Seriously. That idiom about nothing being certain except death and taxes? That needs to be revised to: “Nothing is certain except death, taxes, and stress.” Amirite? Although, maybe it’s not true for everyone. After all, according to Gallup, 4% of the American population say they never feel stressed. Then again, perhaps 4% of the American population is engaged in a little bahooey. Ya think?
Stress is a sad fact of life but there are all kinds of things that you can do to manage it. Popular suggestions include:
- increasing your physical activity (hello yoga!)
- eating healthier stuff (blech, kale), and
- getting appropriate amounts of shut-eye (give me call when you figure out how to do that - I need tips!).
But, because I’m here on behalf of SohoSpark I’m going to pitch journaling.
And I don't even have to engage in bahooey to do so. Honest. Writing in a blank notebook is a proven and effective method of managing stress.
How Journaling Helps to Manage Stress
No one knows for sure why journaling is an effective stress-buster. But there are several theories that make a lot of sense.
- When you write in detail about events and feelings, it’s a lot like talking to a therapist. It’s an emotional release to get those thoughts out. It’s also a way to process things and understand why you’re feeling the way you are. Bonus points if you use your writing journal to reflect on possible solutions.
- Journaling gives you the chance to reframe your narrative. Don’t like the way your story is unfolding? Change it! As you jot your words down in your blank notebook, choose them carefully. Give your stories a positive spin. This helps to relieve stress because it makes you feel like you’re in control. It can also get you out of a negative, ruminative mindset. If you're need some tips on how to reframe your narrative, I have a blog for that!
- The safe, private space allows you to release your deepest, darkest worries and fears. As I explained in a past blog, writing journals “provide a safe space where we can express ourselves openly and honestly, without fear of judgment. They give us a place to say those things that we would struggle to put into words or have difficulty saying.” Your journal should always be for your eyes only, so that you resist the urge to filter and edit.
- As a terrific piece at The Huffington Post points out, “sometimes there's nothing better to quiet a busy mind than to unplug your phone and computer for an hour and sit alone with your thoughts.”
As an added bonus, journaling is highly accessible. While you should always seek professional care for mental health concerns, a journal is a terrific auxiliary tool. And it’s a tool that’s available to virtually everyone. If geography, income, or disability limits your access to professional health care, keep your journal on standby. And, if you have difficulty expressing yourself through the written word, turn to an art journal for the same benefits.
How to Max Out the Stress-Busting Benefits of Journaling
Just the act of unplugging, sifting through your thoughts, and brainstorming solutions provides immediate stress relief. But, there are a few things that you can do in your writing journal for extra benefit.
Whether you keep a journal specifically for gratitude or you incorporate gratitude entries into a personal diary, focusing on gratefulness is a great way to lighten the load of stress. As Yoni Cohen points out over at Happify Daily, studies show that “focusing on feelings of contentment and satisfaction naturally counters stress, and leaves you feeling much more grounded and able to deal with whatever life throws at you.”
As you practice gratitude, you’ll find yourself seeking the bright side of things. As well, you’ll be recording positive thoughts that you can look back at later. Both of these things set you up to increase happiness and decrease stress.
The way you journal about gratitude matters. I have a blog that can help you max out the benefits of gratitude journaling.
Stream of Consciousness Writing
Tamara Rahoumi makes a great point over at Rise and Shine: stream of consciousness writing is quite similar to meditation. She explains: “when you journal this way, you give your mind a total break from thinking, let alone stressing, as it instead focuses all of its (literal) brain power on keeping the words flowing. In a sense, this kind of journaling allows you to get lost in the words.” Meditation alone is a proven stress reliever. The act of releasing your thoughts to the page offers stress release as well. Kind of a two-for-one deal. #TotallyWorthIt
Sometimes writing prompts can help you dig a little deeper or look at things from a new perspective. This can lead to the discovery of more effective solutions. If this sounds appealing, go ahead a google up “stress relief journal prompts.” There are lots of great suggestions out there; some of the ones that speak to me are:
- What do you think is the worst thing that will happen? How likely is it that this will actually happen?
- List three of your personal strengths.
- How could your anxiety be helpful?
- What kind of self-care activities are you doing? Are they effective?
- Imagine yourself in the most peaceful and stress-free situation EVER. Now write about it.
Stress can get overwhelming at times, but journaling can help, especially if you use certain methods to max out the benefits.
If you already journal specifically for stress relief, what tips and tricks work best for you? If you don't, why don't you grab a journal that evokes calmness and serenity--like SohoSpark's Beach Chair Journal--and start? And then, drop me a comment below to let me know how it's going? I’d love to hear from you.