If you want to start journaling for anxiety, but you don’t have any ideas for where to start, try using these journaling prompts as a jumping-off point. From there, it’s up to you whether you want to continue using prompts or try some free journaling. Remember, there’s no wrong way to journal for anxiety.
63 Journaling Prompts for Anxiety
Here are 63 anxiety journaling prompts to help you calm your anxiety:
From Tricia Johnson, LCSW:
1. When you’re in a heightened state of anxiety, what are 10 different phrases that you can say to yourself or do to self-soothe? Example: What can you control about this situation and what is out of your control?
2. Write about a time that someone made your day better. And a time that you made someone else’s day better.
3. List five things you do daily and five things that you wish you did daily. What’s holding you back? What baby steps can you take this week, this month, or this year to start doing things differently?
4. List four ways that you’re hard on yourself. How can you offer yourself a bit more support?
From Meredith Van Ness, LCSW and Coach of Balanced+Well:
5. How do you want to feel when you wake up in the morning?
6. List 5 great things about today.
7. Did you feel stressed or anxious today? If so, what triggered that feeling, and what did you do to overcome it?
8. What is one adjustment you would like to make to your morning routine?
9. What is one adjustment you would like to make to your nighttime routine?
From Dr. Roberta Ballard:
10. “My ideal outcome in this situation is ____________” and “What if everything goes RIGHT?”
11. If you are journaling when you are feeling particularly keyed up and anxious, it can be calming to write a sentence repeatedly in your journal, such as, “Breathe in. Breathe out.” or “I am safe.”
From Djuan Short, LCSW, Founder of Dahlia Rose Wellness:
12. What would happen if I went forward with _______? List out the pros and cons
13. What am I most fearful of? Why?
14. Where do I feel the anxiety in my body?
15. What do I need in this moment?
16. Is what I need something that I can give myself or do I need support?
From Heidi McBain, LMFT, LPC, PMH-C:
17. What’s something that made me feel scared or anxious today?
18. What are some ways I can help bring my anxiety symptoms down?
19. What would life be like if I had control over my anxiety versus feeling like it often has control over me?
From Melanie Robinson, LCSW:
20. Reflect with curiosity and non-judgment on what has triggered the anxiety.
21. Be curious and generous about how this anxiety might be trying to help you in its own particular way. Ex: Anxiety about messing up a work presentation that comes from a place of fearing failure.
22. Honor the anxiety: see if there is a way to appreciate the positive intention of the anxiety i.e. how is it trying to help you? This is very different from trying to talk ourselves out of anxious thoughts or shove them away. Most often when we resist a feeling we don’t like, it only intensifies that feeling. Honoring the wisdom of our emotions can help them soften and bring relief.
From Stephanie Longtain, LCSW:
23. If you could wave a magic wand and your anxiety was gone…what will you do differently? What will you start doing/stop doing? What will you do more of/less of? How will you treat yourself and others?
24. When and where does anxiety happen? What triggers it? What are the consequences? When, if ever, is it not present? What difference does that make?
25. When you get hooked by your anxious thoughts, what happens next? How does your behavior change?
26. What does anxiety look like? How big is it? What does it sound like? Where is it located in space?
27. If all your anxious thoughts and feelings were put into a book or movie, titled “the something something story”, what would you call it? For example, “the worry spiral story”.
28. Make a list of all your anxious thoughts.
29. Identify a problem that has been causing you anxiety. List all the ways you have tried to solve the problem (distraction, avoidance, worrying, etc). Do these behaviors work in the short-term or long-term?
30. Make a list of all your worries. Are they internal or external? Real or imagined?
31. How has your anxiety helped you in the past? What lessons has anxiety taught you?
32. How can you treat yourself more kindly when you are having an anxious thought?
From Dr. J. Fisher, licensed psychologist & certified hypnotherapist:
33. Where do I find myself most – past, future, or present?
34. If I knew nothing could go wrong, what would I do differently? If I knew I could handle whatever came my way, how would I think differently?
35. What am I missing out on now, because I’m caught up in another time?
36. What am I most afraid of? What evidence do I have to support it? What evidence can I see now, that disproves any validity of this fear?
37. When I feel safe and secure, what emotion do I like to feel most? What brings that emotion out in me?
From Jackie Kamrowski, Registered Psychologist & Founder of Dandelion Psychological Services:
38. A gratitude journal is a great way to manage anxiety. Start by listing 5 things that you are grateful for, if 5 is too much, start with 2 things. You would be amazed at how looking at the positive things in your life decreases anxiety
39. List 5 things you are proud of. What are your accomplishments and strengths? Again, if 5 is too much, then start with 2 things.
40. Make a list of everything that worries you. By writing them down, you get those worries out of your head and free up space for more positive thinking.
41. Think about the people that really support you. Write them each a letter outlining the ways they help you shine. Feel free to keep those letters or give them to the people that matter. And don’t forget to write a letter to your future self.
42. Outline what is making you anxious. Is your anxiety trying to tell you something? Are you hiding something from yourself? Sometimes listening to our anxiety is the key to managing it.
43. Get to know your anxiety. What does it look like? Feel like? Sound like? Understanding our anxiety is often a great way to overcome it. After all, you can’t overcome what you don’t understand.
44. Start your day off with positive affirmations. This will wire your brain to think positively and receive positive messages throughout the day.
From Thomas J. Jameson, C-MHC, Clinical Director of The Ohana Addiction Treatment Center:
45. The last time I felt anxious, this was happening _______________.
46. The last time I felt anxious, I did this___________. Did it help?
47. What are 3 coping strategies that you can use to combat anxiety the next time you experience it?
From Kaley Greear Goncalves, LPC at Your Family Psychiatrist:
48. Speak to your anxiety as if it were a character or a part of yourself. This will help you be more objective, less judgmental, as well as increase insight. Describe Anxiety and what it feels like, looks like, or how it shows itself. Use metaphors, if helpful.
49. How does Anxiety feel in your body? For example Anxiety can result in cold or tingly hands, increased heart rate, and racing thoughts.
50. Racing thoughts can be described as beliefs held by Anxiety, and are not to be trusted. “ My anxiety tells me that I can’t speak in front of others.” or “My anxiety thinks that I will never be ready.” What does Anxiety believe?
51. What is the cost of Anxiety— how do you pay for it? (For example, in reduced energy).
52. What is my anxiety trying to prepare me for?
From Kendall Phillips, LPC:
53. Describe a time when you became overwhelmed with anxiety. What were the outcomes you feared would happen in the situation? Were the fear/beliefs/assumptions helpful, useful, and realistic?
54. List statements you make to yourself on a daily basis that contribute to feelings of anxiety. Examples: “You’re going to fail.” “No one loves you.” Then challenge those statements with things you know are true. Examples: “I have never failed before, and the professor is willing to help.” “I have a family who tell me they love me daily, and friends who do the same.”
55. Write down patterns associated with anxiety/panic attacks, and be as specific as possible. Places, smells, people, times of day, times of the month, certain days of the week, sleep schedules, eating habits, etc. The more you know about the circumstances that contribute to your feelings of anxiety the better you will be at reducing/preventing it.
56. When are times you have been successful despite feeling anxious?
57. Name at least 1 strength in your personality daily you believe is true. Choose a new one each day.
From Djuan Short, LCSW, Founder of Dahlia Rose Wellness:
58. What messages, beliefs and stories do I have around the event/situation causing me anxiety?
59. Where/whom did these messages, beliefs and stories originate from?
60. Are these messages, beliefs, and stories ultimately true? *Most of your negative beliefs are NOT true
61. Who do I need to forgive for implanting these messages, beliefs and stories within me? *Write forgiveness notes to each of the people identified
62. What new positive messages, beliefs, and stories do I want to believe about myself?
63. Write an affirming statement that aligns with this new belief? *Post the new belief and affirmation in spaces that are visible
13 Tips to Get Started With Journaling for Anxiety
Getting started with a new journaling practice for anxiety can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.
Here are 13 tips to help you start journaling for anxiety:
1. Start With What Feels RightBalanced+Well
“To start journaling, begin where you feel most comfortable. You can begin by writing three things that brought you joy that day, ‘free write’ for 5-10 minutes about anything that comes to mind, or share a ‘happy’ and a ‘crappy’ from your day. One thing that I would encourage is to get curious and focus on both your feelings and thoughts.” – Tricia Johnson, LCSW
2. Start Simple!
“You are not writing a novel. You are carving out 5-10 minutes of your day for self-improvement and reflection. Don’t judge yourself if this act of slowing down does not come naturally. It might take practice. You are not alone. Stay consistent, stick with it, build it into your routine, and let go of the judgment!” – Paul Poulakos, MD, board-certified Psychiatrist
3. Try Habit Stacking
“Attach journaling to another habit that you already have. For example, if you reach over to your nightstand every evening to set an alarm, put your journal and a pen on your nightstand and spend five minutes journaling before bed. Or if you sit in a certain chair with a cup of coffee every morning, keep your journal by that chair and write in it while you drink your coffee. Linking a new, desired habit to an existing habit is one of the best ways to form a new habit.” – Dr. Roberta Ballard
4. Just Do It
“Get a notepad and just start. Depending on your circumstances you can write throughout the day as these thoughts and feelings come. I find most people benefit from having a certain set time of writing in the day.” – Angela Karanja, Psychologist, Parenting Teenagers Expert and Founder of Raising Remarkable Teenagers
5. Set a Timer
“To lessen anxiety while journaling, set time aside specifically for journaling exercises. Have that time be dedicated to journaling, and know at what time you will wrap up your thoughts and focus on different things. Setting a timer is a great way to ensure that you are dedicating time to journaling without being consumed by the exercise.” – GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC, Licensed Mental Health Counselor at PsychPoint
6. Think of Journaling as a Tool to See What’s Already Working
“Journaling allows you to pull all of the thoughts from your brain and put them down on paper to help you store, organize, and process the information at a later time. Writing down everything, including your feelings and emotions, can help you process them better. By taking notice, we can start to identify patterns, habits, activities, and thoughts that may be holding us back. In other words, journals help us to facilitate personal growth.
We can also pinpoint the effective solutions and tools we are already using which helps you track your overall development. In addition, journals help you foster a better connection with your Values, Emotions, and Goals.” – Meredith Van Ness, LCSW and Coach, Founder of Balanced+Well
7. Meditate First
“I like clients to start with a short, quiet meditation (2-5 minutes) and then move into journaling. This can help you focus on what’s most important at that given time, which can help when starting a new journaling practice so you don’t feel so scattered and overwhelmed by the myriad of thoughts and feelings showing up.” – Heidi McBain, LMFT, LPC, PMH-C
8. Change Your Mindset
“Get out of an “all-or-nothing” mindset. You don’t need to journal every day, or for an hour every day, to benefit from journaling. Five minutes a day, several times a week, is more beneficial than not journaling at all. And, when you start to form a habit and reap the benefits, it is more likely that you will become more consistent.” – Dr. Roberta Ballard
9. Check Your Perfectionism
“A common struggle for a person with anxiety is managing the need to either do things perfectly or not disappoint others. It can cause a great deal of anxiety to constantly have to do things perfectly or be who others need them to be, and the stress can take away from a person’s ability to embrace themselves as they are. Because of this, journaling about your own identity can be a great start. Use this prompt to begin your journaling process: Who am I, good and bad, when nobody else is around? When I am only responsible for myself, what are my best qualities, and what qualities hold me back from being happy in my own skin?” – GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC, Licensed Mental Health Counselor at PsychPoint
10. Start Small & Gradually Add More as You Want to
“Gradually build in journaling to your daily/weekly habits. Don’t feel like you need to all of a sudden be good at and spend a lot of time journaling. Work towards gradually getting used to it, and do it when you notice it or have some time. Habits take time to form, and overdoing it at the beginning can feel too overwhelming and it’s more likely the habit won’t stick.” – Kendall Phillips, LPC Licensed Professional Counselor
11. Write Down Good Things, Too
“While journaling can help with problems, it is also a good idea to write down all of the good things that have happened in your day or week. This is an excellent way to recognize the pattern of what happened during that time and what feelings were associated with it. Writing down all of the good things also promotes gratitude.” – Amanda Levison, M.S., LMHC, LPC, CCBT, Neurofeedback & Counseling Center
12. Keep Asking Why
“Another prompt consists of asking yourself “Why” 7 times. You start with the belief, message, story that you are telling yourself and then ask yourself “why” 7 times. The goal is to allow for deep level processing into the unconscious mind where the answers to your questions are raw and unfiltered.” – Djuan Short, LCSW, Founder of Dahlia Rose Wellness
13. Write Your Thoughts, Emotions, Sensations, & Actions
“To help you get a better sense for your anxiety as well as to use journaling as a way to understand your anxiety as well as to be able to experiment with ways to manage it, complete these four prompts and contemplate the connection between them:
Thoughts –> Emotions –> Physical Sensations –> Actions
It doesn’t matter where you start because each of these is linked to the other so think about a time that day or week where you felt anxious.
- What was the precipitating event?
- What was I thinking at the time? Choose one particular thought.
- What emotions were tied to that thought? How did I feel?
- How did I physically feel in my body?
- What was my action response?
Here is an example:
- Event: I am invited to a party.
- I immediately think: I’m not a social person. I can’t go to that party.
- I feel: nervous, insecure, and anxious
- My body is: tight, tense, restless
- I respond by: RSVPing no
Our anxious thoughts are often exaggerated, catastrophic, or distorted in some fashion. After writing out what happened, go back and adjust the thought to something more objective.
From the example, you might adjust the thought to:
- Being invited to the party means that someone thought of me and wanted me to be present. I am nervous about going and also want to practice my social skills so I can make more friends.
- Objective, balanced thoughts are often longer and more nuanced than the anxious or distorted thoughts. It’s important not to be too positive and swing in the opposite direction. You can acknowledge the difficulty and also the possibility.” – Pauline Yeghnazar Peck, MA, MMFT, Ph.D.
When to See a Therapist for Anxiety
While journaling is a great practice to help alleviate anxiety, it’s not a replacement for therapy. If your anxiety starts to interfere with your life and daily functioning, it’s probably time to find a licensed therapist to help you navigate your anxiety. An online therapist directory can help you filter therapists based on location, specialty, and insurance.