3 Journaling Prompts to Calm Your Anxiety Today
Some simple writing prompts that have allowed me to battle anxiety & improve my mental health
I confess that up until a couple of months ago, I didn’t know what journaling was. It’s a phase I hadn’t heard much here in England and an activity I’d never tried before.
Sure, I wrote a diary as a kid. It was fluffy, pink, and had a heart-shaped padlock on the side. I lost the key more times than not, and often resorted to stuffing bits of scrap paper between the pages until I could get back inside.
So journaling? Zero idea.
I only became interested in journaling after reading a magazine article about how powerful this simple pen-on-paper pastime could be in improving mental wellbeing. According to the article, the act of journaling could really help one to manage stress, and support those suffering from anxiety and depression — c’est moi!
I committed to 10 minutes each day (mornings work best for me), and the results have been staggering.
Since I added journaling into my daily routine, my depression has improved and my anxiety is getting so much better. Some days, I cure my anxiety entirely — by that I mean, I am able to do everything that I could do before my mental health crisis.
I can now do a grocery shop without a panic attack. I’ve been to the shopping center (mall), to a theme park for my daughter’s birthday, and have even made it back to work (albeit on a phased return).
Journaling is not the only thing that I do in my fight against mental illness, but when it comes to anxiety, nothing has worked better for me to date. Not pills, not CBT, not walking barefoot in the grass, nor aromatherapy massage.
Journaling has been my trump card. Although, I’m grateful for all of the cards in my hands and I play them often!
What are journaling prompts?
My first week of journaling was easy; the thoughts flowed and the pen with them. But then I started wondering what to write each day. I wanted to delve deeper and use journaling to relieve some of the anxiety that I was experiencing day-to-day.
I did some research and discovered journaling prompts.
These prompts are basically writing activities that help you to hone in on a particular source of anxiety or depression and enable you to work through it constructively in your journal.
I have 15 prompts in total. They’re all on the front pages of my journal.
On days when my thoughts don’t flow freely, I roll a dice and choose a prompt.
When it comes to high anxiety days though, I have three go-tos that help me order my thoughts and calm me down, ready to face the day ahead.
Prompt One — The Letter
I put this prompt first as it has been the single most powerful prompt I’ve used.
I found that my anxiety often came from thoughts around a particular person, rather than a place or activity, but the prompt can work for either.
The letter prompt is worded thus:
Write a letter of forgiveness and release to a person, place, or object that is a source of anxiety for you.
In your letter include:
a) How you feel
b) Why you feel that way
c) All of the things that you are choosing to forgive them for or let go of
d) How you feel now that you have forgiven them and let go
I’ve written letters to the lady that shouted as me in Asda car park and triggered a panic attack, my boss, my ex-friend, my daughter’s teacher, my ex-husband, and many, many more.
Sometimes, I write to the same person a few times over a month until I’ve really worked through the feelings and thoughts and reduced or removed the anxiety.
Afterward, I’m left with so much more peace, my heart isn’t pounding, I don’t have ‘anxiety sweat’ and I can live a ‘normal’ day.
Prompt Two — The Quality List
Sometimes it can be really difficult to think well of ourselves. Our inner critic is often the noisiest and most incessant voice in our minds.
I found this prompt particularly helpful because it forced me to focus on the voice of those who loved me when I was struggling to love myself.
From the point of view of your biggest fan/s, write a list of your talents, achievements, skills, and qualities.
Make the list as long as you like and the qualities can be anything from being good with animals to caring for a relative.
Write in the third person, ie. ‘Jessie is a good skier.’
Once you’ve completed the list, read it aloud.
You can keep adding to the list and use it to help you when you’re feeling low.
I personally used the voice of my late Step-Dad, my Mom, and my Sister.
Prompt Three — Happy Moments
Oftentimes, when I battled with depressive thoughts or anxiety, I’d struggle to find anything good to think about.
This prompt helped me to refocus on genuine moments of pleasure I’d experienced and convinced me that feeling good was possible.
Think of a time when you felt wonderful, great, or even just good. Describe the moment focussing on:
- Thoughts that were going through your head at the time
- Your feelings in the moment
- Physical sensations
Use this prompt to help you capture moments of happiness and read them aloud to yourself at different points of time in your week.
Journaling has huge benefits for our mental health. There’s no doubt in my mind that it has been, and remains, instrumental in my own recovery.
I journal most days, and if the thoughts don’t flow I turn immediately to a prompt.
The three above are the ones I use most frequently:
- Write a letter of forgiveness or release to a person, place, or object that is a source of anxiety for you.
- From the point of view of your biggest fan/s, write a list of your talents, achievements, skills, and qualities.
- Think of a time when you felt wonderful, great, or even just good. Describe the moment focussing on thoughts and feelings.
While journaling isn’t the only tool in my kit, I’m sure pleased that I found it!
Other articles on mental health from Jessie London:
Lessons from LeBron James on Negative Self-Talk
The science behind LeBron’s self-talk technique and how you can use it to achieve a more positive inner voice.