Dealing with everyday stress as an adult, our bodies that can usually cope with all the problems and anxiety in life can be beaten down and burned out.
I think this is because as we grow older, there are higher expectations of us to be more responsible. And so all the problems in our life, may it be work, family, or money, tend to be very overwhelming because we feel that we have to deal with it alone.
MY FIRST PANIC ATTACK
When I had my first panic attack and was diagnosed with anxiety disorder, I became more negative and I just couldn’t help myself but worry about everything. I asked for help from a psychiatrist but the medicines prescribed only made my symptoms worst, and that was when I opted for a counseling session.
My counselor/therapist from BetterHelp explained to me the difference between stress and anxiety and how it can eventually be a threat to our mental health. She also emphasized the need to identify the negative automatic thought patterns that I unconsciously applied to my brain. So that was when I started journaling.
I tried my best not to be very strict with my journal activity on trying to make it perfect and artistic as how I saw other journals on Instagram looks. I just kept mine simple and intentional, looking for ways on how can I make journaling a habit first. So every day, depending on my mood, I just try to write one or more of the following.
1. GRATITUDE PAGE
It is as simple as writing the things you appreciate and are grateful for on that day.
There are worst days that I cannot think of a single thing to be grateful for, and in those times, I just wrote that I am thankful that I am alive. After that, I start to appreciate even the smallest things like the food I eat, the clothes I wear, the bed I am sleeping on, and the hot water that comforts me when I shower.
2. NEGATIVE THOUGHTS AND COUNTER THOUGHTS
Every time I felt anxious about something, I try to write it in my journal and challenge myself to think of any positive thought to counter that.
Imagine that there are two wolves in your head naming Fear and Faith fighting to win the throne in your head. Your thought is what makes them stronger, so every time you think of something negative, it feeds Fear; and if you think of something positive, it feeds Faith.
Now, if you keep feeding Fear, it will eventually rule the throne and defeat Faith. But if you start feeding Faith and let Fear starve itself, Fear will get weaker and weaker until Faith reigns victorious in your head.
So every time I have negative thoughts, I just write it in my journal and evaluate if it is irrational. After that, I will write down a positive thought side I could think of to counter that negative thought.
Like for example, whenever I had a headache, I used to think I had a brain tumor that is fatal and needs to be treated immediately. However, there could be other reasons for the headache like a period cycle or just the weather which will subside after a few hours.
So whenever this happens, I call it out and counter that damaging thought with a realistic point of view.
Therefore, even if I already developed the habit of thinking of negative things, I remind myself to intentionally fill my mind with positive thoughts and consciously evaluate my thought patterns rationally.
I created Automatic Thoughts worksheet that you can download for free on this link. You can use this worksheet to help you counter those negative thoughts and have a positive perspective.
3. MOOD TRACKER
At the end of the day, I try to assess my emotions and put them in my journal to track my mood. Whether most of the time I feel anxious or at peace, or whether I feel sad or happy.
This might help us to figure out if there are patterns that could be linked to this feeling, like my period cycle, the weather, or probably the food I eat.
4. PRAYERS AND WISH LIST
As a Christian, I have my prayer page where I write all my prayers. It could be the things that I am hoping for, what I am wishing for, and the people I am praying for. I also put here any answered prayers so that I will always be reminded that God is still always with me.
JUST KEEP GOING
After journaling for almost 2 years, I could say that it is so hard to be consistent to journal especially if you have anxiety or mental health issues. Because sometimes, you’re just too tired to think and write, and that’s okay. I’ve been there as well and I could say that the journey is worth it, just don’t give up. Because, after years go by and you look back at your journals, you will always be reminded that you were once weak but now you’re stronger. And if things go bad again, you can still get up because it’s just a temporary season and you will feel better.
For those of you who are battling anxiety or other mental disorder, have you tried journaling? Or is there any other coping mechanism you do to fight anxiety? I would love to hear from you.
Or if you are one of the people who want to start journaling to cope with anxiety but don’t know where to start, you can read 4 ways to use a journal to cope with Anxiety and Depression.