One of the strategies I have been using to manage anxiety and stress is to write in a “worry journal” every night:
I mentioned this as part of my review of The Power of Rest book last week (you can read that review here), and a few readers asked that I expand on how it works or, at least, how I do it. Note: I had originally planned to share a new cookbook review and giveaway today, but yesterday’s political events made this post seem more appropriate.
Dr. Edlund, the author of the book and a sleep expert, describes this method in full in his book as part of his “Sleep Makeover Day 5: Learning Not to Worry.” The basic premise is that if you take 5 minutes to write down the top worries on your mind, as well as a simple solution, then it eases the stress on your mind and can help prevent middle of the night worrying that keeps so many of us awake.
Just to be sure, you don’t want to do this right before bed, you should ideally do it 1-2 hours before going to sleep. You want your solutions to be at the top of your mind in case you wake up, but you don’t want to risk increasing your thoughts and potentially creating more stress.
It really does seem like a simple thing to do, but I’m telling you, it’s worked wonders for me. I’ll give you an example of some worries/solutions that I write down (try to shoot for 3-5 a night).
- I am worried about the results of the election. Solution: Recognize that I need to remain trusting in the system and hopeful about people and the future.
- I am worried about my upcoming root canal procedure. Solution: I need to trust in the fact that I found a good doctor and she knows what she’s doing. I will be taking all the precautions to make sure I am relaxed and not in pain.
- I am worried about the thyroid tests that I have to do in a few weeks. Solution: I recognize that my concern about these tests is related to my history of thyroid cancer, and not based on anything concrete. I will do the appropriate lab tests and the follow-up with my doctor when the time comes.
See? It doesn’t take long, but it helps get out any frustrations or concerns about the day, and puts it in perspective. Dr. Edlund acknowledges that some worries are so intense/real that there aren’t obvious solutions, but even just noting to take things “one day at a time” can be a comforting solution for now.
Another suggestion I came up with after writing in my worry journal for the last several weeks: finish every entry with a list of at least 5 things you are grateful for right now. My list often looks something like this:
I am grateful for the healthy foods I ate today, the chat I had with my friend, the walk I took this morning in the fresh air, the snuggle I had with my cat, the flowers I saw on my walk, the feel of the fresh air coming through the window right now, etc.
There are so many books and studies on gratitude and its positive effects on health, there’s no question that making it a daily practice is beneficial for health. Is this helpful? Do you want to see more posts related to managing stress and anxiety? Let me know in the comments; I love hearing from you.
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