Thought journal: Journaling for stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety are a natural part of life and help us survive and thrive. But when these feelings take over, your life quality will drop, and it can be difficult to get through the day. Everything might seem hopeless, but it isn’t. Let’s have a look at how a thought journal help relieve stress and anxiety and some prompts to get you started.

An infographic of how a thoughts journal can help ease stress an anxiety
Thought journal for stress and anxiety

What is stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety are a part of the body’s normal reaction to danger. When you are under threat, your body will release stress hormones.

This will make your heart beat faster and prepare you to protect yourself in the way you are accustomed to. This is what’s called stress.

Anxiety is a reaction to stress. Anxiety is the feeling of fear, worry, or nervousness. You might experience this feeling when you’re about to do something important, such as exams or presentations.

This process was crucial to our evolution. It can help keep you safe when you’re in danger. But for some, these feelings will stay, even when safe.

How are they different?

While stress and anxiety are part of the same response system, they aren’t the same.

Stress tends to be short-term and in response to an immediate danger. Anxiety tends to stay longer and can be triggered for seemingly no reason.

If you have endured trauma, you’ll often see a threat in everything around you. This makes it difficult to differentiate between stress and anxiety. Often, it’ll be because you feel a combination of both.

An infographic that shows the differences and similarities between stress and anxiety
What are the differences and similarities between stress and anxiety?

How journaling can help you with those feelings

Both stress and anxiety come with a lot of difficult feelings, emotions, and triggers. It’s hard to navigate this and understand why you’re feeling the way you are.

Journaling can help you understand your feelings and triggers. You can use it as a safe place to explore yourself and make sense of the many thoughts occupying your mind. Getting your thoughts out of your head and onto the paper is often enough to make you feel better.

Related: What difficult emotions can teach you

How to journal for stress and anxiety with a thought journal

A thought journal is one of the most effective kinds of journaling for stress and anxiety. It’s a type of journal that comes with no rules or restrictions. All you have to do is write whatever is on your mind. There are 2 benefits to this.

First, you’ll have a way to clean the clutter you most likely have inside your head by getting it down on paper. This can help you relax and fall asleep at night.

Second, you’ll be able to understand yourself better. When you let it flow freely, you might realize things about your situation or yourself that make things easier.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Take a moment to reflect on your current situation. What do you feel? What’s happening? Use this reflection to find a place for you to start your journal
  2. Begin writing. Let your thoughts flow uninterrupted out of the pen and onto the paper
  3. Often, you’ll come to a natural finish when your mind feels empty, but feel free to end it at any time. This type of journaling can be intense and works best when you let yourself stop whenever you want.

When you have finished, you have two options.

If you wanted to calm down, close your notebook and leave it. You have done your work.

If you wanted to understand yourself better, read your notes. Often, you’ll get to know yourself better doing this.

Tip: A thought journal is most effective when you don’t think about grammar or structure. Just write whatever is on your mind and don’t care about how it looks. Nobody but you have to see this.

Related: Why you need good habits for self-imrprovement

How to journal for stress and anxiety with prompts

Some prefer to journal with prompts. Prompts are statements or questions you can use to start and set the direction for your journaling. Let’s have a look at prompts for stress and anxiety.

Journaling prompts for stress relief

Let’s have a look at journaling prompts for stress relief.

How have past challenges turned out to serve you?

Nothing is so bad that it isn’t good for something. Look at your past trauma or challenges, something you thought you would never overcome. How did it benefit you?

Related: How to heal trauma

What is something you can be proud of?

Everybody has accomplished something. Maybe you have overcome trauma, pushed your body beyond what you thought possible, or something else you are proud of.

Where are you feeling tension in your body right now?

Describe the tension. How does it feel? What shape and texture does it have? Is it warm or cold? Does it have a color? Be as descriptive as possible.

What do you usually do when stressed? Is it working?

Often we are stuck trying to do the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome. Do your coping mechanisms work for you, or is it time to try something new?

What is one small thing that I can make me feel better right now?

Nothing is too small to be here. Maybe it’s taking out the trash, going to the gym, or drinking a big glass of water.

If you could choose any place or scenario to bring you peace, what would it be?

If you could be anywhere or with anyone, who or where would it be? Describe your happy place in as many details as possible.

Journaling prompts for anxiety

Let’s have a look at journaling prompts for anxiety

How does your body feel?

Describe anything that you notice about your body at the moment. Maybe you notice your breath, some tension, or the connection between you and your seat.

Make a list of your worries

Make a list of everything you’re worried about. Nothing is too small to be here. If it bothers you, it deserves a spot.

What are your anxiety trying to tell you?

Anxiety often seems random and overwhelming, but there is a meaning to this randomness. Your anxiety is trying to tell you something. What is it?

Write to someone who have hurt you in the past. Can you forgive them?

Write a letter to a parent, friend, ex, or someone who has hurt you. Tell them about how you feel and felt. See if you can forgive them in this letter.

What are you grateful for?

Maybe you’re grateful for a friend, a pet, yourself, or the fact that you have a bed and a roof over your head. Write it all down, and see how much you have.

Finishing thoughts

Stress and anxiety are natural, but sometimes they can take over our lives. Often, they’ll only be momentary, but sometimes you have to help them move along. A great tool for this is a thought journal.

Putting some words on your thoughts and feelings is a great way to minimize their impact and help you recenter.

Read next:

The Power of Journaling

Gratitude Journal

Productivity journal