Inside Scoop: Here are five reasons why your notebook and pen can be your greatest tool to reduce stress and anxiety.
This post was submitted by Ashley Stephan, a writer whose daytime job is working as a graphic designer in a stealth FinTech startup.
If you have stress or anxiety over anything, no matter the cause, there are various ways to improve your mental well-being. And, seeking professional help should always be your first and foremost priority.
“According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), in 2016 alone 16.2 million American adults have had a major depressive episode.” – Healthline
But apart from seeking therapy, you can also do several things in your personal time to feel better and reduce the stress and anxiety that comes with everyday life.
One of these is journaling which has been proven by many scientific and psychological studies to improve one’s mental and physical health. And no, it isn’t something that’s meant to be done by teenagers.
Writing down your thoughts and feelings is something that people of all ages can do and there are different forms of journaling to try out. If you are still unsure, here are five reasons your notebook and pen can be your greatest stress-busting recovery tools.
How Writing Helps to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Getting Your Thoughts Out
If you are the type to bottle up your feelings and worries and mull over them endlessly, you aren’t alone. If you keep a form of journal and spend 5-10 minutes each day writing them all down, it can feel like a weight lifted off your shoulders.
Just as sharing your worries with another person can bring relief, getting them down on paper will give you a sense of release too. Ruminating over worries can be a problem for many of us, but journaling can help to release some of that tension. That emotional release is important.
“Journaling can help you make sense of your emotions and feelings thereby improving your mental well-being”. – University of Rochester Medical Center
It is OK to be angry, upset, worried or stressed about things, so write down what you are feeling and why you might be feeling that way. You can get a better understanding of yourself and feel more in control of your own thoughts and feelings.
Once you have let out all those negative thoughts and released some of your worries, you can actually figure out how to solve them. Writing down your worries means you can step back and see them in front of you clearly, rather than the big messy whirl inside of your head. It is much easier to look at your paper and start to plan how you can face these problems once you have them written them down.
You can look at them from a different perspective and think about how you would help someone else facing the same problems; try to be critical and argue with yourself. We often worry about things we cannot control, but writing problems down adds an element of control. What targets can you set yourself that will help you overcome these fears or achieve improvement? Write them down too.
Better in Body and Mind
If you are overcoming an illness, journaling can actually help you to feel better faster. Writing down how you are coping with your illness will help to relieve some of those anxieties and the stress that comes from it. There have even been studies on how writing and journaling have helped improve the immune system and improve health status in those with asthma and arthritis.
The power of the brain is amazing, and writing, just like reading and other brain training activities, can all help in keeping your brain active and help protect you from Alzheimer’s. Writing is such a great way of self-improvement, and a lot of science-backed research has proven the mental health benefits of writing and journaling.
You can also try incorporating foods for reducing stress and anxiety for a healthier body and mind.
Empowerment and Self-Management
Keeping a diary or journal of your thoughts keeps you feeling in control. As well as releasing your emotions onto paper and setting down some of those worries and stressful thoughts, you can write about how you plan to improve. Writing a list of three simple and easy tasks you wish to accomplish will give you the boost you need once you have completed them.
If you have a long list of tasks to complete, it will feel draining and even more stressful knowing you’ve set impossible targets. Keep it easy and accomplishable and feel good knowing you complete these tasks each day. Anything from drinking 7-8 glasses of water each day to making your bed can give you the boost of satisfaction upon ticking them off.
You can also get positive relief by writing down the things you are happy about, anything that has happened that day to make you smile or laugh. Feeling gratitude over what you have rather than dwelling on what you don’t will improve your outlook on life. It helps to focus on the good, not just the bad.
Gratitude journaling also gives you lovely things to look back on whenever you are feeling blue about something. Flipping back to see what things made you happy each day is uplifting and can help you appreciate certain factors more.
Connects You with You
In this day and age, it can be easy to fall into hours and hours of scrolling through social media and staying glued to your screens. Whilst it can be nice to keep up to date with your friends and connect with others across different platforms, unplugging from the internet gives you a chance to spend more time with yourself.
Getting your thoughts in order and unlocking your own potential, journaling helps keep you connected with yourself. It can be important to spend a bit of time decluttering your mind and releasing those feelings, as whilst the internet has plenty of positive points, it has also had a negative effect on the mental health of younger generations.
There can be many negative impacts from social media, as the comparison game can result in self-image issues. Journaling can improve our self-understanding, emotional release, and mindfulness.
If you don’t know where to start, pick up a pen and paper. There are plenty of different journaling techniques that you can try; some may work better than others for you, so it’s about finding your own preferred methods.
You can also find notebooks that are pre-formatted to journaling and mindfulness, but it’s just as easy to make one yourself. Expressing yourself and releasing your inner-thoughts is not the only way of reducing stress and anxiety, as you could also take part in yoga classes and meditation, for example, but it is something that almost anyone can do and can take as little time as you like.
Picking up a pen and paper is the best way to start and even if you find yourself missing days or weeks, it’s easy to just pick your pen back up again when you have the time. Getting into the habit of it can help you establish a mindful routine, so give it a go yourself.
My daytime job is working as a graphic designer in a stealth FinTech startup. I spend my evenings learning about productivity and design thinking. From time to time I write about these very concepts to share what I've learned. My hobbies include swimming, gardening, and binge-watching popular TV shows.