How to Journal for Stress Relief

Health & Wellness

Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash

I’ve been a worrier for most of my life. Overthinking what’s to come, replaying what’s behind. You name it, I’ve probably obsessed, googled, and lost sleep over it.

Until recently.

Through years of therapy, meditation, and yoga, I’ve finally found a way (for me) to lessen the pinging inside my brain of all the things to worry about. These days, I view stress as something my body needs me to notice, to embrace, and then to move on from. The nervous talk track of my brain is very much still there, but through journaling and meditation, I’ve found a way to turn down the volume.

These days, I view stress as something my body needs me to notice, to embrace, and then to move on from. The nervous talk track of my brain is very much still there, but through journaling and meditation, I’ve found a way to turn down the volume.

In addition to my daily art practice, I journal most mornings. I’ve found this to be the quickest and most effective way for me to get to the root of what’s causing me stress.

These are a few things I focus on during my journaling time:

Go old school.

Yes, there are apps and programs out there you can use for journaling, but for me, I like the process of putting pen to paper. It feels more intuitive and free and less like work, making me more likely to stick with it.

Be consistent.

I do my writing first thing in the morning, most days. Some days I find a need to do it again at night if I’m having trouble sleeping or something in my brain just won’t quiet down. The consistency makes the process easier to step into each time I sit down to write.

Use prompts.

I tend to use both freewriting and a series of prompts, depending on my mood that day.

In freewriting, I’ll just let my words flow, paying attention to emotions, feelings, and worries as I write.

When my brain is particularly stuck on a certain topic, I go through a series of questions to prompt my writing:

  • What am I worried about? Once I begin writing, I find that it’s usually a superficial/minor worry like missing a deadline.
  • What am I REALLY worried about? This prompt gets me more to the root cause (I’m going to let people down and FAIL).
  • What’s the WORST thing that can happen? I find that asking this—and really, truthfully answering it—dispels my worry for MOST situations. The WORST that can happen is usually not as bad as my mind is making it out to be.
  • How can I make this better? Leaving myself some room to explore solutions leaves me feeling more optimistic and action-oriented when I leave my journaling. Most times, I find the answer is something along the lines of, “Stop worrying and trying to control an outcome that I’m not in charge of anyway.”

Journaling, for me, has been a great way to organize my thoughts. To connect with my emotions and release worry and stress in my day. To take back a bit of the power from my overly anxious, overthinking brain while still giving her space to be heard.

BY Jill Elliott - December 22, 2019

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add a comment

  1. Ashley

    December 23rd, 2019 at 6:22 pm

    I’m going to give this a try! I’m an overthinker and worrywart, and have really been trying to find a better way to handle it. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Andrea

    December 24th, 2019 at 9:13 am

    Journaling first thing in the morning is my favorite! I love starting the day with a nice, refreshing brain dump!

  3. Annie

    December 26th, 2019 at 2:41 pm

    I’ve been thinking of daily routines I want to implement in 2020 and I can’t decide if I want to journal in the morning or before bed. I think I’m leaning toward bedtime, to help let go of the day. Thanks for this post!

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