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Stress Shifters: Journaling and writing

Simply writing down your thoughts and feelings related to stressful situations acts like talking does in a counselling session. It helps you accept rather than judge your mental / emotional experiences thereby reducing anxiety. In addition, by highlighting things that are bothering you, it helps you work out what things you are in control of changing and / or what help and support you need to seek. In essence, writing it out can help you cope better with everything.

Is there a difference between journaling and writing?

Writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you get things off your chest, reduce stress and make you feel better.

Journaling is also writing down your thoughts and feelings and by keeping these records in one place you can then reread them. Over time you’ll be able to see common themes, how you usually react to and handle situations and discover things about yourself that you hadn’t realised before.

Benefits of Journaling and Writing

It helps you:

  • identify things that are causing you stress

  • identify and reduce unhelpful thoughts and behaviours

  • determine how you might manage your stress better in the future

  • practice positive self-talk to build your confidence

How to journal / write for stress relief

When something stresses you out, try to find a few minutes to write down on paper or electronically in your device what happened and what feelings it has aroused in you. Of the stressor, ask yourself: what is the worst that can happen? Will I survive it? What is the best that could happen? What would I tell a friend in this situation?

Know that there are no rules and there is no wrong way of doing this. Don’t worry about structure, spelling, grammar and punctuation.

You can either keep your written thoughts to read over regularly to see if there are any behavioural patterns that you need to change and / or share some of your realisations with others for help and support.


Rip / shred / scrunch / burn the paper or delete the note to help create the feeling that you have now got your feelings off your chest and moved on.

If you find it hard to express your feelings, try drawing what you feel or recording a colour that expresses them.

Types of writing / journaling for stress relief

Emotional release writing

Write down your emotional response to the stressor/s as soon after the situation as possible. This can help you process your emotions. Though short term it brings up all the distress and negativity, long term it has been shown to have mental and physical benefits from lower blood pressure to reduced depression.

Gratitude Journal

When something stresses you out, write down the good things that have happened so far in your day and / or the things you are thankful for. This could simply be that you got a good parking space this morning or the coffee shop line was short. Writing about good things releases dopamine and serotonin which make you feel good.

Unsent Letter writing

When you have a stressful encounter with someone, as soon as possible write down what you really wanted to say at the time. This technique provides a way to release your feelings and can help you gain a fresh perspective on the situation.

Morning pages

When in a stressful period, use Julia Cameron’s morning pages technique. Though often used to help spark creativity, they are also an excellent way to get all the noise out of your head in the morning.

Over to you?

If you like writing on paper, find an appealing note pad or book to have on a hand to record your thoughts. Keep pens or pencils handy with it. Or determine which app you want to use on your device for example Notes, Good Notes, Ever Note or search for journal apps.

Write on.


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