How to be kind to yourself: journal prompts for anxiety

Journal prompts are words or short phrases which inspire your thoughts and trigger you into writing activity. Journal prompts for anxiety are prompts which help you describe your anxiety and then help you reflect on and better understand your experience.

This post gives you journal prompts for anxiety which help you to be able to journal about your feelings when you otherwise might not understand them. After the introduction below, the first part of the article describes how you can use different journals and methods to address your anxious state. The second part of the blog post contains the prompts themselves.

You may also like to read other posts that we have published on the subject of anxiety:

Anxiety and the many different ways it presents in people

With the rise in greater understanding about mental health it has become much easier to talk about anxiety, and other issues which relate to the brain/mind such as eating disorders, ADHD, autism and dyslexia.

Anxiety manifests itself in many different ways and can be comorbid with other disorders such as depression, autism and ADHD. Additionally anxiety displays differently in people. Some people experience constant low levels of anxiety. Other people experience occasional anxiety. Others experience an event which triggers anxiety which never seems to go away after that.

An anxiety disorder can be hard to recognise in oneself and that unrecognition can result in lack of treatment that could really help. There are many methods of self treatment, many are free and really easy to do, such as journal prompts for anxiety, tapping, and breathing techniques. Other treatments include medical support, cognitive behaviour therapy, calming techniques, listening to podcasts on anxiety to understand it better, diet and journaling.

How journaling can help relieve anxiety

I have experienced the benefits of journaling for anxiety for myself. Journaling is a great way to recognise and understand anxious thoughts. I have used journaling to unravel problems which are causing feelings of anxiety and I have used journaling to help understand myself when I have a general anxious mind.

Sometimes I can’t work out exactly what I am anxious about and it seems like a whole barrage of negative thoughts come into my brain, totally uninvited and unwanted.

You may know this feeling and you may also know that sometimes when those uninvited guests arrive they have the potential to ruin your whole day. Journaling is a great tool to create positive change in your brain that will thwart those negative thoughts.

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Types of writing prompts

There is no wrong or right way to journal but I want to give you here a variety of journal prompts for anxiety which you will find further down this blog post as well as different types of writing prompts that you can use to help alleviate your suffering.

I don’t have a daily journaling practice but I have periods of time when I make regular journal entries when I need to.

So that’s probably the first thing you need to know. You don’t need to journal all the time, only when you need to.

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Anxiety attacks

A word about anxiety attacks. Having an anxiety attack or a panic attack is a very frightening experience. Journaling will probably not help you when you are suffering in this way, but positive mental health journal prompts like the ones listed below could prevent you from getting to the point of an anxiety or panic attack.

Although anxiety and panic attacks are not necessarily life threatening, you may want to get professional help if you find they are happening on a regular basis.

Here are various different journals and methods that you can use to contain and initiate a variety of journal prompts for anxiety.

500 words

I had a routine where I would wake up every day and write 500 words about whatever was on my mind. This practice proved to be incredibly valuable and something I eagerly anticipated. Writing 500 words amounts to less than two sides of A4 paper or probably two sides of foolscap paper, making it easily achievable.

The act of writing 500 words had a profound impact on clearing my mind in the morning. Initially, my mind would be relatively empty upon waking, but soon thoughts would start flooding in, including unwelcome ones and problems that needed attention.

Engaging in the practice of writing 500 words became an effective tool for me. It felt like a mini brain dump, allowing me to unload my thoughts first thing in the morning.

What’s great about the 500-word exercise is that it also serves as a catalyst for positive thinking throughout my day. I would utilise those 500 words to journal about positive experiences in my life, as well as delve deeper into specific work-related topics that I wanted to contemplate further.

Journal prompts designed to alleviate anxiety can work in two ways: by eliminating negative thoughts and reinforcing positive ones.

Mindful journal, gratitude journal, self care journal, thought diary

Create a specific journal that will help you. I have lots of suggestions in other posts about types of journals that you can start.
Simple mindfulness journal prompts and practices
The amazing benefits of journaling for self care
Transform your life with 144 thought provoking journal prompts

Understand your personal shape as you create your journal

Lately, I’ve come to realize that my anxiety sometimes stems from feeling like I’m not in sync with my true self. It’s like I’m being forced into a shape that doesn’t align with who I really am. Most of my days revolve around being organized, sorting things out, tidying up, and handling general administrative tasks.

When I mention “shape,” I’m referring to my inherent nature—the collection of strengths, weaknesses, character traits, likes, and dislikes that make up who I am.

However, I’ve noticed that I feel most comfortable and authentic when I’m engaged in creative pursuits. Sure, managing admin tasks and keeping things tidy is fine, but after a while, it starts to push me out of my natural shape. And this contributes to me feeling anxious and out of sorts.

Understanding myself better has played a crucial role in comprehending my anxiety. It’s been a key factor in my journey towards self-discovery. So in order to balance out my life I have decided to start an art journal and a creative journal this year. They are going to be places that I can go to where I can be just me.

Being just you is an important factor in managing your anxiety. Understanding yourself and your needs contributes towards a healthy mind, brain and body. I’ve come to realise that rejecting that level of self understanding, or trying to ignore the gentle tapping of my soul trying to tell me that I am out of alignment with myself is completely self defeating.

I’m not a medical doctor and nothing in this post is intended as a medical prescription for anxiety. But I can confirm that I have experienced very high levels of anxiety in my life over the last years and I do believe that a large part of that is due to not feeling like I am being me.

So whatever it is that is you, do it. Be you.

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Experiment with different types of journals

Back to the journals. Use whatever type of journal might help. Try them out, see which one suits you and makes you feel more like you. If you are experiencing anxiety on a regular basis then a daily routine of journaling may be a good idea.

Other forms of help with anxiety – podcasts

This post isn’t about general help with anxiety, but I just want to mention a couple of things that have really helped me. Firstly a great podcast, Anxiety Slayer, with Ananga Sivyer and Shann Vander Leek which I love. Just the sound of the two women’s voices calms me down. A friend of mind also recommended Owning it: The anxiety podcast with Caroline Foran.

How a cup of tea helps my anxiety

A cup of tea. Don’t laugh, it really works for me, so you could try it. If I feel really anxious I make a cup of tea and go and sit down for 10 minutes. I don’t do anything, think anything. I just sit quietly and allow my spirit to be restored.

I’m not mindful, reflective or anything like that during this time. I just make a cup of tea, sit down (often on the bed with my feet up), drink my tea and give it 10 minutes. I think the reason this works for me is that sometimes my brain gets totally overwhelmed and the result is a high level of stress and then anxiety.

10 minutes clears my head and relaxes my heart. Generally I’m a coffee drinker, so a cup of tea out of a cup is an intentional act that I am doing something different.

Walking as an antidote to anxiety

A walk – physical exercise is great for any kind of anxiety. Being outside in the natural elements, experiencing the sun, wind, rain. A walk heals. I walk on my own for best relaxation, but even a walk with others is calming.

Journaling prompts for anxiety

Back to journaling prompts for anxiety. I have found writing to be very therapeutic. And when I say writing I do mean the physical act of putting pen to paper. This, for me, is a healing process in itself.

You may want to type out your prompts, or use a stylus on a tablet to write them out. That’s absolutely fine.

However if you don’t find that you feel your anxiety lifting after journaling through your thoughts, then you might like to try paper and pen/pencil as an alternative. I think there is something very therapeutic in that brain/hand connection.

Journaling prompts for anxiety you can use in your journal

How am I feeling?

How were you feeling before you became anxious? How are feeling now that you are anxious? Can you see a pattern? You can create self care journals and mindful journaling practices that are entirely personal to you and that address this question. The best journal prompts are the ones that work for you.

So, if ‘how am I feeling’ works really well for you and really helps with your overall mental health, then journal it on a daily basis.

Where am I experiencing anxiety?

Does the anxiety feel physical? Where in your body can you feel it? There is no wrong way to do this exercise and no right answer. I feel anxiety in my stomach and sometimes in my throat. For you it may be entirely different. When you feel your stress levels rising, where do you experience that sensation? If you have been through traumatic events how did you experience them?

You could also include your responses to this experience. For example, if you experienced anxiety in your stomach, you may have curled up on your bed as a response to that. These kind of anxiety journal prompts can be hard to start writing about because they involve reflective journaling, where you look at your actions and reflect on them.

Don’t stress out about this though, these are stressful events in your life, so be kind to yourself and slowly learn to take better care of yourself as you start to understand yourself in a totally new way

What are my specific thoughts?

What exactly am I thinking? Anxiety can sometimes hang over us like a cloud and we think we can’t identify what exactly is making us anxious. However with a bit of journaling and engaged thought you will probably work this out. You could use this prompt in conjunction with 500 words above.

If you find that you are anxious every morning for example, use your 500 words to journal about your specific thoughts. I had a specific time for my 500 words which was first thing in the morning

Write down your experiences

There is a short term and long term version of this practice. If you know that your anxiety is long term and relates to a specific incident in your life or time in your life, then set aside time to go through that. You might want to start a specific journal for this project as it will take time.

Conversely, if might be that your anxiety is triggered by recent experiences so you can journal about those. You can also create a specific journal for your experiences even if they are short term. The important point to point out is not to write more than you need. Just write about your experiences and then reflect on them. See below for suggestions on self reflection.

What can you change right now that will help?

If you are anxious about something specific then journaling about what you can change right now can be useful. You could further divide this category up into different sections: what can you change right now that is easy, what would you be willing to change but find a little more challenging and what would you like to change but would find really challenging to do so. Start with the easy ones and acknowledge that the harder ones may take a little more time.

Write out a list of actions you can take each time you experience anxiety This kind of journaling is probably a list. Keep the list where you will see it/remember it. Add to the list when you find another action that you can take, or thought that you have, which helps alleviate anxiety. Then, when you start to experience symptoms, you can go to this list and work your way through it.

The advantage of this is two-fold. Firstly you are developing your own ways to help yourself when you experience anxiety. And secondly good repetitious habits are in themselves a way of alleviating anxiety. So the very fact of returning to this list, which is a habit you can develop, will help alleviate your anxiety.

Write out mantras/comforting words that help you Don’t borrow phrases that don’t resonate with you. Develop your own. Recently this phrase came to my mind, “Some things will work, and some won’t”. It was in relation to some work I am developing where I haven’t actually done this type of work before.

I’m nervous of getting things wrong and therefore ruining my chances of success. But we know that not all things work first time don’t we? And some things take many times to get right, and some things don’t work out but lead to other things which do. So when the phrase “Some things will work, and some won’t” came to my mind, it was exactly the phrase that I needed.

And I have remembered it and it has become my phrase. It may not mean anything to you, but that doesn’t matter. When I feel stuck, or worried, or tired, I just say to myself, “Some things will work, and some won’t”.

Another phrase which I say to myself is “A walk heals”. I say it on my walks, It reinforces the fact that a walk is so healing for me. It’s saying the act as I’m doing the act and I don’t know why but when I say it I feel alive and right in my body and in my mind. Again this may mean nothing to you, but that’s ok. Start to develop your own.

Oh, a final one from me, I say this on a regular basis at work, “What could possibly go wrong?” Because at work things do go wrong, and instead of being anxious in advance, I make light of it and say the phrase and feel much better.

Create a safe space

I love this one. Where are your safe spaces? And what do you do in those spaces? They can be perfectly ordinary spots and no-one else need know that, for you, they are safe.

Safe spaces for me are: the garden, where I immediately relax. I’m not a great gardener, but I love being outside and pottering. Another safe space is on a particular sofa with particular cushions.

When I sit there I feel calm and at peace. Keep a list of what is a safe space for you and why.

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