Journaling to Manage Stress
By: Melissa Camacho
If you are feeling overwhelmed by stressful thoughts and emotions, journaling can work to manage your stress levels over time. There are many factors that can cause stress, such as feeling frustrated at work, adapting to big changes in your life, battling an illness, and overcoming painful situations (Stress). When you experience any event related to these factors, it impacts emotional responses, which later has an effect on your overall well-being. In this article, you will learn how journaling can manage and prevent stress from straining your physical and mental health.
How Your Body Reacts to Symptoms of Stress and Chronic Stress
Before diving into the physical effects of stress, our bodies naturally respond to stress through the “flight-or-fight” part of the brain known as the hypothalamus (Pietrangelo). This means that as you are experiencing a stressful moment, your body normally reacts to fear and frustration. However, feeling stressed at a constant level becomes chronic stress. According to psychological research, chronic stress can weaken your physical health by causing (Stress Effects on the Body):
- Muscle tension in your body
- Causing shortness of breath and rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate, blood pressure, overproduce stress hormones, which all lead to cardiovascular disease, heart attack, or stroke
- Abdominal pain, digestive issues, and bowel disorders
Moreover, chronic stress can also cause memory impairment and reduces the decision-making part of your brain, known as gray matter (6 Ways Stress Affects Your Brain). From looking at the way chronic stress dysregulates your physical health, it hinders your thinking abilities to focus on daily activities and what your goals are. In the next section, you will learn how journaling helps you manage stress by improving your physical and mental health.
How Journaling Improves Your Physical and Mental Health to Manage Stress
Journaling about stressful experiences frames and organizes your thoughts cohesively to narrate a story (Newman). Many people were encouraged to journal their thoughts, worries, fears, and other overwhelming emotions during the COVID-19 pandemic to release stress and reduce symptoms related to depression and anxiety (Walker). In the process of framing your thoughts, you help boost brain activity in the area that is responsible for planning, reasoning, and problem-solving, known as the frontal lobe (How Does Writing Affect Your Brain). Journaling also helps to boost your immune system by strengthening the immune cells in your body as it protects you from bacteria and fights diseases (Phillips). By understanding the research that validates the benefits of journaling to relieve stress, you can break through the silence of emotional pain and frustration through journaling or expressive writing.
Because it’s your story, it’s also crucial to embrace the flexibility you have to express your emotions. You can do that by trying various ways of journaling to help explore the reasons that lead to chronic stress, depression, and anxiety. As you move on to the next section, you will see how you can use mental, physical, and cognitive journaling benefits to your advantage in managing stress.
Ways You Can Use Journaling or Expressive Writing to Manage Stress
Let’s start primarily with using a stress relief journal where you first write to release, organize, and identify your thoughts and emotions. The more you practice journaling with a stress relief journal, the better you’ll become at recognizing emotional patterns and be in control of your emotions (Benton). You can try transitioning from using a stress relief journal to journaling online, or digital journaling. According to research, digital journaling is highly feasible in managing stress by (Newman):
- Giving you instant access to your journals where you can retrieve old and new journal entries
- Keeping your mind more focused on your experiences and achievements, like online gratitude journaling
- Helping you further discover and have a sense of what your desires and future goals are
- Encouraging you to discover creative ways to express your emotions and narrate your story through an interactive multimedia platform
As you can see, journaling manages stress through your own transformation. Whether you prefer to journal on paper or online, you are embarking on your journey towards self-awareness, self-confidence, and self-empowerment. Because journaling or expressive writing helps you gain control over your emotions, you recognize your inner strengths. In addition, you move through directions that map out your goals and desires–thanks to the impact journaling has on your cognitive abilities and well-being.
You can manage stressful thoughts and emotions that you feel hinders your thinking abilities through The Love Story’s journaling program. Our digital journaling site also provides you with the opportunity to explore your creative abilities in narrating your story. It’s a useful healing process that allows you to release intense emotions, validate your experiences, and develop an insight into your true purpose and meaning in life.
“How Does Writing Affect Your Brain” NeuroRelay. 07 Aug 2013. https://neurorelay.com/2013/08/07/how-does-writing-affect-your-brain/
“6 Ways Stress Affects Your Brain” Premier Neurology & Wellness Center. Accessed 07 Dec 2022.
“Stress” Mind. Accessed 07 Dec 2022. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/stress/causes-of-stress/
“Stress Effects on The Body” American Psychological Association. 01 Nov 2018
Benton, Emilia “The Benefits of Journaling for Stress Relief” Psych Central. 25 April 2022.
Newman, Kira M. “Can a Digital Gratitude Journal Help Nurses Under Stress?” Greater Good Magazine – Science Center. 24 Nov 2021
Newman, Kira M. “How Journaling Can Help You in Hard Times” Greater Good Magazine – Science Center. 18 Aug 2020
Phillips, Hedy. “5 Benefits of Journaling for Mental Health and How to Start” CNET. 19 Oct 2022
Walker, Brandi “Getting Your Thoughts Out: Why Journaling Relieves Stress” Step Up for Mental Health. 20 Aug 2020