Most of us can agree: anxiety is the worst. But anxiety is actually our mind and body’s very normal and healthy response to stress. However, there are times when anxiety can feel so overwhelmingly unmanageable, and we can feel so stuck in it. For these moments, I like to cultivate what I call an anxiety toolkit. A toolkit that is personal to us, filled with coping strategies and mechanisms that we can use as a go-to when we’re having a tough mental health day. One of my favourite tools within this toolkit is journal writing.
The act of writing out our thoughts and emotions in a daily journal can allow us to better process and externalize any difficult feelings we may have had throughout the day. It can be a helpful tool in allowing ourselves to get to know what situations trigger our anxiety, how we process our thoughts and emotions, and how we might use our creativity to solve difficult problems.
And yes, sometimes writing feels tedious. Or we’re feeling so overwhelmed that we just have no clue to start. For these moments, try these 5 journal prompts and see where they take you.
What’s on my mind right now?
This prompt can allow us to practice mindfulness and awareness of the present moment. Oftentimes we are so busy that we forget to check in with our thoughts. Thoughts can come and go so quickly, but they really do have a major influence over the feelings we experience. Knowing what unhelpful thoughts are going through our minds when we feel most anxious can allow us to better recognize and then manage the anxiety that comes up for us when these thoughts pop up in the future.
When, where, and with who do I feel most anxious?
This prompt motivates us to get more in touch with how situations, relationships, or circumstances in our lives are playing a role in influencing our anxiety. For example, we may begin to learn that our anxiety pops up most when we visit a certain place, or have a particular discussion with a friend. Having this awareness means that we are better able to become aware of our anxiety triggers, so we can plan anxiety coping techniques should we be in that situation again.
What inspires me? Why?
Exploring what inspires us is a helpful tool in determining our values and coming to understand what feels enriching for us. We can use this as information to form our self-care practice when we do have an anxious or difficult mental health day.
What area of my life needs more attention? Why?
This prompt can demonstrate to us the areas where we may wish to cultivate more self-love and compassion. It can also be a helpful prompt toward setting small goals to make us feel healthier and happier. A win-win!
What are 5 things I’m grateful for right now?
Gratitude! When we express what we feel most grateful for, we are consciously choosing to focus on the good. Gratitude can help to increase positive emotions that may influence our mood immediately. It is also a practice that we can cultivate over time using a gratitude based journal.
Dorian Schwartz is a mental health therapist in Toronto, Ontario, focusing on anxiety, stress, and self-esteem. She works with clients who want to set goals and feel better, but just aren’t sure where to start. She can be booked for individual therapy sessions at Shift Collab.