100+ Journal Prompts for Your Mental Health

100+ Journal Prompts for Your Mental Health

As someone who has struggled with mental health for a long time, without ever going to therapy, I have found that journaling has been a bit of a saving grace for me.

It’s free, it’s easy when you have the right prompts, and it’s something that you can do again and again. 

If you have read any of my blogs or are a member of my free wellness and self-care portal, you’ll know that I love worksheets and journal exercises, and I like to use them as a way to re-train problematic thinking that can lead to anxiety, procrastination, low self-esteem and really anything else that inhibits you from living your best life. 

That’s why I have compiled a list of the best journal prompts to help reset your brain, get you out of a negative thinking pattern, and dig a little deeper into your psyche.

If you want a printable version of these prompts plus way more self-care resources, you can sign up to get them below for free!

  Just want to let ya know: The information and tips on this website are from my personal experience with anxiety and are not a substitute for any type of medical, psychological or health advice. You can view our full disclaimer policy here.

There is always help out there, and you can find a mental health professional locally, through your doctor, or through an online directory like this one. This is a link to a great article with affordable therapy options and this is an affiliate link to a great online therapy option. If you are in a crisis, I have a list of help hotlines here. You are not alone!!

Here are my top 100 journal prompts for your mental health!

I’ve organized them by category so you can go with what suits your mood!

Gratitude Journal Prompts

What do you appreciate most about your life right now?

What do you appreciate most about your parents?

What do you appreciate most about your friends?

What do you appreciate most about your occupation?

What do you appreciate most about your home?

Digging deep

Write about the worst day you have had? (if you are willing to go there, don’t worry if you don’t feel like writing about it)

Why was it so bad?

How did you feel about yourself that day?

How can you give yourself love for that day? 

Can you give yourself forgiveness? 

Write about how it makes you feel. And feel free to let yourself express those emotions out loud as well (cry, scream, punch a pillow – whatever you need to help release those emotions)

Digging in to recent emotions

What was the last thing that made you happy?

What was the last thing that made you cry?

What was the last thing that made you feel confident?

What was the last thing that made you angry?

What was the last thing that made you feel lonely?

Self-image and self-love journal prompts

Write about a protagonist character you admire and write 3 ways that they are similar to you

What would your best friend say was your best quality?

What do you think your best quality is?

Write a love letter to you body (even the parts you “don’t like”)

Name 3 cool skills you have

What is one thing that makes you unique?

Physical Feelings

Often times, our physical health is very connected to our mental health. These prompts can help you find the connections between your physical feelings and your emotions.

When was the last time you felt exhausted?

When was the last time you felt sick to your stomach?

What situations, activities make you feel shaky or dizzy?

What situation made your heart race (in a good way)? 

What situation made your heart race (in a bad way)?

The top 5s (good)

This exercise is just a good way to think about the good things that are in your life! It’s ok if you can only think of 3 or so!

So think about the top 5…

– songs that make you feel good

– activities that make you feel good

– smells that make you feel good

– foods that make you feel good

– foods that make you feel energized

– people you have fun with

– people that make you feel good about yourself

After going through those, write 5 ways you can incorporate more of these things into your life.

The top 5s (not-so-good)

It’s also a good idea to reflect on the things in your life that may not be so good for you.

So write down the top 5…

– foods that make you tired

– behaviours that make you tired 

– things that make you anxious

– things that make you sad/depressed

– people that make you feel bad

– comments about you that make you feel bad

Now write 5 ways that you can decrease how often these things appear in your life.

Exercises For Specific Fears and Anxieties

The 5 why’s Journal Exercise

I love this exercise and I always recommend it when you might be unsure of the cause of your emotions. This is one of the exercises from my 10 minute journal exercises to reduce fear.

Write down the anxious thought, fear, on mental hold-back that is causing you pain, uncertainty, or that is just negatively impacting your life.

Then, ask yourself “Why am I having this thought or why do I feel this way?”

Based on your answer above, ask yourself why you feel that way again.

Ask yourself why again 3 more times, each time trying to dig deeper and further into your thoughts and feelings.

Based on those answers, you should hopefully have an idea about the root cause/trauma/reason behind your fearful/negative thought or feeling, which you can then write down,

Now, based on this root cause, ask yourself the following 3 questions:

Is this how I should feel about this now?

Can I reframe the way I think about this past event? i.e. stop blaming yourself or others, forgive and accept it for what it was.

If/when I have this thought again, is there a better way that I can frame it?

Anxious Thought Analysis

Write down all the fears and anxieties you have right now. Don’t hold anything back. Write about how your fears make you feel.

Ask yourself if you are amplifying your fears with the following cognitive distortions:

Catastrophizing – irrationally assuming the worst-case scenario

Overgeneralizing – assuming that since something bad happened once, it will happen again under similar circumstances

Magical thinking – assuming that a specific, unlikely, and unrelated negative consequence will result – even with no evidence to support it

If you believe you are distorting reality, ask yourself what the most likely outcome of your feared event is

How likely is your fear to happen?

Take a moment and write down the likelihood of your fear. If it is most likely not going to happen, the fear is probably more of an irrational fear (and I’ll give you some prompts to deal with irrational fears shortly).

First, take a look at the fears that could actually happen.

Brainstorm some ways that you could lessen the impact if they happened. Think about what you could do even if the worst-case scenario happened. Chances are, there is a solution that will work.

Now write down a list of your strengths to handle the situation.

We often forget that we are very capable of handling tough situations.

Now, to deal with your more irrational thoughts and the thoughts from above that might still be worrying you, you can implement a Thought Safe Room. 

The Thought Safe Room will help you determine thoughts that are not helpful and turn them into thoughts that are helpful.

Thoughts like negative self-talk, what-if scenarios, catastrophic thinking are NOT allowed in your safe room. The thoughts might knock on your door and you can acknowledge them, but don’t let them in!

Thoughts like positive self-talk, aspirations, confident thoughts in your abilities (i.e. “I can handle this”), gratitude are always allowed in your safe room!

For other thoughts, like constructive criticism, fear about things that could actually harm you or affect your life, you can greet them at the door of your safe room and choose to allow them in sometimes if you feel like they will improve your life and you won’t get anxious about them.

Some final questions about these fears:

In what ways are you missing out on life by being afraid? 

How would your life be better if you didn’t have these fears?

Thought on Trial Journal Exercise

The purpose of this exercise is to analyze an anxious thought from a logical perspective, as if it were on trial. The idea is to find evidence that supports or rejects your thought.

Write down the anxious thought

Is there evidence that supports this thought?

Make sure that this evidence is not based on random information you find from misinformed people on the internet or based off of what you think the situation is –these things are not actual representations of the truth.

Now ask yourself, is this based on facts or feelings?

Is there someone you could ask that could clarify the situation or give you insight?

How would a friend see this situation?

Based on what you wrote above, what is a more rational way to think about this thought?

Writing Letters to Help With Healing

Writing letters that you can’t actually send is a great way to get out some emotions! Here are some people you can write letters to:

Your past self (you can forgive you past self for things you regret and talk about how far you have come since then)

Your future self

Someone who has hurt you (and express your anger about that)

Someone who has hurt you (and express forgiveness)

Someone who inspires you

Your inner child

Journal Prompts for Digging Deep and Getting Unstuck

Write a list of regrets + forgive yourself for each one

Write a list of improvements you could make to your life

Write a list of fears – are they rational?

How do your fears and anxieties hold you back? 

Are there small steps you could take to lessen how much they hold you back?

When have you felt loved?

When have you not felt loved?

List 3 small ways you can you love yourself the way you want to be loved?

Do you express love in the way you would like to be loved? If not, why?

Is there anything you need to say to people in your life that would make you feel better?

What do you feel like you are holding back from the world?

Analyzing your behaviours

Do you ever behave badly towards people? 

If so, why?

 And how can you change that? 

And how could that help you?

Are there any behaviours you do that increase your anxiety?

How could you modify those to decrease your anxiety?

Journal Prompts to foster Optimism

Write about your…

Dream life

Dream house

Dream partner

Dream friends

What can you do to bring yourself closer to those things?

What are some small things that you typically do throughout the day that make you happier?

Are there any fun things you would like to add into your life that you haven’t yet?

Is there anything you would really like to accomplish in life (i.e. your passion), but haven’t started or are too scared to start?

If you are too scared to start, why? (This answer can be used with any of the fear worksheets so that you can start to overcome this fear and go after what you really want)

How do you think these things can improve your current happiness level?

Is there anything else that could improve your current happiness level?

And although these things are fun to talk and dream about, write 3 ways that you can enjoy your life more right now.

***

So I hope that these journal prompts give you some extra help with your mental health and some inspiration for finding a deeper understanding of yourself.

And again, you can download a printable version of all of these journal prompts plus more by signing up below!

Sagesse ("Say Jess")

Sagesse ("Say Jess")

Owner of Mindaya

Hey guys, it’s Sagesse – the face behind website! I’m dedicated to helping you find freedom your anxiety and overcome the mental obstacles that are standing in the way of your best life!
Anxiety or Intuition? 5 Simple Ways to Tell the Difference

Anxiety or Intuition? 5 Simple Ways to Tell the Difference

Am I just being anxious? Or is this my intuition?

Should I listen to this dark feeling I’m having? Or should I just accept that it’s my anxiety?

As a formerly VERY anxious person, I know that it can feel almost impossible to tell the difference between anxious thoughts and your intuition.

When you’re always anxious, everything seems to be some elusive intuitive feeling. 

How can you know if this is your intuition or “gut feeling” or just your anxious thoughts taking control?

From my experience, it can take practice to learn the difference between anxiety and intuition, but there are a few simple things to look for that can help you!

So let’s take a look!

Disclaimer: Products on this page may contain affiliate links. We only promote products that we think are super awesome and will provide value to you! You can read more about our terms here.

  Just want to let ya know: The information and tips on this website are from my personal experience with anxiety and are not a substitute for any type of medical, psychological or health advice. You can view our full disclaimer policy here.

There is always help out there, and you can find a mental health professional locally, through your doctor, or through an online directory like this one. This is a link to a great article with affordable therapy options and this is an affiliate link to a great online therapy option. If you are in a crisis, I have a list of help hotlines here. You are not alone!!

The top ways to tell the difference between anxiety and intuition.

1. Your intuition is an initial feeling but your anxiety will keep coming back

They say when you take a multiple choice test, you should usually go with the first answer that comes into your mind. If you think for too long, doubt will come along and cloud your judgement. 

That’s because your intuition comes from your subconscious brain, which can process a lot more information than your conscious brain. Which means, that it usually has a pretty good idea of what’s going on.

I find that anxiety is that nagging feeling that comes afterwards. It forces you to keep overthinking and exploring all the different channels of doubt.

It goes against your intuition. Intuition should feel like a calm sense of knowing.

It can be a VERY subtle difference.

BUT, I know from my personal experience, that my intuition would typically tell me that it was fine at first and then my anxiety would sink in later.

 My thought process was usually something like this: “ I know that it’s probably fine, but I can’t shake the feeling that it’s not”

Trust me, that your first instinct that “it’s probably fine” – is RIGHT. The second feeling that it’s not, is just plain anxiety.

2. Anxiety interferes with your life, intuition does not.

If you find that you keep getting a feeling that you can’t shakeit’s usually anxiety. 

That’s because it’s not rational and there’s not an easy way to resolve the feelings.

Anxiety will keep coming back into your mind and you’ll have the same anxious feeling for many different situations (and this will start interfering with your life)

Intuition will usually be a unique thought or feeling about a situation and won’t keep popping up all the time. It won’t be your usual “go-to” anxious thought.

3. Anxiety feels like something you CAN’T easily resolve and intuition feels like something you could easily resolve

Again, anxiety is usually not rational, which means that it’s not going to have a rational solution.  

It means that with anxiety, even if you take all of the right steps in the given situation you are feeling anxious about, you will still have those “what if” thoughts. 

Intuition, on the other hand, will give you a signal that something isn’t right, and you will be able to adjust what you’re doing or do something that will help the situation. Once you take some action, the intuitive thought will go away, because you’ve been able to fix that situation.

4. Anxiety is based on what you think might happen in the future, intuition is based on how you feel right now

An anxious mind is usually focused on what will happen in the future. Intuition will be a feeling about what is happening in the present. 

Your intuition is the collection of all your past experiences and knowledge, which will be used in combination with all of the information that your brain is taking in about the current situation. 

Your intuition does not have any information about the future and therefore cannot make a prediction. The “prediction” is your anxiety using your imagination to make assumptions, but these are not really true.

Now I’m not saying that your intuition is always right, but it’s a lot more accurate than your anxiety. 

Also, if you’re constantly worried about the future, here’s another piece of advice: literally no one can predict what will happen in the future, so don’t bother trying.

Here’s an example from my life:

I used to always think that I “knew” what was going to happen and I would believe my anxious thoughts. But here is what I’ve learned to help me stop doing that:

The world is much more complicated than you think, you cannot possibly know enough information to make an accurate prediction. (Which means your anxiety is lying to you)

Take this example: meteorologists. (Strange example, I know, but stay with me)

Meteorologists can make some pretty educated guesses about the weather – by looking at the FACTS, but they can never fully know because they can’t account for all of the complex factors that go into weather. There are too many unknowns out there. 

So when applying this to your anxious thoughts: you could have some facts or ideas that might lead you to believe that something bad might happen, but you’ll never know! (And in my experience, it’s not worth the stress of worrying – a concept that takes practice to understand and live by)

My other advice for this is that when you’re anxious, it can even be hard to even know what your intuition is. I have worked on my anxiety a lot and I’ve worked on listening to my intuition – so it does take practice.

It will be hard for you to EVER listen to your intuition if you don’t take the steps to help your anxiety. 

For example, there are tons of options, going to a therapist, doing online therapy, or doing some self-help and soul-searching. (But going to a professional is the best option!)

5. Anxiety is made up of chaotic, scattered thoughts. Intuition is a calm sense of knowing.

Not everyone experiences anxiety in the same way, but many of us will have scattered and chaotic thoughts flooding our brain. 

They tend to be triggered by similar situations, where you will get the flood of “what if”s and then the flood of hormones that accompany anxiety, which make you feel the anxious sensations in your body. 

Your intuition may come up with similar situations as well, but it won’t feel like this flood of worry, it will feel more just like a thought worth exploring.

A quick way to help determine if this is anxiety or intuition is to make a list of all the ways that you could help the situation to mitigate whatever you are worried about. 

If these are reasonable things you can do that won’t upset your life, then you should do them. Or at least ask yourself: “If I did these things to help the situation, would I still be anxious?”

If the answer is “yes”, this is your anxiety. If the answer if “no”, it is probably your intuition and you can go ahead and take those reasonable steps to mitigate the possible problems that your intuition was telling you.

Now, can you ever fully know the difference between your intuition and anxiety? 

The answer here is probably not: with ONE BIG CONDITION.

If you can’t tell the difference between your anxiety and your intuition, it’s because you NEED to work on overcoming your anxiety. 

You will never be able to tell if it is actually your intuition until you don’t have that strong anxious reaction anymore. 

In fact, your intuition has probably merged with your anxiety and is a bit off. 

This is because your intuition is a combination of past experiences and thoughts, as well as information that it has perceived.

This means that the information that your intuition holds is subjective and clouded by your anxiety.

So, if all the information your mind has taken in is from a subjective, anxious perspective, your intuition is likely anxious.

Which is why you need to focus on changing how you perceive these situations to retrain your intuition!

You can check out some other articles I have on learning how to understand your anxiety better and change your thought patterns to be less anxious. 

The 3 Elements of Mental Health that You Must Understand

The Anxiety Cycle and How to Break It

3 Must-Have Journal Exercises for Anxiety

5 Simple Mantras to Reduce Stress

5 Simple Mantras to Reduce Stress

You know when you feel like you have a million and one things to do and NO time to do them? When your to-do list just seems to be getting longer and longer as the day goes on? Or when you’re so overwhelmed that even the smallest of tasks puts you over the edge?

Well, we’ve all been there. And this is exactly where a mantra comes in handy!

Disclaimer: products on this page may contain affiliate links. We only promote products that we think are super awesome and will provide value to you! You can read more about our terms here.

How mantras work

First of all – what exactly is a mantra?

A mantra is a word or phrase that you repeat to yourself in order to alter your consciousness and re-shape the way you see your reality. Sounds like magic, right? It’s pretty close to it!

Here’s why it works – our reality is shaped by the way we think about reality. And the way we think about reality is shaped by what we say

For example, if you’re constantly putting yourself down by saying “I’m so stupid” or “I’m so ugly”, you’ll start to truly believe it! The more you say these negative things about yourself, the more your brain will think it’s a fact.

Mantras work, therefore, by instilling positive ways of thinking into your mind by”forcing” you to think good thoughts! When it comes to mantra, the magic truly lies in the words!

Mantras and stress

A mantra is in essence a form of meditation. And like all mediation, it has the ability to alter your mindset by bringing you a deep sense of calm.

Mindset is THE most important thing you can focus on when trying to do or achieve anything in life. Among other things, your mindset can help you:

  • reach your career goals
  • manage your mental health
  • improve your self-esteem
  • reach your fitness goals
  • make friends

It can also help you attain a much calmer state of mind when you’re feeling stressed out!

The following 5 mantras are specially designed to target a stressed-out mindset. I recommend writing them down either on your phone, on your laptop, or anywhere near your workspace so that you’ll be able to quickly refer back to them the next time you feel your stress levels on the rise!

The 5 anti-stress mantras

Mantra #1: I will not hesitate, I will just do what I need to do

This has worked absolute wonders for me, as I’m sure it will for you too.

If you feel like you’re at a standstill because you just don’t know where to start – this will help give you some clarity and motivation. It will push you along to just start doing what you’ve gotta do! It could be anything from doing your laundry, to exercising, to studying, to working on your goals and dreams!

Mantra #2: I will accept what I cannot control

Many of us tend to get frustrated and stressed out over things that we have no way of controlling. One of the biggest examples is frustration over what other people do.

This is completely wasted energy. Why? Because it’s impossible for you to control! You have NO power over other people – you only have power over yourself. So all you need to focus on? You! This mantra will help remind you of this.

Mantra #3: With every deep breath I take, I feel myself becoming more calm

Taking deep breaths is an amazing way to immediately feel calmer and more at peace. However, when we have an overwhelmed mindset, we often forget about doing this. Instead, we tend to take short, shallow breaths that make us feel more anxious and more on edge!

This mantra will remind you to STOP what you’re doing and take some deep breaths. Once you’ve finished, you’ll be able to return to your work in a much more centred and aligned state of mind.

Mantra #4: I accept myself as I am

A lot of the time we can get quite frustrated and overwhelmed because we doubt ourselves and don’t believe that we can do something. We may fear that if we try something new – whether that’s a new project or just a new recipe – we’ll make a mistake or fail completely.

This way of thinking is toxic, and is just getting in the way of you doing what you need to do! This mantra will help take the focus away from your flaws and help you accept yourself as you are – imperfections and all.

Mantra #5: I’ve done more than enough today

This last one’s designed for all you over-achievers out there (myself included!).

Too often we set WAY too high expectations for ourselves with regards to how much we want to cross off our to-do list. We’re not superhuman, and we’re only awake for about 14-16 hours a day! We need to leave time for resting, enjoying, socializing, eating, etc.

If you’re anything like me though, you’ll constantly feel guilty about not having done enough in your day, regardless of how much you’ve actually done (which is usually more than you think!). This mantra will help remind you to be more realistic. And even if you haven’t had an overly productive day – it happens! You always have tomorrow.

Final thoughts

The more you incorporate these positive anti-stress mantras into your daily routine, the more calm and centred you will feel as you work your way through your to-do list.

Remember: YOU have the power to change your mindset and re-wire your thoughts. All it takes is dedication and practice!

To learn more about how you can harness the power of your thoughts to design your life for the better, check out all of my self-care resources!

Top 10 Things to Remember if You’re Struggling with Anxiety

Top 10 Things to Remember if You’re Struggling with Anxiety

***This is part 10 in a series of posts about how to overcome your anxiety. If you want to read part 9, click here. You can download a full PDF recap of the series here.***

No matter how much self-growth we go through, no matter how much progress we make, and no matter how far we come in improving ourselves – we can always use a helpful reminder every now and again.

If you’ve made it to the end of my anxiety series – congratulations! With all the things you’ve learned throughout these articles (and on your journey within yourself), you’re well on your way to living a happier, more fulfilling, less anxious life!

For my last article in the series, I thought I’d bring together all the amazing things we’ve learned throughout the posts into one cohesive list. Think of it as a one-stop guide that you can come back to over and over when you need an extra little pick-me-up or a bit of help getting back on track (because let’s be honest – we ALL do every now and then!)

So without further ado, here are the top 10 things to remember when it comes to your anxiety!

  Just want to let ya know: The information and tips on this website are from my personal experience with anxiety and are not a substitute for any type of medical, psychological or health advice. My goal is to empower people struggling with anxiety in non-traditional ways that they can do alongside professional help. 

There is always help out there, and you can find a mental health professional locally, through your doctor, or through an online directory like this one. This is a link to a great article with affordable therapy options and this is an affiliate link to a great online therapy option. If you are in a crisis, I have a list of help hotlines here. You are not alone!!

1) Thoughts are just thoughts. You don’t need to give meaning to them

You are not always going to have happy thoughts – you will sometimes have negative thoughts. This is just the reality of being human. In fact, it’s one of the things that unifies each and every one of us! But remember: they are just thoughts.

Thoughts are not always true, and they certainly don’t define who you are. In fact, a thought is really just a sentence passing through your mind. It has no power on its own unless you give it power. It doesn’t become real unless you accept that it’s real.

This is one of the most life-changing realizations you can make when it comes to overcoming anxiety. And trust me, once you truly understand this, it will change you life in so many freeing ways!

2) Understand what your anxiety is telling you

Anxiety isn’t something that you’re born with and you have to live with forever. Quite the opposite. YOU have the power, and to harness this power, first you must truly understand your anxiety.

 

Think about why you might be anxious or what your anxiety might be trying to tell you.

In essence, anxiety is trying to protect you, so you can dig a bit further to see if you really need to be protected from it. Maybe the “threat” isn’t actually so bad.

Try asking yourself what negative thought patterns may be contributing to it. Was there anything that happened in your past to make you behave the way you are now? Is there a recurring thought/fear that is constantly bubbling below the surface?

If you’re serious about beating your anxiety, you need to be serious about becoming a researcher of your anxiety. Study it, analyze it, and know it. Only then will you know the ins and outs of how to uproot it. 

3) Your brain has the ability to change

We humans really are SO much more powerful than we give ourselves credit for! Thanks to neuroplasticity, our brains have the ability to change. You brain can form new neural pathways at any point in time, which means that it’s never too late to change your thought patterns. That’s why cognitive behavioural therapy is so effective!

Essentially, it’s within our power to learn to think differently about anything we want to think differently about (*ahem* anxiety *ahem*).

So even though you might think that your brain is just wired to be anxious, it might be that way right now – but you can change it so that it isn’t! How amazing is that?

But be warned, this might involve some difficult steps, like facing your fears, asking for help, taking some time off, changing the people you hang out with, or seeing a professional.

 4) Don’t feed your fears

The more you focus on your fears and the more you research all the terrible things that “could” happen, the stronger your anxiety will become and the more you will suffer. The more you give them power, the tighter their hold will be on you. 

You need to starve your fears. Stop looking into them, stop dwelling on how much they’re impacting your life, and stop defining yourself by them. This is only adding fuel to the flame!

I realize that this is a very difficult thing to do, and that’s why it takes time and practice. You may need to reach out for some professional help (always a good idea). You can also try some of my journal exercises that are great for reducing your fear.

 

5) Remember your strengths – they’re much stronger than your fears

The unfortunate thing about us humans is that our pesky brains are designed to focus more on the negative things in life rather than the positive things (I know – SUCH a bummer!). This is why when we have anxiety, we often focus only on how difficult the anxiety is making our lives.

You can’t forget the other side of the story though – the brighter side. You are an amazingly unique individual. You have SO many talents and SO many strengths. Pay attention to these things more. When you’re feeling anxious about something, you’ll typically imagine the worst case scenario. And in that scenario, you usually forget to think about all of the things that you would do to make that situation better. 

Try this right now: jot down something you’re anxious about, and underneath it – write down 5 strengths you have that could help you if your fear ended up coming true. I’ll bet that you’ll feel less anxious about it.

Once you start to realize your strengths, you’ll start to realize that your fears won’t stand a chance!

6) Your physical health is entirely linked to your mental health

Your mental health isn’t just your psychological health. In reality, your mental health is an umbrella term that’s made up of several different aspects. And one of the most important of those aspects is your physical health.

If you don’t take proper care of your body, your mind will suffer. Just like your eyes are the window to your soul, your body is the mirror to your mind. The more you treat your body well, the more you’ll heal your mind.

The best part about this is that taking care your physical health is incredibly easy. It just involves making a few simple yet SUPER important lifestyle changes. 

7) Managing and overcoming anxiety is a skill like any other – you need to practice

Overcoming anxiety won’t happen overnight (but wouldn’t that be nice if it did!). It’s going to take some commitment and some practice. But don’t worry – because even Beethoven was a beginner once! For many, it seems like we just have a mental illness that we’re stuck with. And while it’s not fair that you have anxiety and it’s not something that anyone should have to go through, it’s your job to take control of it if you want to feel better.

All it starts with is dedication to a cause. If you’re dedicated to making a positive change in your life, then you’re totally on the right track. It’s this motivation that’s going to push you to practice incorporating the positive habits EVERY single day.

Practice, practice, practice – you’ll soon reap the benefits. Steps will turn into jumps, jumps will turn into strides, and before you know it, you’ll have made leaps and bounds of progress (and will be looking back at how far you’ve come with a beaming smile on your face!).

8) Everyone makes mistakes

We’re only human! We’re not perfect creatures, and we’re not supposed to be perfect creatures (I mean, we’re not dogs!).

Sometimes in our anxiety journey, we can be doing REALLY well and then all of a sudden have ONE bad day (or week, or month). This is okay. You NEED to remember that this is okay. No journey is without its roadblocks and U-turns. Things happen. Life happens. We must learn from our mistakes instead of letting them get us down. Mistakes are our greatest teachers.

9) Don’t take life too seriously (hear me out!)

This is something that you might hate hearing if you have anxiety, but let me try to help you reframe this advice.

We’re here on this earth to enjoy ourselves, not to go from one worry to the next.

Try this: If you were someone who didn’t have anxiety, think about what you would want to be doing instead. Would you be hanging out with friends? Working on a passion project? If you were in a stressful situation, how would you see the best of it? 

When I’m feeling anxious, I often try to think about how someone who doesn’t have anxiety would think. I think about how I can turn a bad situation into a better one. This is actually an excellent way to reframe negative experiences and to train your brain to be more positive (and hence, less anxious!). I have some small exercises that you can do to help you with reframing some thought patterns in my stress and self-care worksheets at the bottom of this page!

Relax, take a deep breathe, and smile. Things are going to be okay. You will be okay. Life is good, the world is fun, and the Universe is giving you a great big smile. Now go on out and ENJOY it!

10) You deserve to be happy

You have so much to offer the world and the world has so much to offer you. Your life is meant to be a happy life – all you have to do is go on out there and claim it.

The Anxiety Cycle and How to Break It

The Anxiety Cycle and How to Break It

***This is part 9 in a series of posts about how to overcome your anxiety. If you want to read part 8, click here. You can download a full PDF recap of the series here.***

For those of us who have anxiety and want to understand it a little better, I found a cool way of looking at your anxiety, and that is to picture it as a cycle.

I’ve seen “the anxiety cycle” depicted a few different ways, but it typically starts with some type of “trigger”, then leads to a thought and/or emotional reaction, and then to some type of behaviour that will perpetuate the cycle and make it worse.

Luckily, if you can be aware of the situations that make you anxious and your reactions and behaviours when you feel anxious, you can figure out how to change and modify these situations, reactions, and behaviours to minimize your anxiety.

  Just want to let ya know: The information and tips on this website are from my personal experience with anxiety and are not a substitute for any type of medical, psychological or health advice. My goal is to empower people struggling with anxiety in non-traditional ways that they can do alongside professional help. 

There is always help out there, and you can find a mental health professional locally, through your doctor, or through an online directory like this one. This is a link to a great article with affordable therapy options and this is an affiliate link to a great online therapy option. If you are in a crisis, there’s a list of help hotlines here. You are not alone!!

 

 Anxiety Cycle Stage 1 – Initial Situation / Perceived Threat

The first stage of the anxiety cycle is really quite simple. That’s because it just involves a situation. It alllllll starts with that initial situation.

 But it’s not just any situation – it’s a situation that your mind turns into a THREAT. 

If you recall back to one of the earlier articles in this blog series, you’ll remember that fear is meant to protect you, but that it doesn’t know the difference between real threats and perceived threats. Therefore, our anxiety cycle begins when we come into contact with a particular situation that our fear turns into a threat.

 Example 1: Social anxiety trigger

 Let’s say you’re out grocery shopping. You’re walking down the vegetable aisle picking up some veggies to make a curry for dinner (gotta get all those nutrients in!), when all of a sudden, you make eye contact with the person in front of you and realize that it’s someone you knew in High School.

Now, for people who don’t have social anxiety, this would just be a regular situation that wouldn’t trigger the anxiety cycle.

However, if you had social anxiety, your fear would distort your mind into thinking that bumping into this person from your past is a serious threat

And THIS is when your anxiety cycle would begin.

Example 2: Feeling anxious at random

For those of you who just tend to feel anxious at seemingly random times, the “trigger” in this case would just simply be feeling anxious. This can start the anxiety cycle, because it usually leads to some type of anxious thought (which is the next stage of the cycle, and can make your anxious feelings worse).

Example 3: Feeling anxious about work

This is an example where you might feel anxious about one thing in particular, you might feel anxious about a ton of different things, or the stress might just be causing anxiety in general.

All of these examples can lead to anxious thoughts (stage 2) or emotional reactions (stage 3).

Anxiety Cycle Stage 2 – Anxious Thought about Situation

Now it’s time for your thoughts to kick in and make matters even worse!

If you remember back to a previous article in the series, you’ll probably be familiar with negative thought patterns. Well, it’s in this stage of the cycle that they get their time in the spotlight.

Here’s how it works:

After the initial situation takes place and your fear turns the situation into a threat, you’ll then have a negative thought about the situation. But your negative thought isn’t a reaction to the actual situation. Instead, it’s a reaction to the negative thought pattern you have surrounding that situation.

This is a bit confusing, but let me try to simplify:

Your brain reacts to situations in the present based on experiences (or traumas) you’ve had in the past

A lot of the time, we aren’t actually reacting to real situations, we’re just reacting to how our brain is conditioned to think about these situations.

Essentially, your brain is used to reacting this way. It’s going to have go-to thoughts about this situation, like “I’m going to embarrass myself” or “oh no, *insert fear* is going to happen!” or “Here comes the anxiety again” or “I hope I don’t get fired”.

These thoughts are then usually accompanied by an emotional reaction (stage 3), which is the stage where we can start to make some change to our anxiety cycle.

Anxiety Cycle Stage 3 – Emotional Reaction

After you have an anxious thought about the situation, you have two options. You can either: 

(1) accept the anxious thought as a true, genuine reflection of the situation 

OR

(2) realize that your anxious thought is NOT a reflection of the actual situation

If you go down path (1), then you’ve just bought yourself a one-way ticket to ride the anxiety cycle train over and over and over. Because once you accept the thought as true, you’ll affirm to yourself that what you perceived as a threat is indeed a threat, and then you will continue to feel anxious anytime you encounter that initial situation/trigger.

HOWEVER, If you choose path 2, you can start training yourself to NOT listen to these anxious thoughts. This might take time, but this is where you can practice not responding to these thoughts (and effectively STOP giving them power).

Thought exercise: try to think of your thoughts as just little things just floating through your head. There might be some that are anxious that are coming through, but they’re just floating through and you don’t have to read them. And if you do read them, they don’t need to mean anything to you. (Here’s another article I wrote about telling the difference between anxiety and intuition, that can help you to filter out unhelpful, anxious thoughts)

Anxiety is kind of like a bully; if you react each time they say something to you – you are giving them more power. If you can realize that what they say doesn’t actually affect you, then you take back the power. 

Now obviously this is all easier said than done (and it does take practice), but the point is that you can train yourself to not feel as anxious when anxious thoughts pop into your head. It just takes a conscious effort and a will to do it. 

You can reduce the power that your anxiety has over you by choosing not to give it so much power in your life.

Anxiety Cycle Stage 4 – Reaffirming Behaviours

Once you have your emotional reaction (let’s say you start feeling upset, ashamed, or even tired, and your physical reaction (elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, sweating, etc), you’ll then begin doing things that try to lessen these negative feelings.

 This could look like procrastinating, eating too much or not eating enough, avoiding the triggering situation, re-checking your work tons of times, just staying in bed all day, and the list goes on.

 But most of the time, these behaviours don’t actually lessen the anxiety at all, they just make it worse.

 Avoiding people to reduce your anxiety is only going to make you feel less capable in your social skills. Over-checking your work is going to make you feel less confident in your abilities. Staying in bed all day is going to make you feel worse physically (and therefore mentally). Procrastinating is only going to make you feel more anxious about the work you have to do.

 These are called reaffirming behaviours. They are behaviours that give POWER to your fear, that give INTO your fear, and that make you believe you are unable to FACE your fear.

 Now make no mistake: stopping these behaviours is not something that is just easy to do. If it was, no one would ever feel anxious. These things can be EXTREMELY hard to do when you have anxiety – but if you take small steps to slowly start reversing these behaviours, you will start to notice that, over time, you will feel less anxious in these types of situations.

Final notes:

I hope that this post helped you to understand your anxiety a little bit more. I find that once you understand your fears a bit better (and the role that you play when responding to fear), you can start making a plan to slowly start changing them and rewiring your brain to not be in fear.

Sagesse ("Say Jess")

Sagesse ("Say Jess")

Owner of Mindaya

Hey guys, it’s Sagesse – the face behind website! I’m dedicated to helping you find freedom your anxiety and overcome the mental obstacles that are standing in the way of your best life!