Journaling for Anxiety
Hi — anxiety-ridden blog writer here. I’m going to tell you a personal story. It’s about a game I play when I’m anxious before I go to sleep at night. Some nights, before I go to bed, I can’t stop thinking about the next day. I worry if my car is going to break down, if I have enough money in my bank account to weather an unforeseen bill, if my relationship is sound, or if my coworker is going to email me with a quick-turn project at 8 AM sharp the next morning.
When this happens, and my mind won’t stop racing, I play a little game called “Watch The Ship.” Every racing thought that comes into my head becomes an old, creaking pirate ship on a giant sea. I then watch the ship (and the thought) sail out of sight.
Sometimes playing Watch The Ship helps me sleep. But it’s a process, and there are some nights where watching pirate ships fly by is just as anxiety-inducing as the thoughts themselves. What’s more, I don’t have a tactic for midday bouts of anxiety that come on unwarranted. I can’t exactly zone out and count boats during business meetings.
So, what can I do to stop the anxiety?
What I can do is journal. I can crack open my laptop and talk about the innermost parts of myself that I don’t often share with others, writing down each and every one of my worries. When I’m done, I’ll have an enormous leviathan list of to-do items, priorities, low-level concerns, fears, wants, worries, needs, reminders and more.
Why would anyone do this?
Because, when shared with someone else, this process can lead to anxiety-reducing clarity. Think about it: what if you wrote down all your worries on one great big list and shared them with the person you trusted most? You could sit down over coffee and, one by one, they would help you discover which of these worries were really worth worrying about, and which of them weren’t. More than that, they would probably ask questions about your thought process that made you start worrying in the first place.
For instance, if I wrote down “I’m worried that laundry won’t get done tomorrow,” my friend might ask: what’s the worst thing that happens if laundry doesn’t get done tomorrow? Are you entirely out of clothes? To which I would say: well, no. I’ll still have clothes left. And in challenging my thoughts, my friend will have helped me reorient how I look at the importance of doing laundry before it needs being done.
That’s one little worry, crushed.
Journaling for anxiety
There’s a service — The Journal That Talks Back — that helps users with racing thoughts and many other problems. Think of it as a two-way diary-entry platform that allows journal-writers to have meaningful, critical conversations with certified responders who can help navigate anxiety, among other things.
And while what I’ve just described is not entirely a one-to-one of what you get when you join up and journal with a certified responder (I promise they’ll help you with more than your laundry problems), it’s a good example of the possibilities that open up when we work with others to improve our outlook on life.
Because the truth is that games like Watch The Ship are pretty old-school. These are techniques people have been using for decades, if not centuries. They’re serviceable, but ultimately, they don’t get us out of our own head (I should know).
That’s why I’d recommend The Journal That Talks Back. It’s smart, it’s modern, and most of all, it’s the best sure-fire way I know to slow down racing thoughts and help tamp down anxiety. If you’re like me — caught counting boats at night when you should be sleeping — then I’d highly recommend looking into it.
That, or shoot me an email with your favorite pirate quotes. The imaginary crew members aboard my anxiety ships are in need of some better one-liners.