By Ciara McCarron and edited by Rose Butcher
Anxiety is not just extra worry, heightened stress or feeling agitated. It’s a lot more than that; it’s a long journey that only you can get yourself out of. I’d say, through the journey of anxiety, journaling is an all-important tool — if not probably your map. It can help you get things off your mind, onto paper and powerfully release those racing thoughts and difficult feelings hindering your route. Journaling is a powerful releasing tool and is so beneficial in helping you to step back, de-stress and let go of your thoughts.
When studying Dr Irena O’Brein’s neuroscience program, I learned how journaling can help you to rationalise, calm your mind and soothe your soul. When things get too much and the sympathetic nervous system kicks in, it’s really hard to focus, rationalise and bring ourselves back to the logical brain. So to be able to get all of that anxiety, stress and overwhelm onto paper and have a good brain dump works wonders for your mind, body and soul!
Getting things off your chest and onto paper is like your own personal form of therapy. It’s the next best thing to seeing someone professionally. It can help you to feel seen, heard, supported and safe — and also helps you sleep!
Writing it all down helps you to make sense of everything in your mind and come to a more reasonable and logical conclusion, rather than being led by your emotional brain. Backed by neuroscience, journaling to aid anxiety can free up cognitive resources, boost your mood and reduce worry. It also strengthens emotional functions, sharpens your memory and has a positive impact on reducing stress and releasing negative emotions and feelings!
When I was at the height of my journey with anxiety, my journal was my best friend. Being able to honestly express my feelings, “talk it out” with myself and really get a grasp on my emotions was a lifesaver for me. It helped me so much in situations where I couldn’t express my feelings to another human or when I didn’t feel safe to have difficult conversations with people in my life. No matter how low, agitated, angry or upset I felt — journaling always helped. Taking 10 minutes to brain dump, angry scribble, turn the pages blue or just express my feelings at that moment never failed to make me feel better. The emotional and energetic release felt like some kind of cord was being cut and an invisible weight being taken from my shoulders every time. It felt as if someone had unzipped my head and let all the pressure out.
Journaling isn’t just a tool for the hardest times either. It can be one for everyday wellbeing and mental health maintenance. It can help you to feel more organised, gather your thoughts to help you have a more productive day and keep you sane in a sometimes crazy world. Just 10 minutes in the morning can set you up for an amazing start to the day, make daily tasks easier to achieve and help you gain clarity on decision making. And just 10 minutes before bed can be amazing for washing off the day, releasing what’s passed and letting go of all that no longer serves you, so that you can switch off, relax and get a better night’s sleep!
How can you incorporate journaling into your everyday routine? Here are some top tips and a few journaling prompts to get you started that I use with my clients:
· Set your scene — light candles, incense, put on your favourite music or whatever helps you relax, and breathe in and out until you feel calm. · Quiet your mind — Allow yourself to let go of anything outside this present moment. Remind yourself that you are safe in this space and bring your focus and awareness to the now. · Be honest with yourself — allow yourself to feel your feelings! You need all of your emotions — they help you to figure everything out, so feel into the moment and give yourself permission to really be honest! · Allow what comes up to flow naturally — remember that you are safe in this space, this is just for you and nobody has to see or hear what you write, so let it all out and allow yourself to receive this beautiful gift of releasing.
· What was my main challenging/limiting thought today? · When I think about letting this go, what fears come up? · When I imagine my life one year from today if I was able to let go of these limits, how have my relationships, experiences, and beliefs changed? · What would I like to discover about myself throughout this process of letting go? · What am I afraid I might discover about myself? · What would happen if I woke up tomorrow without these limiting thoughts? · How can I embody the version of me that letting go requires? · Who can I share this with — who’d honour, celebrate, and support me in letting this go?
Just remember, asking these questions may seem a bit strange to start, but I promise your answers will come and you will gain so much clarity about what — and why — you’re feeling so that you can powerfully let go of anxiety and find the emotional freedom you deserve!