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Anxiety is managed differently from person to person, and as such, coping mechanisms can also vary widely.
Journaling has been scientifically suggested to aid in anxiety management, and guided journals catered specifically to anxiety can serve as an excellent place for anyone to start.
We spoke to learning specialist Dr. Rebecca Mannis, who holds a PhD in developmental psychology, about the importance of anxiety journals and how to begin journaling.
Editor's note: Although journaling can be a beneficial coping mechanism, it is not comparable to professional care.
But what works for one person may very likely not work for the next. With roughly a third of the U.S. population showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression, the need for healthy coping mechanisms and proper self-care is substantial. This has become a significant necessity in my own life as I work to adapt to a world rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, a continuously unsettling news cycle, and the challenges of everyday life.
As a particularly anxious writer, I turned to guided journals, and they've been a wonderfully healthy strategy I come back to time and time again. For me, the guided prompts create space for both creativity and catharsis, while the tone - when well-crafted - reads as a balance of kindness, encouragement, and authenticity. Guided journal prompts can aid with anything from processing trauma to simply providing a space to scribble, all within a safe environment that's entirely controlled by the writer.
Why journaling can be beneficial
The benefits of journaling can serve as an excellent distraction from the outside world, Dr. Rebecca Mannis, a learning specialist and psychologist, told Insider. She calls it "a productive use of worry time" that acts as a means of "developing an action plan for activation."
Journaling can be an extremely helpful tool in identifying the specific why that sits behind anxious thoughts. Once the root of your anxiety is identified, a journal aids in increasing metacognition and self-awareness. Essentially, journaling is able to provide a space to contain feelings that are associated with anxious thoughts, thus manifesting them into helpful actions.
How to begin journaling
Though journaling looks different from person to person, Dr. Mannis suggests that even just beginning the process can often be the most challenging part of the experience. She recommends picking a specific time, place, and purpose, and sticking to that routine as the process develops and becomes more individualized. Since different journals evoke different pros and cons depending on the user and the material, Dr. Mannis urges beginners to find a journal that feels relatable to them.
Self-care and self-compassion are also key players in the journaling process, and everyone from beginners and experienced journalers alike is encouraged to be kind and patient with themselves as they express their thoughts.
Journaling is not the end-all, be-all
It's also worth pointing out that while journaling can be effective, managing anxiety is far from a standardized experience and other coping mechanisms can often be more beneficial. When deciding on a journal - and deciding on coping mechanisms at large - Dr. Mannis recommends focusing on what she refers to as T.L.C.: Temperament, Learning, and Context. Potential journalers' understanding of who they are and what they'd like to accomplish from the experience can provide a sense of self and purpose when approaching the process.
When testing and researching the 14 journals featured on our list, I made sure to include those that were either written or reviewed by experts. However, keep in mind that guided journals are not supplemental to professional care. Additional resources can be found in Insider's guide on anxiety.
Here are 14 interactive journals to aid readers in managing anxiety:
'The Anxiety Journal: Exercises to Soothe Stress and Eliminate Anxiety Wherever You Are'
'The Anxiety Journal: Exercises to Soothe Stress and Eliminate Anxiety Wherever You Are' by Corrine Sweet, from $17.49, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Target, and Urban Outfitters
From breathing exercises to guided writing prompts, this journal is full of productive activities to curb anxious manifestations and understand the thought processes behind them. Author Corrine Sweet is a certified member of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy and crafted this journal with the intent of aiding readers in identifying and managing symptoms of anxiety.
'Zen as F*ck'
'Zen as F*ck' by Monica Sweeney, from $8.99, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, and Bookshop
As implied by the title, "Zen as F*ck" strikes a balance between empowering, effective activities and a refreshing depiction of what anxiety feels like at its peak. The tone is just snarky enough without ever being unkind, providing an authentic space for readers to work through productive prompts among brightly colored drawings. Such is also the case with "Let That Sh*t Go," an additional journal from Sweeney that captures the same message of self-compassion with a hint of humor.
'Create Your Own Calm'
'Create Your Own Calm' by Meera Lee Patel, from $13.59, available at Amazon, Target, Bookshop, and Barnes & Noble
Artist and writer Meera Lee Patel guides readers through self-acceptance in the face of anxiety with this thoughtfully designed journal. From the introduction (which accurately humanizes the experience of anxiety); the hopeful quotes and illustrations; and the challenging yet compassionate prompts, "Create Your Own Calm" positions itself to be as useful as its predecessor, "Start Where You Are."
'52 Lists for Calm'
'52 Lists for Calm' by Moorea Seal, from $7.95, available at Amazon, Target, Barnes & Noble, and Bookshop
"52 Lists for Calm" begins with a dedication to author Moorea Seal's therapist, which poignantly addresses the importance of access to mental healthcare for all, her gratitude for her own care, and the hope that the journal inspires readers to seek treatment of their own.
The lists run the gamut when it comes to anxiety management, from listing sources of joy to recognizing bodily responses. Though the journal is certainly guided by Seal's anecdotal notes, the lists that follow each prompt are to be decided entirely by the reader.
'My Therapist told Me to Journal'
'My Therapist Told Me to Journal' by Holly Chisholm, from $13.79 available at Bookshop and Barnes & Noble
When a sample of this journal was sent to me, the witty, yet vulnerable title piqued my interest right from the start. Upon seeing that the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reviewed the journal and consulted on safe messaging, my first impression was even stronger.
It's clear how much care was put into crafting "My Therapist Told Me to Journal," from the inclusion of emergency pages (classified by feeling) right at the start of the journal to the cheerful doodles and encouraging messages dotted throughout. In between, guided activities include visual haikus, mindfulness exercises, and spaces to brain dump. It's all tied together with the library of resources featured towards the end, which is an especially useful inclusion that readers can lean on even if journaling does not turn out to be the best method for them.
'In Courage' by Alex Elle (available January 26), from $13.46, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Bookshop
Many of my saved photos on Instagram come from Alex Elle's account, and if they're any indication of what to expect from the journal, it's likely to be a source of compassion and encouragement for many when it releases later this month.
"In Courage" seeks to guide readers on actionable tasks like setting intentions, all with the goal of developing and maintaining self-love in mind. The balance of journaling activities, creative writing prompts, and mantras all provide different approaches for readers to think and challenge themselves as they use the journal. Upon receiving a digital copy of the journal, I was particularly excited by the "I showed myself love and compassion today by:" prompt, which not only sparked reflection, but motivated me to intentionally be more compassionate toward myself the following day.
'Tiny Buddha's Worry Journal'
'Tiny Buddha's Worry Journal: A Creative Way to Let Go of Anxiety and Find Peace' by Lori Deschene, from $15.97, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, and Bookshop
From practicing acceptance of things one can't control to talking back to the ever-persistent inner critic, "Tiny Buddha's Worry Journal" focuses on reframing anxieties as they surface into workable, digestible thoughts. Color pages and doodle prompts are scattered between reframing exercises and action-oriented plans, constructing a narrative that creates space for both encouragement and release from the stressors of everyday life.
'The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety'
'The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety: Daily Prompts and Practices to Find Peace' by Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, from $16.99, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, and Walmart
While mindfulness has its pros and cons depending on the context, this journal includes productive exercises such as separating thoughts from facts; reframing tactics; familiarizing the reader with feelings of anxiety within the mind and body, and accepting anxious thoughts. Author Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC is a Nationally Certified Counselor, and her other works feature both novels and additional mental health-focused journals.
'Anxiety Relief for Teens'
'Anxiety Relief for Teens: Essential CBT Skills and Mindfulness Practices to Overcome Anxiety and Stress' by Regine Galanti, Ph.D., $16.19, available at Amazon, Target, and Barnes & Noble
This journal is specifically crafted for teens, but the sentiments and activities within it work well for readers confronting anxiety at any age. Galanti, who is a licensed psychologist with a focus on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, teaches teens to work through feeling anxiety in their bodies, retraining the brain's response to anxious thoughts and building adaptation skills.
Although it's not exclusively a journal, the information provided between written activities can be just as formative as the interactive tasks.
'You Are Incredible Just as you Are'
'You Are Incredible Just As You Are: How to Embrace Your Perfectly Imperfect Self' by Emily Coxhead, $24.95, available for U.S. pre-order at Amazon (available to ship in the U.K.)
Although unavailable in the US until May 2021, Emily Coxhead has positively impacted the mental health of many through The Happy Newspaper, which aims to spread positivity and kindness through its quarterly UK distribution and corresponding Instagram account.
Based on Coxhead's creative kindness journal, "Make Someone Happy," the forthcoming journal's interactive coloring pages, candid anecdotes, and thoughtful exercises are likely to have a positive impact on many.
'The No Worries Workbook'
'The No Worries Workbook' by Molly Burford, from $15.99, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Target
Molly Burford is a writer and social media strategist who has spoken candidly about her experiences with her own mental health. The intersection of her experiences along with what she's learned from interviewees over the years blends well in "The No Worries Workbook," creating a tone that's lovingly encouraging while remaining just challenging enough for progress. The activities, like writing a break-up letter to your worries or crafting worry-free playlists, feel appropriate for high and low anxiety moments alike.
'The 5-Minute Gratitude Journal'
'The 5-Minute Gratitude Journal: Give Thanks, Practice Positivity, Find Joy' Sophia Godkin, Ph.D., from $10.79, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Bookshop, and Target
Practicing gratitude is scientifically supported to increase happiness levels, thus deeming it an important component of positive psychology. In "The 5-Minute Gratitude Journal," author and positive psychologist Sophia Goodkin, PhD provides a framework for incorporating gratitude into even the busiest of everyday lives.
The journal begins with a well-struck balance between anecdotal and informative, and the remainder of the journal is structured quite simply: Four repeated gratitude prompts, plus a quote to spark inspiration at the bottom.
'I Guess I'll Write it Down'
'I Guess I'll Write It Down: A Journal for All Kinds of Good and Bad Stuff' by Beth Evans, $10.49, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Of all the journals I reviewed, "I Guess I'll Write It Down" leaves the most room for personal creativity. The journal is essentially made up of blank pages (in both traditional and bullet journal formats), dotted with hilariously relatable drawings by illustrator Beth Evans — who first cultivated a brand through her resonant comics.
Her most recent title, "Hi, Just a Quick Question: Queries, Advice, and Figuring It All Out," tackles some of anxiety's most common questions with a particularly profound level of humanness.
'The Introvert Activity Book'
'The Introvert Activity Book: Draw It, Make It, Write It (Because You'd Never Say It Out Loud)' by Maureen "Marzi" Wilson, from $11.79, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Target
Introversion and anxiety aren't the same things, of course, but Wilson's Introvert Doodles often perfectly encapsulate exactly how social anxiety feels. The cleverly crafted comics translate just as well into this interactive journal, which ranges in depth from drawing introvert mascots to taking self-care quizzes. The certificate of completion at the end is an especially charming touch.
Read the original article on Insider