The instance in which my grueling crusade with anxiety had reached an annoyingly Freytagian point of climax was when I was 18 years old, hooked up to an electrocardiograph machine. Four medical professionals drew blood from my arm and shone lights into my eyes. The physical manifestations of my horribly intense anxiety had occurred in such a way that these medical professionals thought I was having a pulmonary embolism. (I was not. I was sent home with three Xanax and a large folder of bills). Another incident occurred in which I’d accidentally consumed caffeine (my anxiety Kryptonite) in the form of a Starbucks frappe, and laid in bed curled up in a ball of sweat and jitters for the next 48 consecutive hours.
I began to journal when the options were slim. I felt as though I had nothing to lose. So, I journal now the way I brush my teeth or vacuum my floors: in the spirit of routine and out of necessity.
Anxiety evolves and manifests in unpredictable ways. The ways in which it unfolds itself prove toxic to the mind, body, and soul. While there are many tried and true methods that alleviate the symptoms, I’ve found journaling to be one of the most rewarding practices in mental management.
Here are 15 prompts to mend and manage anxiety, written by someone who knows it:
- What is real around me? Make a list of physical things you can see in your vicinity. What moment am I in at the present time, and why am I journaling?
- Identify 5-10 songs that give you the same feeling as the warm sun. Play these songs for the remainder of your journaling.
- Think about someone in your life who has made you feel grounded and calm in times of uncertainty. Which attributes or methods did this person use that made you feel grounded? Is it possible to apply those methods to yourself? If so, write how you will commit to that.
- Take note of the physical environment around you, focusing on your living space. How does it make you feel? What specifically about these spaces makes you feel a certain way? Take note of color, scent, temperature. Then, brainstorm action you could take so that your living space activates a pleasant state of mind.
- Was I kind to myself today?
- A recommended way to treat anxiety is to implement routines in which one experiences “flow.” Flow is used to describe a mental state in which someone is absorbed and focused on a specific activity. What are some activities or hobbies that induce flow for you? How do you feel when you are absorbed in an enjoyable or rewarding task? Make a commitment to implement flow into your routine.
- What is something that instilled positive emotion in you today? Negative? How can you consume more positivity and heal or avoid negative triggers?
- I am safe because ____.
- Someone I admire is ____. Write a list of attributes that you appreciate about this person. Then, write a list of what you have in common with this person.
- Identify four things you have done that have successfully aided a spout of anxiety. Brainstorm ways you can implement those methods either now or in the near future.
- Draw a map of where your thoughts have taken you so far in the journaling process. The map can look any way you want it to. You can draw an image of how you imagine your thoughts look. You can draw a flow chart, a boat on the sea, or anything else you can think of. See where you have been sidetracked. Or where you have been put on the right path. Make sure to include in this map the state of mind you want to achieve. Draw the steps you believe will take you there.
- Which task or action I can complete in the near future that I know would help alleviate my stress?
- Identify what exhausts you, and what energizes you? What have you experienced today?
- What have I learned about myself during the journaling session, and how will I apply the knowledge moving forward?
- I am grateful for this day because ____.
Journaling is a tool that can be used to train your brain to recognize patterns and implement good practice once you have accomplished a bit of a routine. Once you’re comfortable and ready, beginning the journey of writing will open up the unearthed possibility to explore the psyche and begin a wonderful process of healing.