Putting pen to paper can be very therapeutic when you’re troubled—sitting at a keyboard doesn’t have the same effect as sitting in a quiet spot and getting your thoughts down on paper. You don’t necessarily have to share those thoughts with anyone, although you could decide to show your insightful writing to a counselor or a therapist to help you make sense of what you have discovered about yourself. Here are some life problems that you can make sense of through the power of words:

1. You’re Angry

Pick up a pen and write down exactly why you are angry. Now make a decision to let it go. Holding onto the anger doesn’t affect the other person, the company, or the situation one bit: only you can decide when you’ve had enough.

2. You’re Stressed

Start by writing down the words, “I’m feeling stressed” and then go on to describe what that feels like. Your brain needs to get off the cycle of spinning around in circles so you can start focusing on solutions.

3. You’re Depressed

Journaling can help you document your recovery as you recover from depression. You can look back over time and see that you are making progress, even if you don’t notice that you are feeling better day to day.

4. You’re Anxious

Write down the issue that you are concerned about and its consequences; it can help you put things into perspective, and save the response for when you really need it.

5. You’re Confused

We all get stuck sometimes and have no idea what to do next. Start with what you know and build out from there. You may find that you have more answers (and options) than you originally thought.

6. You’re Afraid

Write down exactly what you are afraid of. Let your words shine a light on it and stare it down. Is it something you can control or do something about? Then take action. If not, you may need to decide to let it go, either on your own or with professional help.

7. You’re Grieving

If you have experienced a loss, your grief may come in waves. Write down memories of your loved one, what it feels like to be without him or her, your anger, sadness, or whatever you are feeling on a particular day. The paper is a safe place for you to unload all of those feelings.

8. You Feel “Blue”

On days when you feel out of sorts and can’t seem to get out of a funk, pull out a pad of paper and start writing about it. Some people find it helpful to remind themselves that even the worst day will pass and that things will get better. Another approach is to give yourself a limited time (15-20 minutes) to feel icky and write about it. Then get on with your day in a more positive frame of mind.

9. You’re in Physical Pain

People who live with chronic pain have a lot on their plate, even at the best of times. Writing about how you feel about the pain can be a good coping strategy, especially if you share what you have written with your health care team. Your doctor wants to know if you are feeling angry, depressed, frustrated, hopeless, etc. Putting pen to paper can also be a distraction from the physical sensations when you are having a challenging time.

10. You’re Struggling with Low Self-esteem

If your self-esteem has taken a beating and you’re feeling less than great about yourself, it’s time to do some work to build yourself back up. What would you say to a good friend in your shoes? Think of something positive about yourself and write it down. Then add something else. It doesn’t matter what these statements are; no one is going to see them. They can be sweet or silly. The important thing is that they mean something to you. Save that piece of paper and refer to it whenever you need a boost.

Writing can be a wonderful way to relieve stress, help you see things clearly, and give yourself a much-needed boost when you need it. Why don’t you make a point of spending some quality time with a pen and some paper today?

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