Anxiety: How Journal Writing Helps

Anxiety: How Journal Writing Helps.

My first diary may have been pink or blue with flowers or peace signs, I’m not sure. But I know the mounted metal lock and flimsy key made me think it was secure. As a fourth grader who liked a boy in my class, it was a treasure box for my secret desires. It later became a way to process anxiety.

Anxiety Journal

Handwriting in a journal is one of the most intricate and complex things our brains can do. Without an outlet, those neurons can take you on trails of negativity, worry, and harsh self-talk. Even when you write down a list or phrases in a journal, you release those unwanted thoughts and focus on more important things, like the project or task that needs your full attention.

Then you can close the journal and use your mental energy toward living in the moment. The toxic thoughts transfer from your head to the journal.

Learn to live in the moment. Transfer uninvited thoughts from your head to your journal. Click To Tweet

Anxiety Appointment

For those who struggle with anxiety, I encourage them to find a 30 minute time frame at the same time every day to write in a special journal just for those anxious moments. You begin to train your anxious thoughts to associate a physical journal as a place to land.

When anxiety rears it’s ugly head at uninvited times, you can tell it, “I’m busy now. You’ll need to wait for your appointment later today.”

Journal Writing – Growth Beyond Anxiety

When your anxious thoughts are written down and closed up in a physical book, you can put it on the shelf or hide it under the mattress. It’s there when you need it again. Or it’s there when the anxiety is no longer haunting. Or it’s there when you’re far enough removed from it that you can look back and celebrate how far you’ve grown out of them. Like looking at a picture of your immature self that doesn’t even look like you any more.

Handwriting in a journal is one of the most intricate and complex things our brains can do for well-being. Click To Tweet

From Anxiety to Gratitude 

The authors of The Five Minute Journal consider daily journal-writing as good for your mental health as brushing and flossing your teeth is for your dental hygiene. You build up plaque in your brain if you go days without writing what you’re thankful for.

The mind is so intricately complicated and we can’t possibly be aware of every automatic thought that takes us on a trail of negative ruminations. But we can direct our thoughts that serve us well. The habit of writing down what we’re thankful for every morning primes our brains before starting our day. We learn to look for amazing things as we reflect and write them down right before going to sleep at night.

Write for Well-being

Our minds are now more complex and stressed with patterns of thinking than our ten year old selves. We’ve outgrown our fourth grade anxieties and diaries with peace signs and flimsy locks. Let’s continue to outgrow our current worries. Let’s appoint a time to write and give our ourselves the well-being to live fully in the present.

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Christmas Anxiety

What To Do With Christmas Anxiety


I sat on a floor pillow in front of our ceramic nativity set; intending to slow down and ponder God’s love and sacrifice. Then Christmas anxiety showed up with messages like:

  • Shouldn’t you be doing something else to get ready for Christmas?
  • You know those packages will be late.
  • What if they don’t like your gifts?
  • Don’t forget to check your balance.
  • And what if you forget. . . ?
Anxiety is a familiar feeling, yet most of us don't pay attention to it's messages. Click To Tweet

For some of us, anxiety shows up often and we’re quick to ignore it by our busy-ness. We look at our happy friends on Facebook. We distract ourselves with emails. We get caught up with a Netflix series. We absorb ourselves in world news. We shop. We volunteer. We work.

We resist the deeper messages of Christmas anxiety.

Years ago, as a single mom, I was anxious about money and ordering my son’s senior pictures on time. As I paid attention to the familiar anxiety sitting on that floor pillow, I noticed the four smiling adolescents (senior pictures) on my wall; airbrushed and unblemished; looking down at me.

What good did that anxiety do me then? My four unblemished adolescents are still unblemished and smiling at me as I sit here on the floor in front of the Nativity set.

The images of shepherds, wise men, Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, along with the sheep and donkey are all unblemished with flowing garments with a sense of wonder on their faces and body gestures. I take that back. One of the donkey’s ears are missing and the other had been glued back on. Other than that, they looked pretty “perfect.”

Allow Christmas anxiety to remind us of what’s real

Any of us who’ve raised adolescent sons and daughters know their lives were far from unblemished and perfect. Even little newborns aren’t “perfect” like we say they are. The Christmas story was far from unblemished with flowing garments. Of course the wise men weren’t even in the story yet.

Our personal and professional lives are far from perfect, yet we present to the public as if they were. Right now I’m spending time trying to perfect this blog post. We want to look good; unblemished, and smiling.

Why do we work so hard for perfect and unblemished images? What is it about the imperfections of our lives we can’t accept? It’s exhausting to keep up with such images. Maybe that’s what anxiety is trying to tell us. Stop trying so hard to be perfect. It’s just an image and not real. 

What if we paid attention to Christmas anxiety? What if we considered any “negative emotion” as a message from God to our souls? Wouldn’t it make our “to do” list seem a bit irrelevant? Why would we want to miss out on the messages God is using – our own emotions? 

Meet God in the midst of Christmas anxiety

Let’s embrace all of our feelings this Christmas season. Consider them messages from God. They’re worthy to notice, remember, and be aware. Let’s accept our imperfections and stay close to what’s real.

Would you join me in this prayer? 

Lord, meet me in this moment. Help me notice what’s real. Help me separate the images from reality. Let me slow down and accept my imperfections. 

Questions to Ponder

What emotions are you experiencing this Christmas season?

What messages are you paying attention to?


Stop Emotional Abuse With Awareness and Apology

During a service commemorating the 15 year anniversary of 911, a woman spoke truth about emotional abuse. She publicly apologized to her eight-year-old daughter for being violent toward her. It wasn’t a matter of hitting or yelling at her child. She said, “I’m sorry for being distracted by social media. I’m sorry for ignoring you.” Her daughter felt invisible and unloved. The mother took responsibility. The issue was subtle emotional abuse. 

Violence defined.

We don’t normally think of our disregard as violent behavior.

Later on my heart sunk as I looked at the diagram from the google search. As a therapist I should know this stuff. This “Power-Control Wheel triggered a gut reaction in me.

We can identify physical abuse more clearly than emotional abuse. Verbal violence and mind manipulation seems even more insidious than physical assaults. Emotional abuse proceeds physical abuse. It’s confusing when the victim believes the made-up story about her partner’s rage. 

“If only I did this or that, then he wouldn’t have gotten so angry. It’s my own fault.”  

“That’s not the way he really is.”

She soaks up the blame in her isolation, shame, and guilt. She believes his accusations as if they were gospel truth about her. 

She believes his accusations as if they were gospel truth about her. Click To Tweet Her self-esteem hangs on the partner’s manipulation. 

Emotional abuse is real.

Some say there’s no such thing as emotional, mental, or verbal abuse. The law protects against physical abuse, but it gives full permission to verbal violence.  The law protects against physical abuse, but it gives full permission to verbal violence. Click To Tweet 

It’s how the Nazi’s broke down the Jews during Hitler’s regime. They used name calling and intimidation before murdering them. What we clearly identify as evil is showing up in our own homes that are meant to be places of safety.

Emotional AbusePower and Control is at the hub of all abuse.The spokes show symptoms from economic abuse to isolation. Other diagrams include categories of social media and spiritual abuse. Entitlement attitudes in perpetrators prey on the low self-esteem of their partners. He regards himself as claiming to know the heart and motives of his victim. 

Please read this wheel thoroughly and open your heart as this mother did for us. Highlight what you’re allowing as “normal.” Choose to call it violence. The enemy is power/control. It’s also our ignorance and silence. 

Our minimizing and secrecy keep the power/control wheel trampling over the hearts of our spouses, our children and our grandchildren.

This is not about vilanizing another human being. Everyone is designed by God to honor the dignity, worth, and lovability of others and themselves. Even labeling a person as “abuser” is name-calling beyond the purpose of identifying the issue of abuse.

Emotional abuse is the enemy.

Those who power over others are shame-driven. Victims and perpetrators devalue themselves and others.  They embrace what’s “normal” in their families and our society.

My gut reaction is the conviction over my own silence, secrecy, ignorance, and minimizing.

We must stand for truth with a capital “T” with what we know. For those of us whose children are grown, let’s apologize. We can’t go back and undo the damage we’ve done to their eight-year-old souls.

Let’s ask each of them now, “Please forgive me for my distractions and disregard for how valuable you really are.  Please forgive me for my distractions and disregard for how valuable you really are. Click To Tweet 

Together, let’s be determined to change our normal. Be aware of emotional abuse and say, “I’m sorry.”

Questions to Ponder

What area on the power/control wheel is normal for you?

Who in your family do you need to apologize to?

How will you change “normal” patterns in your life?


Christian author, Leslie Vernick’s blogs on Emotional Abuse

Emotional Abuse Information

Brene Brown addresses parenting and emotional abuse

Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse


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