger.

  6. Keep a running list of small accomplishments you've made, including those that you struggled with, or felt particularly challenging.

  7. Rate a particular emotion on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being most intense, and what you believe contributed to its intensity.

  8. Make a list of what makes you smile, laugh, and feel good - which you can reference when you need it most.

  9. Write a poem, create new song lyrics, or write a short story about a magical vacation.

  10. Randomly write any thoughts or words across the page that come to mind.

  11. Record funny, enjoyable memories from your past to look back on.

  12. Keep a running list of your goals, dreams, and aspirations.

Journaling prompts are endless....

What's important to note is that the above exercises do not need to be done on a daily basis. Journaling is to be done when you feel you need it most. While this may be during times you're struggling, it may also be during moments of success, when you want to share and keep track of good moments, accomplishments, and days that weren't as large a struggle to get through.

While some individuals enjoy looking back in their journals to see how far they have come, others find comfort in never looking back at all - jotting down thoughts, emotions, or pictures, and then either ripping it up, throwing it out, or simply never turning back the pages in their notebook.

I would recommend trying a variety of the above journaling exercises, and noticing how you feel. And remember: 1.) You can journal for as long or as short as you'd like, 2.) Grammar and spelling don't count, 3.) No one needs to read it (hiding your journal, or even using an online, password-protected journal may be a good option), and 4.) Know there is no right or wrong way to journal.

While journaling can be a strictly personal activity, some individuals find great meaning in using their journal to leverage therapy sessions, keep track of therapeutic homework assignments, and track their progress.

However you choose to journal, know that it is correct, it is for your own personal growth, and you are in control. So grab yourself a fun notebook and a pen, and off you go!


DISCLAIMER: The blog posts shared on contain the opinions of Stacy Smith, MS, LPC, and do not reflect the opinions of any organizations or affiliates. While Stacy is a licensed mental health professional, all blog posts on her site are for informational purposes only, and are never a substitute for professional advice catered to your individual needs. Stacy Smith is not liable for any diagnosis, treatment plans, or decisions made based on the information presented on this website. Furthermore, commenting on posts does not mean a treatment relationship has been established with Stacy Smith.​

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