5-Minute Journal For Anxiety
Anxiety is something I have dealt with in varying intensity over the past 8 (or more?) years. It has been the biggest frustration but it has forced me to heal and pay attention to pain in myself. I know I am not the only one who deals with rounds of anxiety and depression, so I wanted to share one practical thing that I do to help myself process anxiety whether I am in the midst of a panic storm or if I am having a low-anxiety day. Currently, I am recommitting to take up this daily journaling practice since anxiety has been all too present since moving to LA and am inviting for you to join me and let me know how it goes!
Anxiety Storms and the Origin of the 5-Minute Journal for Anxiety
Typically, I know I am in anxiety storm because my thoughts are louder than my environment, I have a stomach ache, and I feel like I am never at rest. I am going to share parts of my first journaling practice as an example. At that point in my life, everything was up-in-the-air in every way and I had three meetings that day. I usually would have gone with the "work until you can't work anymore and ignore how you feel" technique, but that day I opened up the google doc that I used as my journal and wrote my first 5-minute journal for anxiety.
I broke it down into 3 points:
Today, I am afraid of...
Today, I am grateful for...
Today, I need help with...
That day, I started writing out my fears and I wrote the following:
Today, I am afraid of...
"I am afraid for the meeting today that it is going to be chaotic and tense. I am afraid that someone on the team doesn’t like me and that there is conflict. I am afraid that if I leave I will miss out on the job I have worked for and miss out on what I was hoping for. I am afraid that I will be stuck in traffic and late to my meetings and that I will look unprofessional and that people will be frustrated with me."
I know it sounds weird to be "afraid" of being stuck in traffic, but calling anxiety fear helps me be able to pinpoint specific fear points rather than be overwhelmed by the general anxiety storm. Sometimes it is hard for me to figure out where the anxiety is stemming from, and naming it as fear helps me get a clearer picture of what is behind the overwhelm.
My writing that day was much longer than this, but I wrote about the general fears that had been lingering (the decision on what to do about the job) and the specific fears of the day that were amplified because of general anxiety. Obviously, I could not control the traffic nor could I control the response of others. Through writing these out, I could see from a more logical perspective that I was in no danger and remind myself of the truths of the situation.
If I am not particularly anxious for the day, this list will be fairly short but if I am caught in a storm I will write until I run out of fears to address. This usually isn't pretty (as you can see from my example above) and it took a while to learn to identify my fears without shame. I had to learn to just call fear when I see it rather than directly meeting it with "you shouldn't be afraid of that" or "that isn't rational". By writing it out and speaking it out, you are actually allowing your brain to process it from a more logical place and you will be able to reinterpret the fear point instead of being driven by it.
I am grateful for...
From there, I will list what I am grateful for. This helps ground me and helps me move myself from the place of fear and provides something good and tangible and hopeful to dwell on. It also allows me to speak truth to the situation. In the midst of fears, I will sometimes attack myself. This part of the practice allows me to speak the truth of who I am and what can happen instead of just freaking out about it.
In the midst of anxiety storms, I can have a difficult time identifying what I am grateful for. I remember when I first moved to Atlanta, I was so lonely, I was always uncomfortable and stressed to the max. My gratitudes were hard to pull from myself because I was caught in dwelling on everything I did not have. Once I started bringing them to my consciousness, I was able to set myself up to overcome the storm.
Here is an example of a gratitude list:
"I am thankful that I have a purpose for being here and that I am not here by accident. I am thankful that I have the ability to make friends. I am thankful that I do not have to control everything in my life. I am thankful that I am learning and in process. I am grateful for my family and that they love me and I love them. I am thankful for the life I get to live and that I get to embrace adventure."
I need help with...
Then I write what I need help with. This is typically a form of a prayer, where I send out what I need help with and what I hope to go right for the day. You don't have to believe in God specifically at all, but I have found that having the knowledge that you are in the middle of a triumphant story helps combat anxiety.
"I need help with this email to a client, I will know what to write and they will accept it. I need help accepting what I cannot change, I will remain confident and will see things work out for my best. I need help with forgiveness and I will let this pain go and let healing take its place."
When I do this journal often (I should do it daily but don't always accomplish it) and typically do it right before I start in on my work for the day. I love it because the act of writing it out is a great way to have control over the emotion that so often has control over us. This practice is something I wanted to share because of how much happier it has made me, how it helps me see anxiety as something I can name, and how it is fairly efficient for those of us who struggle to slow down.
If you implement this practice, dm/email me to let me know how it goes and if you adapt it at all.