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Start a Worry Journal for Less Stress

According to the Center for Disease Control, 80% of visits to the doctor are believed to be stress-related. Yet at its root, stress is just fear, anxiety, and worry. Mind-body medicine physician, Lissa Rankin, M.D., suggests that while we tend to view worry, anxiety, and fear as signs of weakness, most of us are perfectly willing to admit that we’re stressed. She even goes on to say that for many, being “stressed out” is practically a badge of honor.

We parade around our stress as proof that we’re busy, productive, valuable people leaving our mark on the world. I totally can see that in many people I know, how about you? The truth is that for many people, being “stressed out” is just the code word for being really, really scared and filled with worry thoughts.

Many experts have suggested daily journaling as a way of treating or helping with an array of things, such as reducing stress, anxiety, and worried thoughts. But I found that these worries can sneak in at any time and can really mess with my immediate productivity, peace of mind, and mood. Waiting to journal isn't enough of an immediate relief. This is when I came up with what I now call, “mini worry journaling.” The idea is as these worries creep into the mind, there is a tool to immediately record them for future review.

Here are my simple steps of using a mini worry journal:

  1. Gather a mini journal, black pen, and red pen. I like the 3 x5” spiral journals you can get at most grocery stores, pharmacy stores or on Amazon.

  2. Do your best to keep the mini journal, red pen, and black pen and with you at all times, especially when you’re known to feel anxious. Put them in your pocket, purse, or bag.

  3. When a worry creeps up, pull out your mini journal and black pen, and write down your worry. Be quick and concise with your worry. For example, write “I am worried I won’t get my report done.” Or “I am worried I can’t pay my rent this month.” Or “I am worried Jane will be mad that I can’t go to the party.” Don’t judge, just write. Keep it simple. Just one line if possible. By writing it down, your mind is able to release anxiety and embrace some mental space.

  4. Put the mini journal and black pen back into your purse, bag, or pocket. Let the worry go for now and continue on with your day the best that you can.

  5. When another worry comes, repeat step three by pulling out your mini journal and black pen, and quickly and concisely write it down. At this time, review your all of your previously written worries. With your red pen, vigorously cross off all of the worries you wrote down previously that didn’t come true. For example, if your report DID get finished, cross that off with the red pen. If your rent did get paid, cross it off with a red pen. Once complete, put the mini journal and pens back into your purse, bag, or pocket.

  6. Continue to repeat steps 2 through 5.

It’s said that 80 percent of the things we worry about never come true, but I think it’s hard to wrap our heads around that until we can literally see it with our own eyes. The action of the red pen allows us to see that although some of these thoughts are valid, many do not come true.

What I have learned is this process retrained my brain. Because of the process I was able to see how many worries I crossed off with that red pen and when worries started to creep in, I began to think, “this probably won’t happen,” and was able to let them go.

Creating this space in the mind allows you to think through situations, make decisions, and even access your higher intuition and creativity. I’d love to hear if you try the mini worry journal and how it worked for you. Please leave comments below.

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