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5 ways to make your anxiety work for you rather than against you

5 ways to make your anxiety work for you rather than against you

Remember that anxiety is, at its root, always simply about our thoughts. Anxiety is a fear of something that might happen in the future. Have you ever been worried about things that haven’t happened yet? That’s anxiety right  there. It is normal to sometimes feel concern about future events, so make your anxiety work for you rather than against you.

Use your anxiety to identify positive changes you need to make.

No one likes feeling stressed or anxious. Always remember that anxiety is simply one of nature’s signposts for change. You may feel that racing heart beating, feel a bit breathless or a dull feeling in your tummy. These anxiety symptoms will be because your mind is concerned about something and your mind wants you to find a solution. In ancient times anxiety was normally about an immanent danger. For our ancestors the solution was often to either stand and fight or get out of there and flee. Today we still have an anxiety response to events that feel worrying.

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In today’s hectic world, our fears are more about work, family or personal issues than any imminent danger. Consider what is really worrying you and then create a plan of action to deal with the source of stress. If you are anxious about an exam or work presentation, sit down and thoroughly prepare. Remember that anxiety is lowered when you know clearly how to cope with the stressful situation.

Use your anxiety to identify what is important to you.

Have you ever got annoyed about something that you don’t care about? That was a trick question, of course! We only feel concern about those people or events that we actually care about. If you didn’t love someone, you wouldn’t worry about their safety. If you didn’t want that new job then you wouldn’t get nervous for the interview. If you feel guilty since you aren’t motivated to do an activity or project, perhaps don’t use that as a stick with which to beat yourself up. Your lack of concern isn’t always laziness. If the activity really was meaningful for you, then you would indeed be motivated to act. Here your lack of anxiety may in fact point to this activity not being as important as you perhaps originally thought it to be.

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Look after your well being when under stress.

It is common to want to press ahead and put life on hold until you have dealt with the anxiety producing situation or source of stress. Don’t allow stress to prevent you looking after yourself. We all need to eat healthily, have ways to relax and ways to get gentle exercise. Don’t tell yourself that it is okay to neglect your health and well being. In fact the opposite is the case. It is really exactly during those times when you feel higher levels of stress or anxiety, that exercise and relaxation are very important. Don’t put looking after your well being on hold.

Use anxiety as an opportunity for self growth.

Sometimes we find it hard to accept events to be simply as they are. This leads to feelings of stress and anxiety. Decide what you can control and what you can change. Let go of what is holding you back from just accepting things as they truly are. Sitting in traffic can feel stressful until you discover the liberating feeling of just allowing things to be just as they are. You can’t control the weather, the traffic, other people’s behaviour or the outcome of many events. Allow stress and anxiety to be reminders to let go of wanting to always be in control. Take a flexible approach since, let’s be honest, though you may feel like you are doing something, often getting stressed will have absolutely no effect on the outcome. Work hard to make the changes that are needed but don’t allow events to govern how you feel inside. Practices such as Mindfulness, help you stay flexible in thought, whilst still being focused on what needs to be achieved.

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Anxiety is not your enemy.

It is okay to sometimes feel stressed and it’s okay to be worried about aspects of life. See your emotions as guides to help you make positive changes. Healthy responses to anxiety and stress are about listening to your thoughts and hearing the messages from your body. If you feel worry, consider what to do. No one likes feeling worried or anxious. However don’t ignore these feelings or suppress them.

Do you ever use an unhealthy or addictive behavior pattern to avoid feeling anxious or worried? Smoking, drinking too much alcohol, drug use, zoning out in front of the television, staring at your smartphone or your tablet, are all examples of behaviors often used to avoid dealing with feelings such as anxiety. Are you ever busy just to be busy or overeat when feeling stressed? Notice any common unhealthy behavior habits. Sometimes we can get addicted to things which initially feel positive such as going to gym or exercise. Do you ever overexercise as a way to feel better about feeling anxious? Notice any habits which seem to have gotten a little unhealthy. This pattern may be there to help you avoid thinking about a fear or concern that needs attention. Find ways to relax that leave your mind relaxed and body calm.

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(Of course we are talking here about reasonable level of anxiety. If you are feeling a constant feeling of anxiety without any clear cause seek the advice of suitable professional such as your GP.)

Featured photo credit: irl-looking-at-the-sea-through-sunglasses via picjumbo.com

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

15 Inspiring Journal Ideas to Kickstart Journaling

15 Inspiring Journal Ideas to Kickstart Journaling

Journaling is a powerful tool that can help sharpen your brain and mind so that you can become more successful, think more clearly, and reach your goals.

Journaling is one of the top strategies that contribute to many entrepreneurs and high achievers’ success inside and outside the workplace.

Maybe you’re unsure of how to get started with the habit of journaling, or maybe you’re looking for journal ideas to sharpen your brain to maximize your productivity and happiness.

In this article, we’ll look at the top 15 journal ideas you can use to sharpen your brain:

1. Set a Structure for Your Journal

If the idea of opening a blank journal and trying to figure out what to write for the day seems daunting to you, then have no fear. One of the simplest ideas to avoid having to think about what to write about in your journal is to create a structure that works well for you.

First, think about what your goal is with journaling. Is it to increase your productivity? Be more creative? De-stress?

Knowing the reason why you are journaling will help you create a structure for your own journal. You can create a list of questions that you want to answer every day or action steps.

For example, you may structure your journal like this:

  • What am I grateful for today? (Give 5 meaningful examples)
  • What are the top 3 tasks I need to accomplish today?
  • What goals am I currently working towards?
  • How do I want to better myself today?

Get inspiration from other people who journal and start implementing the structure that works best for you. Having a set structure that you use every day can make journaling more effective and easier to stick with.

2. Use To-Do Lists to Hack Your Dopamine

Many people use journaling as a way to manage their tasks and to-do lists. One brain hacking strategy is to cross out your accomplished tasks with red ink.

It may seem silly, but when your brain recognizes the bright red ink crossing out a task that has been performed, it helps stimulate a release of dopamine, your reward and motivation neurotransmitter.

Dopamine is what allows you to feel the reward of accomplishing a task, but it also will help increase your motivation, which can help you become more productive, focused, and motivated to continue journaling.

3. Write Just One Sentence (Seriously)

For some, the idea of having to sit down for more than 5 minutes and write a long entry every single time can make journaling feel more like homework than a helpful habit.

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There are no rules or requirements for journaling. You don’t need at least 500 words with an introduction, body, and conclusion. If you want, you could even do as little as just one sentence.

Maybe it’s a busy day and you simply don’t have the time you usually do to sit down and journal. Writing just a sentence or two can help your brain continue the habit of journaling so that it can stick. It can also take some pressure off of you from feeling like you have to write more, just because that’s what you are “supposed” to do.

Also allowing yourself to write less forces your brain to hone into what’s important. If you only have a few sentences to write, most likely you won’t write about what you want to have for lunch, you’ll focus on what’s truly important at that moment.

4. End Your Entry with Your Top Goals (Day, Month, Lifetime)

A great idea for seamlessly transitioning from journaling to starting your day is to end your journal entry with your top goals or tasks. Typically, you’ll write out your current goals for the day ahead, whether they be for work, diet, or fitness. This helps to prime your brain to look forward to the day ahead.

You can also include your bigger goals for the month, year, or even for your life. By writing your goals down on regular basis, it helps orient your brain and your decisions toward the direction of your goals.

It’s the steady reminder of what you are working towards so that you can achieve it as quickly as possible.

Need a little help in how to set goals? This article can help: How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life

5. End Your Day with Journaling

Many first-timers to journaling are under the impression that you need to journal first thing in the morning. Although journaling first thing in the morning is great, it is not necessary.

Many people choose to journal in the evening as a way to decompress from the day and set the tone for the next day.

Journaling at night also can help you de-stress and write down anything that may be bothering from earlier that day, so that you can get it off your mind, onto paper, and be able to get good sleep.

6. Practice Gratitude

Studies show that practicing gratitude actually helps your brain become better. Practicing gratitude helps activate your hypothalamus, which is part of your limbic system, to help you better regulate your emotions, behaviors, and even improve motivation.[1]

Practicing gratitude first thing in the morning helps your brain gain a positive perspective to start the day. It helps your brain look for the good in the day, rather than only preparing for the worst.

This idea is incredibly simple to implement. Just write down 3-5 things that you are grateful for. You can express gratitude for people, experiences, circumstances, events, or blessings that you may be thankful for.

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The more gratitude you can feel the better, which means you want to try and come up with responses that truly resonate with you (the recent job promotion that allows you and your spouse to travel more) instead of finding generic reasons (food, water, shelter). Although you may be grateful for those things, they may not resonate as deeply.

Learn more about starting a gratitude journal: How a Gratitude Journal and Positive Affirmations Can Change Your Life

7. Write One Positive Thing That Happened in Your Day

What you focus on becomes powerful in your brain. Have you ever had a good day but you couldn’t seem to get past the one bad event that happened that day?

Our brain is trained to look towards the negative as a natural protective response, but you can retrain your brain to focus on the positive.

When you write down one or more positive things that happened that day, it helps your brain reframe the day in a positive light and actually helps to train your brain to focus on the positive aspects of your day rather than the negative.

8. Affirmations

Your thoughts can change your brain. Affirmations are a useful tool for retraining your brain. Affirmations are positive reinforcements to push your brain in the direction you desire.[2]

Do you want to be more confident? You can write down a list of affirmations as a way to retrain your brain to believe what you want to believe. Here’re some affirmations examples:

  • I am fully confident and secure in myself.
  • I am beaming with confidence and self-assurance.
  • I don’t let my insecurities prevent me from reaching my goals.

Write down a few pieces of gratitude every morning to direct your brain in the direction of your goals to start the day.

You can find more affirmations ideas here: 10 Positive Affirmations for Success that will Change your Life

Or try one of these affirmations apps: 10 Uplifting Positive Affirmation Apps That Help You Re-Center on the Go

9. Restate Your Purpose and Mission

Why did you wake up today?

What’s the purpose and mission of your day? Are you currently working towards a specific goal?

Being able to state your mission and purpose helps to set the intention for your day ahead so that every action and choice you make during the day is directed towards your purpose and mission.

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This allows you to be able to say no to activities that may be taking you away from your goal. Then you can stay focused on the activities that will keep you in alignment with your purpose and mission.

Want to learn more about the importance of having a purpose? This article has some good advice: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

10. Unload Your Stress

We all have those difficult and challenging events that life inevitably throws our way. Often times, we have a tendency to hold onto that stress and ruminate over it. Holding onto that stress can begin effect not only our work life but our personal life as well.

Chronic stress is one of the biggest killers of brain health and performance. Research shows that chronic or extreme stress can actually cause your brain to shrink.[3]

Have you ever felt less stressed after talking to someone about the challenges you are facing? Unloading your stress into a journal entry is a similar strategy.

By unloading your stress into your journal, it can help your brain de-stress and even help you get a different perspective on the problem.

11. Reflect on Old Journal Entries

If you were trying to lose weight for several months and felt like you didn’t get the results you were hoping for but then you decided to weigh yourself, you might realize you actually lost more weight than you thought.

Change happens slowly and often times we don’t realize how much we have actually grown in the months or years that have passed.

A helpful aspect of journaling is that after you have been practicing the habit for some time, you can reflect back on old entries.

Reflecting on old journal entries gives your brain an overview of that change that has occurred from the old entry until now, which can help motivate your brain to keep going.

12. Brainstorm

Are you currently feeling stuck on a problem and not sure what’s going to be the next best step? Journaling can help your brain get more clarity on the best solution.

Being able to lay out all aspects of the problem on paper can help your brain better work the problem so you can get to the best solution quicker and easier than trying to process just in your head.

Looking at the same problem through a different lens gives you a whole new picture that can help you solve it.

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13. Tell a Story

Creativity is like a muscle – if you don’t use it, you lose it. Your brain loves routine but if you do the same journal routine over and over, your brain doesn’t change.

Instead of your normal routine of journaling, mix it up by telling a story. This trains your brain to become more creative, adaptable, and changeable.

Writing a story helps your brain break free from routine and start thinking outside the box. This can help improve your creativity in other aspects of your life as well.

14. Check-In with Your Goals

As we discussed earlier, many use their journal as a place to write down their goals. As you progress, you can use journal entries to check-in with yourself to see how you are tracking towards your goals.

Maybe you realize that you are not as close to your goal as you hoped. Below your discovery, write down a few action steps to get you back on course toward hitting your goals.

15. Create Compelling Vision

If you want to become more motivated, then you need something compelling to look forward to.

Unclear goals or destinations rarely get reached. The clearer the vision, the easier it will be for your brain to visualize and attain that outcome.

In a perfect world, what would your ideal future look like? Where would you live? How much money are you making? What kind of car do you drive? Where do you get to travel?

Creating this compelling future is a fun idea to help your brain become more motivated to achieve that goal.

Bottom Line

Just like anything else, journaling gets better with time and practice. So, give journaling some time.

At first, it may feel a bit awkward; but over time you’ll find your rhythm and routine that best suits your goals, your lifestyle, and your personality.

If you’re ready to take your journaling to the next level, start incorporating these 15 journaling ideas to take your brain power to the next level.

More About Journaling

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Oxford Academic: The Neural Basis of Human Social Values: Evidence from Functional MRI
[2] The Annual Review of Psychology: The Psychology of Change: Self-Affirmation and Social Psychological Intervention
[3] CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2006 Oct; 5(5): 503–512.: Stress and Brain Atrophy

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