Hey, my friend. Do you ever experience anxiety?
The quick heartbeat, the racing thoughts and worries, maybe the shutdown of your mind or body… My guess is, you’re no stranger to anxiety. None of us are, really.
Anxiety is a general feeling of dread, fear, or uneasiness, and we experience it in a lot of situations:
- Speaking in public
- Doing something new
- Having a hard conversation with someone
- Going to the doctor
Anxiety can impact us in a deep way, especially when it revolves around something incredibly important to us, like when someone we love is hurting, or when we are going through a trial of our own.
And in some cases, anxiety becomes more severe. We can’t shake the worries and fears, and it actually begins to interfere with daily living.
- We stop driving because we’re worried about having an accident.
- We stop going to church or events or programs because we’re uneasy around groups of people.
- We stop walking into stores and order everything online because we’re afraid about potential violence.
But can anxiety ever be good?
Rhett Smith thinks it can at least be helpful. In his book, The Anxious Christian, he writes:
“I began to see my anxiety as something that didn’t always feel safe. It brought up feelings and emotions that I didn’t like to deal with and it made me question all kinds of things going on in my life. I would do anything to stuff those feelings deep down inside of me in hopes that they would never reappear. But in its lack of safety I slowly began to see that my anxiety was good and led me to pursue God more than I ever had. I was beginning to see that God didn’t want me to stuff those emotions and feelings and so He used anxiety as a tool in my life to help me more radically pursue Him and who He wanted me to become.”
There are a lot of great ways to manage or cope with your anxiety, and we don’t have time to cover all of them today, but journaling is one of them.
Benefits of Journaling for Anxiety
Journaling is good for anxiety because it allows you to process what is going not just emotionally, but physically and spiritually and mentally. So you have that awareness of what’s going on, and then you can listen to see what God’s invitation is to you in the midst of that.
Again, there are a lot of different types of journaling: narrative journaling, art journaling, free writing, anxiety tracking, and more.
Today, I’m going to offer you a five-minute journaling session you can do when you’re feeling anxious. I am intentionally keeping it short to show you that you don’t have to have 30 or 60 minutes to journal; five minutes really can make such a difference!
Are you ready? All you need is a piece of paper and something to write with, or you can even use the notes app on your phone. And really, even if you don’t write it down, you can still work through these questions and get a lot of out of it.
Okay, here we go.
Five-Minute Journaling Session for Anxiety
I’m going to walk you through six steps or questions for this journaling session, and while I don’t want you to arbitrarily answer, I also don’t want you to overthink it or second-guess yourself.
Your response to much of this should be intuitive and quick. There will be a part toward the end where you might pause for a minute, but otherwise, you’re just going to keep moving, okay?
Once I walk you through the steps, I’m going to give you three examples of what this type of journaling session might look like.
Step 1: Acknowledge Your Anxiety
First, you’re going to start simply by writing or saying out loud, “I am anxious.”
The reason this is so important is because you’re acknowledging that there’s something going on inside of you. You are aware of it, and you acknowledge its presence in your mind, in your body, in your soul.
Another way to look at it is that you’re going to look your anxiety in the eye, shake hands, and say, “Hi. I see you there.”
So go ahead and write it out, nice and clear: “I am anxious.” If you want to take a more playful tone in your journaling, you could even write, “Hi, Anxiety” at the top of your page.
Step 2: Identify Your Level of Anxiety
Second, identify the level of anxiety you are feeling.
You could do this on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being not anxious at all to 10 being extremely anxious.
You could also do this with a series of emojis, moving from peaceful to nervous to worried to scared to frantic, or whatever order makes the most sense for you.
But identify the level of anxiety you are experiencing. How strong is it in this moment?
So we move from saying, “Hi,” to now asking, “What’s going on?”
Step 3: Explore Connected Feelings
Third, you’re going to explore connected feelings, because anxiety often doesn’t travel alone. She brings her friends along with her.
So along with feeling anxious, are you also feeling:
You could use a feelings wheel to help with this, or just sit for a moment and ask God to reveal to you what else is stirring in your heart.
With this part of your journaling session, you’re asking anxiety, “Who did you bring with you?”
Step 4: Notice How Anxiety is Showing Up
So you’ve acknowledged your anxiety and explored a little bit about what’s going on. Now you’re going to look to see how it is showing up.
Anxiety impacts us all differently, but generally speaking, there will be some physical symptoms, like a racing heart, sweaty palms, or tense shoulders.
It might also have some mental symptoms: that same thought or idea keeps coming back to mind and you can’t stop thinking about it.
It might have some relational symptoms, as well: maybe you withdraw from others or cancel any plans you have made.
And don’t forget about spiritual symptoms: how is anxiety impacting your relationship with God? Your faith?
This journaling prompt is kind of like stepping back to see what anxiety is wearing that day. Some days, anxiety might show up more in a physical way, while on others, we notice the mental impact more.
Step 5: Seek God’s Invitation in the Midst of Anxiety
Next, ask God to help you hear His invitation to you in the midst of your anxiety.
- Sometimes He simply asks us to rest in His presence.
- Sometimes He invites us to trust Him.
- Sometimes He wants us to face what we’re anxious about, to take a bold step or get out of our comfort zone.
So pause for a moment and see if you can notice His invitation to you.
This can be like introducing your anxiety to God and following God’s lead as to what to do next.
Step 6: End with a Breath Prayer
Finally, as you receive your invitation from God, you can turn that into a sort of breath prayer, which you can practice as an actual breath prayer and you can write at the end of your journaling page.
A breath prayer is usually a short phrase or verse that you can say within one inhale and exhale. This is great for anxiety because deep breathing or intentional breathing can help calm you down. But we also partner it with a truth or invitation so that we’re keeping our minds and hearts focused on what God wants us to remember.
For example, you could take Psalm 56:3 and turn it into a breath prayer:
Breathe in: When I am afraid
Breathe out: I will trust in You.
When I am afraid,
I will trust in You.
So go ahead and write that at the bottom of your journal page, but also take a moment just to breathe and pray it in your mind or out loud.
Overview of the Five-Minute Anxiety Journaling Session
That’s it! That’s the five-minute journaling session for anxiety.
With our little dialogue, this is going to be what it sounds like:
- Hi, Anxiety.
- What’s going on?
- Who did you bring with you?
- What are you wearing today?
- God, what would You like me to do with this anxiety?
- Breath prayer of what God shares with you.
I know this sounds like a lot, but moving through the prompts really should only take you five minutes or so.
Examples of the Five-Minute Anxiety Journaling Session
Let me offer you a few examples of what a journaling session like this might look like.
Example #1: Playful Tone
In this first one, I am using a more playful tone to create some distance and perspective:
Hi, Anxiety. I see you showed up in strength today: 9 out of 10. Wow! And you brought Inadequacy and Fear with you. I’m dizzy and lightheaded, and I can’t seem to catch my breath. Not only that, but I feel like everyone is looking at me.
Anxiety, I think God is using you as an invitation for me to find my worth and identity in Him, not in all the things I’m trying to do. I can’t be afraid of what other people think. I know I can’t measure up to all the standards, but I don’t have to. So I’m going to let you go now.
I am God’s holy daughter
Through faith in Christ. (Galatians 3:26)
So, again, that was just using a more playful tone to journal about anxiety.
Example #2: Bullet Points
You could also just go through the list and write in bullet points:
- I am anxious.
- Scale: 9 out of 10.
- Other feelings: inadequacy and fear
- Physical symptoms: dizzy, lightheaded, shortness of breath
- Relational symptoms: feel like everyone is looking at me
- Invitation from God: stop worrying about what others think or trying to find my worth in what I do; find my identity in God instead
- I am God’s holy daughter
Through faith in Christ. (Galatians 3:26)
Example #3: Letter to God
You could even write your journal entry as a prayer to God. Here’s an example of that:
God, today, I am feeling anxious. Like, really, really anxious. I think in light of what is going on at work, I am also feeling inadequate and afraid, like I just can’t measure up to what they want me to do. It makes me feel dizzy and lightheaded, and I have a hard time breathing. When I get like this, I feel like everyone is looking at me, watching to see if I’ll mess up. What do You want me to know?
God, I’m sensing that You want me to remember that my identity and worth are in You, not in what I do or how “successfully” I do it. I am Your daughter, and simply because of that fact, I have value and worth. I don’t have to prove myself to others—or to myself. I can simply rest in being Yours. God, help me to do this today. Remind me: I am the daughter of God.
What do you think? Does it sound do-able? Five minutes of journaling to help you name and process your anxiety, and to receive God’s invitation to you in the midst of that anxiety.
And then you can put your journal away and move forward, holding close to that truth or invitation that God whispered to you.
Over time, as you practice journaling, you’ll be able to notice patterns of what makes you feel anxious, as well as what you can do to move forward. And that will help you see how God is moving in your heart and life.
Download a Free Anxiety Journal Printable
If you’d like to download a free printable to go along with this journaling session so you can return to it when you need to, just go to lovedoesthat.org/anxietyjournal. You can easily print those journal pages out front and back and use them when anxiety pops up.
As Rhett Smith said, though anxiety doesn’t feel safe, it can be a tool that points us toward God and really lean into Him for support, care, and healing. So I really encourage you to see anxiety as an invitation from God to draw near to Him and see what’s going on.
Now, my friend, if you notice that your anxiety is getting in the way of everyday life, I would invite you to talk to God about that and see if meeting with a counselor would help. Counselors can teach you specific ways to manage your anxiety and you can continue to process it together in a safe place. Ask God to help you take that step if you need to, okay, because I know that even that can cause a lot of anxiety.
Again, you can download this journaling session as a free pdf guide at lovedoesthat.org/anxietyjournal.
And that is all for today, my friend. Until next time, let’s encourage one another.
RELATED EPISODES + RESOURCES:
- Free PDF Guide: Five-Minute Journaling Session for Anxiety
- Episode 54: 4 Simple Ways to Start (or Keep) Journaling
- Episode 63: Using Christian Spiritual Practices to Draw Closer to God with Blogger and Writer Celia Miller
- Episode 64: Approaching God Even In Your Anxiety with Your Bible Study Best Friend Eva Kubasiak
- Book: The Anxious Christian, by Rhett Smith
Learn more and register for Journal Gently, an 8-week program designed to help you use writing as a way to process hurt, grief, and trauma with God.