Stress comes in all shapes and sizes and, in our hectic, modern world, it’s almost unavoidable. If you find yourself frequently anxious, worried or stressed it may be time to employ coping strategies such as yoga, meditation, and journaling. Journaling might seem like the less obvious choice for managing stress; however, a regular journal practice can reduce stress by serving as an escape or emotional release of negative thoughts and feelings.
How often should you journal
As is the case when establishing any new habit, consistency is more important than duration. To begin your journal practice you simply need to begin. Ideally, set a timer for 20 minutes and, without too much consideration about what you are going to write, put pen to paper and let the ideas, thoughts, and emotions pour out onto the page until 20 minutes have passed. If 20 minutes feels daunting, start with 5 minutes or until the page is full, and you can grow your journal practice from there.
My favorite tips to establish a consistent journal practice are:
- Keep Your Journal Private. Knowing no one else will read it will give you the freedom to fully express yourself.
- Write Daily. Consistency is the only way to create a new, healthy habit.
- Set a Timer. 20 minutes is ideal but any amount of time is better than none. Start with 5 minutes if that feels more accessible to you.
- Missed a Day? No Worries! Don’t stress if you miss a day or two – this is bound to happen as you build your journal practice. Jump back into the writing routine ASAP.
- Don’t be the Grammar Police. Ignore neatness, punctuation, and spelling. This is not the place to sweat the grammar details but rather a place to express your feelings.
- Don’t Self-Censor. Let go of expectations and just write what comes to you. There is no “wrong” or “right” in your journal practice, only emotions and feelings. The more raw and real you can be with yourself in your journal, the greater the emotional benefits.
Styles of journaling
To reap the most benefits of a journal practice, you will want to choose a style that works for you. The idea is to provide yourself an outlet to process negative thoughts, stress, and anxiety. If the standard, stream-of-consciousness journaling doesn’t feel like the right fit for you, try exploring one of these options:
Maybe writing isn’t your favorite, that’s okay. You can still benefit from journaling by making a bulleted list of your thoughts and feelings. Think of this as a “brain dump” of everything you are experiencing emotionally. It can be very cathartic to get your feelings down on paper in this form.
If you already have a meditation practice in place, consider adding journaling. Keep your journal handy and at the end of your meditation practice, write down whatever came up for you during the meditation and how you are feeling in the moments afterward. The combination of meditation and journaling can be very powerful, providing an emotional release and helping to regulate emotions.
If writing really is not your bailiwick, consider a video journal. Hit play on your smartphone and record your thoughts. Try not to censor yourself or worry about how you sound on camera. Let this be a time to express any anxiety, stress, or emotions that are keeping you stuck.
If you love creative writing, this may be an option for you. You can create a fictional character, and use your feelings and experiences to tell a story. This is a great way to work through a problem or difficult situation by seeing how your “character” would respond. It sounds corny but it can be a highly effective tool to channel strong emotions into a positive outcome.
This is probably my favorite form of journaling. The simple act of expressing gratitude for the blessings in your life is a great strategy for managing stress and anxiety. It has been said that there are two ways to be happy: one is to have everything you want. The other is to want everything you already have. Taking a few minutes each day to give thanks for the people, places, and things in your life that bring you joy is a great way to cultivate gratitude and happiness!
Resources & Journals
The Wild Unknown Journal is an illuminating way to journal, giving you dozens of ways to express yourself. Sometimes all we need is a good prompt to tap into our creative energy and this journal gives you 125 pages of inspiration. If you are looking for a classic journal, check out the eco-friendly journals by Ecojot. The designs are fun and beautiful and they donate a portion of each sale to worthy causes. You can also check out the Ohana Pinterest board with more journaling resources and ideas to get inspired with your practice.
The truth is, there’s no wrong way to journal, and there’s never been a better time to start. Make this year the year you establish a journal practice as a way to better manage stress and process your emotions!
Erin Entlich is a certified yoga instructor, personal trainer, holistic health coach, and writer. She believes doing good starts with feeling good, which is why she loves helping people weave movement, mindfulness, and healthy eating into their daily lives. Find out more at www.erinentlich.com.