Stress and anxiety can cause our thoughts to race around our head – often worries about the past or the future. This can feel overwhelming and like you cannot “switch off”. As a results, you may experience difficulties concentrating or sleeping, and feel on edge all the time. Here are four reasons that writing your anxious thoughts down can help:
1. Releasing physical tension
The act of writing down can help to release any tension or restlessness that we are experiencing as a result of our anxiety or stress. We may find ourselves writing fast, scribbling across the pages – and then slowing down as our arm gets tired and the restlessness starts leaving our body.
2. Slowing down our thoughts
In the start, we may feel like we cannot write fast enough to capture all the thoughts coming in, but after a few minutes, thoughts will come in slower. Our brain has the chance to engage with the thoughts separately as they appear in front of us on the page. We may become aware of how we are repeating ourselves and have more time to focus on each thought separately.
3. Organizing our thoughts
As we see our thoughts unfold in front of us, we may recognize patterns of topics and feelings. This can help us to bring some organisation into our thoughts rather than have them swirl around our heads with nothing to latch onto. Over time, this can take our self-reflections to a deeper level and help us get a better understanding of our ourselves. In the moment, this can help to reduce anxiety by giving us a sense of control over our thoughts.
4. Compartmentalizing our thoughts
Often, our anxiety self-perpetuates by making us feel like we have all these things we must remember, that could go wrong and that we need to protect ourselves from. Writing these down can reassure the brain that we will not forget them and that we can come back to them later. Even better, if we can literally close the book on the thoughts and file them away until we are ready to engage with them from a calmer state of mind.
5. Keeping a record
Keeping thought records can also be helpful to help us look back on what we were experiencing in the past. This can help us remember healthy coping strategies that previously worked for us, anxieties that we have overcome and persistent beliefs that we still need to work on. It can also help us identify where some of the triggers we have today may have come from. This can help build our self-awareness and our confidence in managing stressors in the here-and-now.