Journaling to Help Alleviate Pandemic Stress and Anxiety
Halfway through 2021 we’re still feeling the impact of last year’s pandemic on our mental health, and it shows little sign of weakening. Read on to learn how to offset it with journaling prompts for anxiety
Covid-19 has brought into relief the fact that we cannot always control the conditions of life. This
in turn has allowed the stress and anxiety that we’ve been harboring beneath a whole lot of distractions to surface to where we are fully conscious of them.
While we can’t control the variants of the virus nor the impact this has on our working and personal lives, we certainly can manage the intensity of our emotional reaction as well as the duration that we feel it.
The only way to successfully manage our emotional reactions to the vicissitudes of life is through practice, and one of the most powerful and effective ways to practice is through regular and focused journaling. Here’s why.
Journaling Slows Us Down
Journaling is best done the old-fashioned way: with pen and paper (who remembers those), and in order to do that we must sit down for at least 15 minutes.
Moreover, handwriting can be deeply meditative according to neuroscientist Dr. Claudia Aguirre. Like doodling, she asserts, cursive writing puts the mind at ease and sparks creativity. As we all know a calm mind is the first step toward releasing and relieving stress.
Journaling Begets Mindfulness
When we feel anxiety, it’s because we’re focusing our attention on some future outcome that we’re convinced will be distasteful.
Journaling finds its power in the present.
Even though we may be journaling about a past (or future) event, our attention is focused on how we feel about it right now, during the act of journaling. Eventually, we train ourselves to acknowledge the anxiety (or whatever else we may be feeling) and validate it, which is just a fancy way of saying we suspend judgement of the anxiety and of ourselves for feeling it (even for just 15 minutes).
This, friends, is the essence of mindfulness.
Journaling Teaches Forbearance
Emotional reactions to situations deliver a physical sensation that we feel as a tightening in the chest, or an unpleasant gnawing that begins somewhere in the abdomen and slowly creeps up, or just an indescribable feeling of doom or helplessness.
It is this physical feeling that we try to avoid. Journaling is a safe space in which we learn that we are not required to act on our feelings. In other words, we are able to feel stress or anxiety, write about it, accept that this is how we feel in the moment and that it’s okay, and then let it go. David R. Hawkins MD PhD describes this process at length in his powerful book Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender.
Eventually, with consistent journaling, we create new responses to old triggers.
Journaling is a Good Thing
Daniel Goleman reminds us in his pioneering book on emotional intelligence that we need our emotions to navigate our environment effectively. However, we don’t need to stay stuck in old patterns of reacting to that environment.
Whether we want it to or not, the way we live life has been indelibly changed. The good news is that now more than ever we are aware that we need to do things differently. Journaling is a key player in that process. Here’s how.
A Journaling Prompt
Set your timer for 5 minutes. Grab your favorite pen and a journaling notebook. At the top of your paper, write down this journaling prompt:
“Right now I feel…”.
When I say go, I want you to start writing whatever comes to mind. Keep your pen moving for the duration of this exercise. Don’t stop to analyze, criticize or philosophize what shows up on your page. Just keep your pen moving.
Stop when the timer goes off and reset it for 10 minutes.
On the next line write down this journaling prompt:
The same rules apply as before.
Stop when the timer goes off.
I would love to read to your realizations if you care to leave them in the comments.
**I will be hosting my first live Journal with Me on Saturday, September 11 at 7:00am EST.** Click on this link to register.