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How to Use Journaling to Relieve Stress and Quiet Your Mind

Desk with journal and plants with hands holding a cup of coffee.

I don’t know about you, but I have a constant stream of thoughts running through my mind at all times which can be incredibly stressful. I recently learned that some people don’t have this!? (I’m not convinced that’s true.) Most people I know are weighed down by their worries, long to-do lists, and daily struggles that are part of our everyday thoughts, sometimes plaguing us with unwanted stress. It’s just part of life. So, what’s a girl to do? Just live with it? 

I have felt the benefits of journaling for mental health when my head is bursting with inner thoughts. Whether it’s my weekly shopping list or I’m going through a stressful time, writing down my thoughts has always brought some kind of relief. If you feel like the same thoughts are running through your head, follow these tips for some relief and unburden yourself from the weight of daily stress. 

Stream of Consciousness Journaling

This is exactly what it sounds like. Start a timer for 5 minutes, put your pen on paper, and just write down all the thoughts you have in your head. Don’t judge them, don’t even think about what you want to write, just let the words flow. You might have an idea of what you want to write about or something new and unexpected might come up that you didn’t even realize was weighing down on you. Keep in mind that you don’t have to read what you’ve written when you’re done. This simple act of doing something physical with your thoughts can disrupt the ongoing stream of consciousness and provide stress relief through journaling

Make a Task List 

Has this ever happened to you? You’re overwhelmed by the list of things you need to get done. You go over and over it in your head. You avoid the list, try not to think about the list. You finally sit down and write yourself the list of tasks you need to accomplish and all of a sudden the list is much less daunting. Sometimes the act of writing out a task list can relieve stress. Our troubles can feel like impossible, mountainous tasks in our minds and when you put it on paper, it doesn’t feel so significant. I write a to-do list for myself nearly every day. This is in part to keep myself on task, the other reason is to keep my daily to-do’s manageable. If my list does get too long and still feels overwhelming, I break my tasks into different days throughout the week. Something about giving important tasks a day (even if not today) helps make them more manageable. 

Creative Journaling 

The best thing about journaling for anxiety is there are no rules. Take out some brushes and paints and make a colorful watercolor background. Use your ‘fancy’ and best pens that you have stashed away for a special occasion. Today–today is a special day! Give yourself permission to explore and play on paper in ways that you don’t always allow yourself you. We’re not even going to call this making art. No, it’s less precious than that. It’s really just grabbing some materials in a medium that you enjoy and putting it on some paper because you enjoy the process, not necessarily the end product. Expressing ourselves can come in many forms. It doesn’t always need to be in words. Or maybe words are your thing and you want to give yourself permission to write a terrible poem. Or maybe you want to combine visual arts with words. Whatever you make, you’re the only one who will see it. So have fun and play. 

 Gratitude Journaling  

Sometimes we get so caught up in our own heads and what we should be doing, we lose sight of what’s really important. And when things aren’t going our way and we find ourselves stressed out, we can fail to see what is going right. I call this place the messy middle. I find myself here often. I feel like I could be the Mayor of the freakin’ messy middle. I hate it. I’m so uncomfortable here. When I’ve finished one thing and working towards the next, and I’m just chasing that dopamine fix of checking off a completed task or reaching that next milestone. The truth is, many of us spend most of our time in the messy middle of life.

One thing that has helped me is taking time for gratitude journaling and reflecting on the things I’m grateful for. If you’re an overachiever like me, chances are you accomplish far more than you give yourself credit for. And if you’re always looking out for what can go wrong next, waiting for the other shoe to drop, it can be hard to see what’s going right. Taking time to reflect and write out the things you’re grateful for can go a long way in relieving anxiety and bringing some joy back to your everyday.  

In a world filled with constant demands and pressures, adopting journaling for stress relief is a proactive step towards achieving a calmer mind. This practice, rooted in self-expression and reflection, offers a versatile and accessible means of managing stress and promoting the benefits of keeping a journal. As you embark on your wellness journey through journaling, remember that it's not just about the act of writing; it's about discovering yourself, building resilience, and cultivating a sense of peace amid life's challenges. So, pick up that pen, open a blank page, and let the transformative power of journaling guide you toward a more serene and balanced life.

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