Ellie Strejlau

Anxious Journaling

A (nearly) daily activity I engage in to reduce anxiety and feel more productive.
642 words — Approx. 3 minutes
Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

A lot has been going on in my life this year, including a job change, which comes with a lot of anxiety. My son is growing up and, since he’s been home 3 days per week now, is going to the park with my husband more often. This has been a large relief for my anxiety about him going to day care every day during a pandemic and us missing a lot of his growing. My husband has been stepping up as the best stay-at-home dad ever, which is another huge weight off of my shoulders. My mood has been improving significantly and I don’t feel like I’m drowning anymore. I also got my first COVID vaccine shot last weekend. Huzzah!

I’ve also been journaling a ton more lately. Almost every day, in fact; it’s been another huge help for my mood. My anxiety usually causes intrusive, repetitive thoughts, like things I have to do around the house that I can’t do until my work day is over. (I’m looking at you, mountain of dishes.) This can be distracting from my work, causing more anxiety, which is where journaling comes in. I use my journal as a log to keep track of things I want to forget about in the short term, but come back to in the long term. Sometimes my journal entries are just logs about how I’m feeling about not being able to do certain things. However, rather than writing extreme or negative things, like “Ugh, I suck, I’m so bad at programming.” I try to stick to facts like “I feel crappy today.” and then explain why. The former is more likely something that my brain has been telling me rather than something I know for a fact that I’m feeling.

This also works for me because I’m doing it when I know what to write. I don’t sit down first thing in the morning to force myself to write down my thoughts unless they are there in the first place. I have friends who do morning pages and it worked well for them. That’s fantastic! But if you’re anything like me, you usually don’t wake up with the urge to write, so you can’t sit down at a specific time to write them down. (Writing 3 pages first thing in the morning also reminds me of writing papers in college, high school, etc. and having to use as many filler words as possible to meet the minimum page count.) For me, thoughts come throughout the day, which unfortunately means that it happens a lot while I’m working. (This entry came to me while I was working today. 😉)

So in the middle of the work day if anxious thoughts are circling around in my head, I pull my journal out from under my monitor, pick out the color pen I want to use for that entry, and jot down whatever I’m thinking. For extra anxiety relief, I pick a sticker out and put it somewhere on the page, for flair and because I love stickers. (Using the colored pens and stickers also make me feel like I’m being more creative! I’m not much of a drawer anymore, so I feel like pretty stickers fill the gap pretty well.) Then, when I feel better or I feel that I don’t have anything else to express, I close it back up and get back to work, usually pretty quickly.

How do you get rid of anxious thoughts? Does it help you to write them in a journal or on a todo list? Does it help more to say them out loud? Does morning pages help you?

P.S. I’ve preordered Brave, Kind, and Grateful: A Daily Gratitude Journal because a lot of my journaling lately has also been focused on being grateful for who and what I have in life.

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