worry journal

worry journal
Photo by Cris Saur / Unsplash

It's no secret that I'm a little "high strung." I get anxious about things without even realizing it. The random events that happen to me every day have the tendency to to control how I feel about life for days or even weeks after they occur. There are many people who've extricated themselves from this cycle, but in my experience, anxiety is the default state for humans as long as we aren't actively standing firm against it.

my first worry journal was short and telling

She might not remember this, but one of my high school math teachers casually mentioned that writing down the worrisome thoughts that keep her awake gives her enough peace of mind to fall asleep. Since my insomnia at the time was largely due to a racing mind, I decided to give it a shot.

That night, every time I thought of something necessary to remember for the next day, I wrote it down in a notebook. I expected to fill page after page with the thousands of things keeping me awake, but when I read my notes the next morning, there were only three things on the list. It turns out that those three things were sufficient to steal hours of sleep from me. Those three things chased each other around and around in my head in quick succession causing me to worry and fret.

When I read that list of the three things that kept me awake the night before, I immediately saw that two of them didn't actually matter. The only reason I worried about them in the first place was because my discernment is significantly inhibited when I'm tired, in bed, and trying to fall asleep.

And what did I do with the one thing that was actually worthy of my thoughts? I took care of it before breakfast that morning. It took 10 minutes.

i've slept like a rock ever since

I was so inspired by the results of one night of writing down my worries that the next night I tried really, really hard to come up with more worries. There was a problem, though: every time I thought of something to worry about, I realized that I wouldn't care about it in the morning. I fell asleep almost immediately.

My bedside list of worries doesn't always stay blank. Sometimes I really do fill page after page without throwing away the majority of the list. I can usually address all the worries before school the next day. Even when I can't, though, simply having something written down at night gives me peace of mind to sleep knowing that I won't forget it the next day.

improved process: being proactive

I've found that in addition to simply writing down my worries, making a plan to address them has even more benefits. It gives me manageable steps to follow for each worry to address it quickly and effectively. Here's the process I use for the worry section of my journal entries:

  1. List the things you're worried about today.
  2. Rank your worries from most to least worried.
  3. For each worry, write the absolute worst case scenario. Be specific about what it will cost and how much damage it can do.
  4. Write how likely each worst-case scenario is.
  5. Starting with the most severe and most likely problems, mark the ones that you can fix.
  6. Make a three-step plan to fix each of those worries: plan something to do right now (that takes less than 10 minutes), plan something to do tomorrow before lunch, and if the problem still isn't solved, plan something before lunch the next day.
  7. For the worries you can't fix, write down at least two names of someone who can fix the problem. Contact one of those people immediately (before you go to bed tonight).

previously on my blog

I showed an example of a simplified version of this worry journaling strategy on my blog:

today and all its worries
This post was very personal. It came out a little late because I wanted to make some final edits before it got sent out. If you had any thoughts, feelings, or learned anything, please let me know! I love hearing from the people who read this blog!

In it, you can see how simple it is to move worries into the past simply by addressing them mindfully.

a test

I made a little prototype app to see how this would work digitally. It's not polished or perfect, but it's functional and helpful! Give it a try by clicking here:

worry journal
If you found this worry journal useful, please give a donation! This is just a very rough first draft and I’m already working on the new and improved version! In the meantime, to help me justify my time and the tools I need, please consider subscribing to updates on this

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