Fighting anxiety is a long and challenging process that almost every individual must go through alone. I’ve been there and done that already. Although I had all the support I could ask from my friends and family members, it all came down to me and my own ways of fending off stress and anxiety.
Don’t think you are alone here.
According to the report, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, affecting 40 million adults age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the country’s population. At the same time, approximately 8% of children and teenagers experience an anxiety disorder, with many symptoms developing before age 21.
It’s a serious problem that impacts the lives of millions, but the good thing is that some people found a way to cope with this issue in a relatively simple manner. They do it by creating a personal journal, so keep reading to learn how to keep a thought diary to fight anxiety.
Why People Run Away from a Thought Diary
Before we concentrate on practical ways to keep a thought diary, we want to answer one simple question – what makes individuals with anxiety disorders hesitant to write a personal journal? There is more than one answer to this question, so let’s check them out here:
They don’t know it’s a good way to fend off stress
The first reason is obvious – most people who are dealing with stress and anxiety don’t even know that having a thought diary can help them find a way out. They focus on more common techniques instead and totally neglect personal journaling as one of the most efficient anti-anxiety mechanisms.
They believe anxiety happens with or without any meaningful thoughts
The second reason why people avoid keeping a thought diary is very common. Namely, way too many persons believe that anxiety simply shows up with no particular reason at all, which makes them think there are no thoughts to write down whatsoever. This is, of course, not true because anxiety disorders are always followed by a complex combination of inner thoughts, ideas, and feelings.
They think they don’t have time to do it
A lot of people suffer from anxiety because they are stressed out. They don’t have time to complete everyday duties, so they don’t think there will be enough time for journaling either. But as you are going to see in one of the following chapters, running a thought diary will not be taking you too much time and it certainly won’t be a waste of time.
They are afraid that their thoughts are stupid
The last obstacle is also the most common. Individuals struggling with anxiety don’t see a purpose in writing down their thoughts, especially because they feel like their opinions, judgments, reflections, and beliefs are stupid. You should never let this issue discourage you because every thought you have comes from within and it is closely related to your mental condition.
9 Ways to Use a Thought Diary to Cope with Anxiety
The stage is set for the most important element of this article. Now that you know you shouldn’t worry about looking stupid or silly for running a personal journal, you should learn how to make use of it properly. Here are nine ways to use a thought diary to cope with anxiety.
Keep it informative at first
If you are a newbie in the world of personal journaling, I strongly recommend you to keep the diary informative at first. What makes this advice so important? Well, I’ve met many individuals with anxiety issues who don’t know where to start and how to write down their thoughts in a way that looks reasonable and meaningful.
I had the same problem, too, so I decided to begin with the basics. It’s not like I had to write some thesis, so there was no need to get pompous all of a sudden. On the contrary, the main idea was to be as informative as possible and note details that I believed to be important at a given moment.
Try to describe everything precisely
The second tip goes hand in hand with the first one. Namely, I believe it is necessary to describe your fears, ideas, and thoughts accurately because it will help you to understand your emotions eventually. This is one way to approach the task:
- Describe the whole situation as it happened scene by scene
- Mention who you were with at a given moment
- Explain how you felt that day
- Scale your level of anxiety from 1 to 10
These and many other details will make it easier for you to understand how and why you feel the way you do.
Use the most suitable writing tool or format
The third tip is rather technical, but it will make your job a lot easier on many occasions. Namely, you should use the most suitable tool or writing format to keep the personal log.
My favorite platform is Evernote, s simple and user-friendly app that helps me to keep thought records anywhere and anytime I feel like doing it. Of course, there are hundreds of other solutions available on- and offline, so make sure to identify the one that suits your writing habits.
Set a daily goal
Speaking of habits, setting a daily writing goal is yet another way to make the most of personal journaling. Experience taught me that the only way to become consistent is by doing the same amount of work every day.
This is why I started by writing one page per day. It turned out to be the bare minimum for all the thoughts and impressions I experienced daily, so I gradually increased the word count. Another option is to set a limit to five or 10 minutes of daily writing.
Such consistency will make it easier for you to get in the mood and relax, thus helping you to write about anxiety more freely and openly.
Embrace your stress
The fifth suggestion on my list may as well be the most important. Namely, you should not keep a thought diary if you are not ready to embrace your stress and think about it thoroughly. It is the only surefire way to gain deeper insights and draw meaningful conclusions from your mental condition.
Write down everything that makes an impression on you
Another important tip is to write down even the smallest detail that makes an impression on you. It doesn’t have to be a negative impression exclusively. On the contrary, you should also note positive experiences such as meeting a nice person or reading a great article.
Memorizing negative experiences allows you to think through these problems and find practical solutions in the long run. On the other hand, positive experiences will serve as the motive to keep strengthening your inner self and enhancing your mental defense mechanisms.
Write about tomorrow’s duties
Individuals with stress and anxiety issues are usually having a hard time relaxing and going to bed calmly. If you are one of these persons, I recommend you to write about tomorrow’s duties as well.
Why is that so?
Well, it turns out that writing down daily tasks and creating to-do lists is helping people to relax and forget about anxiety for a while. It makes the brain calmer and allows you to achieve that much-needed peace of mind late in the evening.
Do more than planned
This suggestion goes along with the previous one. When you create your to-do list for the day to come, always make sure to complete goals as planned. It will make you satisfied and happy for being able to achieve your personal objectives.
Besides that, I think that it’s a good idea to overcome your expectations and do even more than planned initially. It doesn’t have to be a major goal – it’s enough to take baby steps in the beginning and it will still make you feel good about yourself.
End daily entries with a positive thought
No matter how stressed out or anxious you may feel on a given day, you should always end a daily entry with a positive thought or message. It’s a simple mind trick, but it can do miracles for the overall notion of self-confidence. Here are a few ideas for you:
- The one who falls and gets up is much stronger than the one who never fell.
- I am not a product of circumstances. I am a product of my own decisions.
It’s Up to You!
Anxiety disorders are a serious issue that can ruin your life if you don’t do anything about it. The good thing is that you can use many different defense mechanisms, including personal journaling.
In this article, I explained to you how to keep a thought diary to fight anxiety. Try to make use of my suggestions, but feel free to write a comment if you have any other comments or questions about this topic – I would be glad to answer you quickly!