How effective is journaling for anxiety? Journaling has been shown by studies to be an amazing tool to help with decreasing mental stress. I use journal prompts with my clients and myself on a regular basis. I’ve been writing since I was a child, but I never realized how important it was to my mental health until I published my first novel A Time to Heal. Discovering that I struggled with anxiety and symptoms of attention deficit, journaling became a necessity for me. This blog will provide you with 11 excellent journal prompts for anxiety that I’ve processed for myself and the people I work with.
In layman’s terms, I describe anxiety as the fear of the unknown. I’ve created a mini list of journal prompts for anxiety specifically in this post so we can focus on this particular concern. Is journaling helpful or harmful? In our current climate of fear, I believe we could all benefit from having a place and a time to process our anxieties. And in no way are these journaling prompts a replacement for working with a mental health professional, but it’s a good place to start so you can practice what you might need to say to someone if it comes to that.
As if the pandemic wasn’t scary enough, there have been talks of a recession. The prices of eggs and everything else have gone through the roof! And, we’re simply uncertain about a lot of events going on in the world and the anxiety is rising over what is to come. I want to see you emerge from whatever crisis the world faces with confidence and journaling is one way to do that. How do you calm anxiety with a journal? I’m going to go through the exercises with you by putting the journal prompts here for you to use and I’m going to give you my answers to the prompts as well. I have also created a printable, lined, journaling guide you can purchase if you don’t already have a journal. As you go through, I want you to write ortalk as if you’re speaking with me. Let’s get started!
1. Tell me about someone you need to forgive.
I need to forgive my maternal grandmother because, up until recently, she treated her children and grandchildren more like ATM machines than people. It made me feel like she didn’t love me and as a child, I didn’t understand what was not to love about me. I had anger toward her for a very long time that didn’t serve me. Even though it wasn’t consuming it did have an effect on some of my relationships.
What I want you to understand about forgiveness is that it’s not for the other person. It’s for you. When you forgive you cut the string that person has you attached to. You become free to live your life without thinking about what they did or didn’t do to you or for you. More than your mental health, there is some evidence that forgiveness also improves your physical health.
Why is forgiveness included in journal prompts for anxiety? Because when you’re holding onto unforgiveness it is also holding you back from moving forward. While it may not affect every aspect of your life, it can certainly keep you stuck in areas you don’t want to be stuck in.
2. Tell me something about you no one else knows
I quit my job without a plan! Most people, unless they read this, believe I simply transitioned from one business to the next. The truth is, I felt that God was nudging me to do something different and I went for it. Trust me, it wasn’t easy and I’m still shaking in my boots! I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want to give them a chance to talk me out of it.
You don’t have to tell everyone, everything. However, you want to be careful that you are not withholding information people need to know to help you. Sometimes we don’t communicate because we don’t know what to say. Sometimes we don’t communicate because we think people might judge us. Be honest with yourself about why no one knows this thing about you. Are you hiding or are you protecting yourself for a reason that you might disclose at a later time?
Journal prompts are a good tool to use for things you might want or need to say to people but just haven’t. You get to practice what you would say and how you could say it before you bring it up to someone. Often, you simply need to admit it to yourself to decrease the anxiety. Other times, you’re anxious because it’s bothering you that you haven’t said anything.
3. Tell me about one thing in your life that confuses you
How can something good go so terribly wrong sometimes? How is it that things can be going along so well and then, all of a sudden, it’s like the bottom just falls out of it? I have been going full steam ahead into something that I truly believe is going to work. And then, out of nowhere, it doesn’t! That confuses me, especially when I’ve seen the same thing work for someone else.
Confusion is a huge issue for a lot of people simply because it keeps us stuck. When my clients are confused, I typically encourage them to pause to take a different look at the situation. Confusion is often the result of your head and your heart being out of agreement. By this I mean, your thoughts are saying one thing and your feelings are saying something else. You’re not sure what to do about it because you’re internally out of harmony with yourself.
I’m sure you can already see why confusion is one of our journal prompts for anxiety. I find that with myself and my clients, we can take a different view of what’s going on in a confused state when we can see it written out on paper. Sometimes, getting it out of your head is all that really needed to happen. It was just spinning around and confusing you and now that you’re looking at it, you know how to resolve it. We want to do our best to come to a resolution when we’re confused about something. It doesn’t always happen, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
4. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a doctor. A pediatrician to be exact. I wanted to take care of the babies. I thought that would be really cool until my mom told me I would have to give them shots! I wanted no parts of giving shots or causing any pain to the little ones. So, I changed my mind and my major.
What you wanted to be when you grew up is still a part of you no matter how far away you’ve gone from it. Did you become what you wanted to be? Are you anywhere close to it? Did you change your mind about it like I did? And, the biggest question of all is, are you happy with who and what you are now? My mom didn’t kill or crush my dream of being a doctor. She simply shed some light on something I didn’t think about. But, was the case for you or did someone throw ice water on your burning desire to do something amazing?
Your anxiety or fear of the future could be stimming from the fact that you aren’t who you really want to be. These types of journal prompts are not designed to just make you reminisce about your childhood. It’s to locate you and possibly ground you. If you’re still alive and you still want to be whatever you wanted to be when you grew up, then it’s time to take an honest look at the potential and the possibilities of doing that. You owe yourself another chance.
5. Tell me about someone or something that makes your nervous.
External noise that is not music or the TV talking, makes me nervous. I don’t typically enjoy complete silence, but I most certainly don’t like random noises that cars or people make. Sometimes it’s because it scares me depending on how loud or close it is. Sometimes it’s just annoying. I can be uncomfortable physically and be less bothered than I am if I’m uncomfortable emotionally.
Think of being nervous as a non-clinical term for anxiety. Most people will not say that things make them anxious. They’ll typically use nervous instead. When certain people or situations make you nervous you want to understand that, if left unchecked, you may be battling with anxiety that you’re unaware of.
When you walk through this in your journal, be honest with yourself about whether you’re truly describing anxiety. If you believe what you’re feeling has gone beyond a moment of jitters, you may consider checking in with a mental health professional. There is no shame in reaching out for help. Remember, journaling prompts can help you better process your thoughts and feelings on your own. It can also assist you in communicating with your counselor or other professionals.
6. Tell me about something you used to do that you don’t do anymore.
I don’t counsel clients anymore. Now, I use a strategy to help you get from where you are currently to where you desire to be in your mental health journey. This wasn’t a decision I made lightly. It was honestly a nudge from God to move in another direction.
For me, this was an act of obedience, and it was a good move. For you, something you used to do that you don’t do anymore may not have turned out to be beneficial. When you think about the things you don’t do anymore, ask yourself whether your life has improved by stopping or if it’s taken a turn in the wrong direction.
This is included as a journal prompt for anxiety because you may have some decisions to make. Do you need to go back to the things you quit if it’s something you should be doing? Is this an opportunity to celebrate yourself if you’ve quit something you needed to? Sometimes we can’t see our own wins or loses because we don’t write them down. Start tracking these things for yourself.
7. Tell me about the last time you were angry.
The last time I got angry I was at myself. I struggle with anxiety sometimes and when I don’t keep my mind in harmony, the anxiety will take me for a spin! I got mad when I realized I was spiraling and I was just letting it happen instead of doing what I needed to do to get myself together.
Being angry doesn’t have to be a bad thing. However, if you find that you’re angry a lot, it’s significant for you. You want to find out where it’s coming from. Are you angry with yourself or someone else? Can you do anything about the situation or do you have to resolve it for yourself so you can move on? You want to get to the root of the anger.
You can be angry with your journal and no one has to know! But, you can also admit what’s causing the anger and what’s underneath it. Are you afraid, annoyed, or frustrated? Understand that anger is usually a “cover” emotion. Meaning, it’s covering up a more sensitive emotion that you really don’t want anyone else to know about. But, it’s time to stop hiding the truth from yourself.
8. How do you feel about your job and why?
I’m excited about what I do even though it can be exhausting. I know I still have a lot to learn because although I’m doing something similar to other people, it’s not exactly the same. Sometimes I feel like a fish out of water, but I’m okay with that because I love to learn. I’m getting to the point where my work doesn’t feel so much like work. It feels like a calling, which it is.
What you want to consider when it comes to your job is how you think about it. Is it just a means to an end? Is it funding the things you really want to do? Do you love your work? Are you just going to get a paycheck yet you’re constantly stressed? Are you simply living for the weekend? Meaning, you’re gritting your teeth Monday through Friday just to try and have some sort of life on Saturday and Sunday.
Your job and how you feel about it is a good journaling prompt for anxiety because your job could be causing an issue when it comes to your mental health. If you feel like working is something you have to do and you just need to “suck it up”, that’s a problem. Of course, you need to work but you don’t necessarily have to do the work you’re doing. Give yourself the option of finding a job or career that you will really enjoy doing until retirement.
9. Tell me about something you lost and want back.
I lost my Granny and I want her back. However, I know it’s not possible. So, I talk about her and sometimes I even talk to her. I make sure she’s not forgotten because she made such an impact on my life. I get sad when I think about her sometimes but I don’t allow myself to stay there. I remember that she had a good long life and that she really enjoyed herself. She always found something to laugh about! Even though I have some lonely days without her, I lean on how much she gave me while she was here.
When you lose something or someone that you want back, it can keep you stuck in the moment of the loss. The grief can take over and even though you continue to grow or function, there are parts of you that get lost with whatever or whoever you’re grieving. Can you get it back? Do you really want it back or do you just not know what do without it?
Loss is typically more closely associated with depression so most of us don’t consider it when it comes to anxiety. It’s suggested in journal prompts for anxiety because of the possibility of the loss causing you to fear moving forward without it. Take note of the loss, why you want it back, and what it would mean in your life if you embraced not having it. Also, look at what it would take to get it back if that’s an option.
10. If you could write a book what would it be about?
Because I have written several books I will talk about the very first one. I wrote A Time to Heal because I was angry with one side of my family for many reasons. I thought it would be a kind of “tell all” from my perspective, but it turned out to be something so much more! The end product of the book is really the premise of everything I do now when it comes to where faith and mental health intersect. The book tells a fictionalized account of how my family may have been effected if we’d allowed God and therapy to intervene.
Most people I work with have books in them. Often, it’s your life story. Other times, it’s more of a nonfiction of how you would help people overcome the things you’ve been through. Not that writing a book is a necessity or that I encourage everyone to do it. But, writing a book is way to share your thoughts and feelings in the way you want people to view it.
Journal prompts are excellent tools to get you into the mode of writing. You can outline your topics, thoughts, feelings, and characters. Get things clear in your head before you just jump into starting a book project. Pouring out your emotions onto pages is cathartic and even if it never turns into a book, it’s proof that you’re alive and that you matter.
11. When someone wrongs you, what should they do to make it right with you?
If you’ve wronged me, what I’m looking for is a sincere apology and for you to make a decision to not do that again. Sure, everyone makes mistakes, but I need to see your effort. I need to know that you understand how you hurt me and that you care enough about me to consider my feelings before you behave in certain ways.
There are some things that an “I’m sorry” simply will not fix. You want to understand what constitutes an apology to you. Like the 5 love languages, there are also languages of apology. The way someone chooses to apologize may make you feel like the person doesn’t really mean it and is just saying it because they feel like you want them to. Let’s not even discuss what happens if and when the person who wronged you never apologizes or gaslights you about the situation.
In your journaling prompts for anxiety you may have to admit that you still feel slighted by someone and every time you see them you get tense. Have you been wronged at work so every day you go in you’re dreading it? Were you wronged in a personal relationship and every time you have to see this person, you feel sick to your stomach? While you may or may not consider these feelings detrimental to you, they are. You’re possibly operating at a level of anxiety that never decreases to a level of peace, especially if you’re feeling sick or dread on a daily basis.
Final Thoughts On Journal Prompts for Anxiety
There are times when we get nervous about certain situations or events. Whether we consider it nerves or anxiety, those are looked at as normal life emotions. Those symptoms typically subside once the event or situation is over. However, if you’re experiencing anxiety that is affecting you on a daily basis, it’s time to take action to get the help you need.
Journal prompts are great tools to help you process your thoughts and feelings. However, they are not a replacement for speaking with a mental health professional. Because you want to be proactive about your mental health, use the 11 journal prompts for anxiety included in this blog to help you get started. I’ve also created a full downloadable, lined, E-book of journaling prompts. If you need additional resources, check out Psychology Today. If you’re in crisis you can dial or text 988 at any time, nationwide.