This article was originally published in JournalSmarter.com.
Your alarm clock rings, and you know it already: it’s going to be another one of those days.
A rush of stressful thoughts starts flooding your mind: so many to-do’s, problems to solve, expectations to meet — and the bare thought of getting out of bed makes you want to hide and scream.
Panic starts kicking in. You feel paralyzed, hopeless, overwhelmed.
How can you overcome this anxiety?
You’ve you have heard it all: meditation, healthy eating, exercising, effective organizing systems in place, therapy… You have tried it all, and yet — nothing works.
And how could it? How can you even think about starting to improve your life when you can barely even manage to breathe? How can you think when you’re paralyzed by the inner voice that screams “you’re never going to be okay”?
What you need right now is an instant relief. An easy, no-brainer, immediate solution. Something that will soothe that horrible feeling of despair, so that you can begin to think clearly.
The good news is, this is possible. And it’s easy.
And all you need is one object:
A lot of people use their journal for planning, learning, drawing or writing.
However, most of us are missing out on one kind of benefit that our journal can bring us: instantly soothing anxiety.
Here are 7 simple, super effective 5-minute journaling practices that you can use as an immediate balm to bring you back to calmness, clarity and control.
1. Embrace Your Anxious Thoughts
One of the instincts many of us have when we face anxious thoughts is to try and deny them — push them away, think of something else. Unfortunately, this only suppresses our stress, and usually makes it surface later in worse ways.
So what can you do? There is a much better option: according to research, writing down your worries can make them go away — almost as if you are transferring them out of your head and into the paper.
Write after you wake up, grab your journal and vent all those negative thoughts into the page. You will immediately feel lighter, happier, and more relaxed.
2. Give Your Brain a Rest
Evenings can be tough.
You probably know how it feels to lie in bed for hours unable to sleep because you’re worried about your problems, about your commitments, about… the future.
One technique that can be extremely useful to remove that pressure is to write down your tasks for the next day before you go to bed. This way you will help your brain relax, letting it know that it’s all taken care of, and you won’t forget what you have to do.
If this is not enough, you can go even further. Just before bed, sit down with your journal and describe what the next day will look like. Include your tasks, how you want to feel, who you will meet:
“Tomorrow I will wake up feeling optimistic and energized. I will journal my thoughts, have a healthy breakfast, and then knock down the main 3 points on my to-do list. I will feel really accomplished after that. Then I will reply to that email I have been postponing, and then I will have lunch with my friends — it’s going to be so much fun! In the afternoon I will hit the gym. I can’t wait to move my body! After that I will feel clear headed and I can either do some more work or rest. In the evening, before bed, I will journal again, grateful for everything I have accomplished, knowing that it’s okay to leave some things undone.”
This exercise not only relieves your brain from the pressure of remembering and planning, but it can also be extremely relaxing!
3. Overcome Your Own Expectations
Alright, you might feel put off just by the thought of planning tasks and making to-do lists — they always end up adding more anxiety when you don’t accomplish them!
However, you can change that, by changing your belief that you are not productive.
According to research on neuroplasticity, we have the power to rewire our neurons, and consequently change the way we think and behave.
How can you do that? Just create an extremely easy to accomplish to-do list — something that’s impossible to fail. For example:
Tomorrow I will…
- Drink 2 cups of water
- Make my bed
- Journal for 3 minutes
Then, make sure you accomplish those tasks. It doesn’t matter if they seem small: what’s important is that you will be re-learning the feeling of accomplishment and pride, which will push your anxiety away.
Gradually, productivity will become a pleasure, and anxiety won’t be crippling anymore.
4. Create an “Everything Spread”
Something that causes a lot of anxiety to many people is when you have a lot of good ideas in your mind, but you don’t know how to organize them: where to take note of it so you can find it later, what to do with it, etc.
I have an extremely simple solution for you which requires no extra thinking: just create a weekly “Everything Spread” in your journal. Then, throughout the week, just take note of all the important things there:
- good ideas to do later
- lessons learned
- that amazing book someone mentioned to you
Then, set one day and time every week to go back to your “Everything Spread” and choose what do do with those things (a quiet Sunday morning with a cup of tea can be a good idea!)
5. Indulge in a Happiness Overdose
It’s proven that the feeling of gratitude boosts happiness hormones in our brains. It raises our vibe. It makes us feel less anxious.
Right after dumping your worries onto the paper in the morning, you can cheer yourself up by making a list of everything you feel grateful for. Let yourself soak in it — if you are not fully in it, it won’t work.
In order to be completely immersed in that feeling of positivity, write anything and everything that comes to your mind, no matter how ridiculous it may seem (it might even make you laugh!):
I feel grateful for…
Fresh air. My family. Water slides. Lord of the Rings. Nature. My journal. My clothes. Having food on the table. Being healthy. Being able to write. Being able to see. Being alive.
6. Use Words as Your Fuel
Just like our body needs food in order to work, our soul also needs to be nourished.
A great way we can do that is with our words: they can have an extremely strong impact on the way we think and feel.
Open your journal and write down how you want to be feeling, but write it in the Present Tense. For example:
I am strong. I am awesome. I can do this.
The reason why most people fail with positive affirmations is because they just write it down and repeat it a couple of times, but they don’t commit to it.
One way to truly commit to it is to take 5 minutes to feel those words taking over your body and soul. Close your eyes. Repeat them inside your head. They are not the right words for you and they don’t make you feel anything? Then write different words, until you find the ones that work.
Talk yourself into your true power.
7. Build Your Own Sacred Shrine of Peacefulness
Our surrounding environment shapes the way we feel.
If you surround yourself with low-vibe, negative things and people, you will feel anxious. However, if you surround yourself with calmness and peace, you will feel calm and peaceful.
Your journal can be your environment. Create a “Peaceful Spread” — a space in your journal full of positivity that you can visit anytime you feel anxious. You can include:
- uplifting quotes
- pictures of your happy self
- pictures of places or people who inspire you
- your vision board
- your goals
- your accomplishments
- beautiful drawings
The possibilities are endless. Make it yours. All that matters is that, whenever you open, it feels good. It feels sacred. It feels soothing — it feels like your true self.
You Are One Page Away From Peace of Mind
You don’t have to feel crippled by anxiety anymore.
It’s in your power — even in those hardest moments — to step from hopelessness into freedom and clarity.
All you need to do it act — one simple step at a time. The next time you feel your anxiety kicking in, just grab your journal and try one of the steps above.
It might even change your life.
Start your own Minimalist Journaling System
Download the Minimalist Journaling System Starter Kit—a simple 30-seconds habit tracker to help you manage your life, gain clarity, and build any habit you want.