Sometimes, simple coping tactics can help when you’re stressed. Journaling is a habit that may help more than you might expect.

Journaling is an activity many people have enjoyed for decades, whether it’s to organize our thoughts or to nourish writing skills.

Journaling simply means writing down your thoughts and feelings. This seemingly simple act has proven benefits in managing stress and coping with mental health conditions.

Some 2021 research shows that journaling helps reduce stress. And a 2018 study says that journaling is associated with fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.

A stress relief journal is also known as a stress relief notebook or stress management journal, or an anxiety journal if you live with this condition.

Although journaling may seem like a chore at first, there are many benefits. Here’s why journaling is good for you, and tips to help make it become a habit.

Journaling can be a tool to cope with stress and mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression.

In fact, 2018 research shows that writing down our deepest feelings and thoughts can improve our physical and psychological well-being.

Journaling may help you feel in control of your emotions. If you live with anxiety or depression, journaling can help you cope with the condition. Journaling can help you:

  • identify fears or concerns that may be causing you stress or anxiety
  • recognize triggers that exacerbate feelings of stress
  • manage your stress more efficiently in the future
  • practice positive self-talk to build your confidence
  • identify and reduce unhelpful thoughts and behaviors

There are many types of journals that can help you relief stress.

While you can start with a simple notebook and pen, there are other types of journals that can help spark thoughts and creativity. These include:

Once you’ve chosen a type of journal, you can consider establishing a routine. There are steps you can take to adopt a journaling habit for stress relief, such as:

Set aside time to journal every day

Setting time to write every day, even if it’s just 5 to 10 minutes, can be helpful.

Though it can sometimes be difficult to carve out time for journaling, even spending a minute or two journaling each day can provide benefits.

Creating a schedule can help you to stick with the habit, and journaling can help you decompress and achieve mental clarity.

Keep it simple

It can be a fun notebook, a proper journal, or a plain notepad or spiral notebook — the medium in which you journal doesn’t matter.

You may also find it easier and more helpful to keep a journal on your smartphone, either through a designated journaling app or on your Notes app.

Choose the format that best suits you and with which you feel most comfortable for writing down your thoughts and feelings.

And, remember, just keeping a pen and paper — or your phone — on hand is key for developing and nourishing the habit of journaling.

Keep it free of rules

Creating a routine for journaling is important. But if it’s too rigid, doesn’t work well for you, and ends up creating more stress, you have another option.

You can also journal whenever the mood strikes.

A key part of journaling is consistency, but not necessarily structure. Regular journaling may allow you to identify themes quickly.

Additionally, your journal doesn’t need to follow a certain structure when it comes to how you write. Just write your words and ideas as they flow and come to you. Don’t worry about spelling and grammar errors.

You can also use the space to draw if that helps to improve your mood or spark creativity.

Decide if you want to share it

You can use your journal as you see fit. While you don’t have to share your journal with anyone, you may want to share some of your thoughts with your partner, close friends, or family members.

This can be especially helpful if you have trouble talking about your feelings and would rather write them down.

Consider bringing it to therapy

Even if you don’t show your therapist your complete writings, bringing your journal to therapy or talking about it can be helpful during sessions.

Chances are, your therapist will encourage this activity, especially if it’s having a positive effect on your mental health.

Journaling may have positive effects for people who are experiencing stress or symptoms of some mental health conditions.

It may sound like a chore at first, but you may find that journaling can help you create order when it feels like your world is in chaos.

From creating a habit and a routine to choosing pen and paper or a phone, the steps to journaling are simple but have a great potential to improve your mental well-being.

Journaling is only one step on the path to healthy habits and self-care. Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep are lifestyle habits that are key to your well-being.

By focusing on self-care in all aspects of your life, you can work to get a handle on life’s daily stressors.

Looking for a therapist but not sure where to start? Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource can help.