Exploring Feelings by Writing a Journal

February 23, 2018

Keeping a Journal – for Self-care and reflective healing

When we are struggling with something difficult in life and feeling depressed or anxious; we can often be so caught up with feelings and thoughts in our mind, it can feel like a churning washing machine going round and round with no formulation of clear ideas. Writing a journal can help disrupt this cycle of thoughts.

journalI often suggest journalling to my clients when they are finding it difficult to process painful emotions and thoughts and when dealing with anxiety. The very act of getting some of these thoughts onto a page can allow structure to form and release us from the inner repeating thoughts. It can effectively provide some freedom from the noise and the pain. It can allow us to begin to explore the ideas more succinctly and clearly and extrapolate important relevant feelings from negative ways of thinking. This in turn helps the healing process to begin.

How to Start Writing your Journal

how to start writing a journalThere is no right way or wrong way to do this.
You might want to set aside as little as ten minutes or more than thirty minutes a day, possibly at the same time or when you are pulled to do so. It generally helps to write a little every day to keep the momentum going.

You may choose to write by hand on paper – and therefore unable to edit and change your initial thoughts – a kind of ‘stream of consciousness’. It’s important to be able to freely write without your ‘internal critic’ rubbishing your writing. Brainstorming or mind-mapping ideas can be a useful way to link ideas and thoughts if it feels a bit too much to write on a blank sheet of paper. If you very much prefer to write on a computer, then switch the grammar autocorrect off and resist the urge to read and edit as you go along – this might not be easy as we are so used to this editing process when using a keyboard. It’s important for you to recognise that all your ideas and thoughts have value. If you haven’t written by hand for some time, experiment and try it that way – you might surprise yourself and find enjoyment in a new experience.

What to Write in the Journal

What to write in the journalThis is the opportunity to write about anything that comes to mind. You may have jotted a few words down earlier or have a few thoughts that have been repeating throughout the day. This is your chance to explore more and expand on the thoughts and feelings. You could write about feelings from conversations had during the day, emotions you felt, things people have said to you. Give yourself permission to be honest. You may find it difficult to be honest with yourself or with others at times and this is an opportunity not to self-censure.

You might find it helpful to write to a particular person (without necessarily wanting or needing to send or give it to them). It could be something you find extremely difficult to say to someone and writing it down may help you to deal with the pain. It could be that the person is no longer with you or you’re unable to talk to them. Try not to plan or think too much about what you are writing, just allow the words to flow. Don’t worry about spellings, grammar or meaning – this is private unless you choose to show someone else. Editing and considering sentence construction will stop the flow and block the emotions. Consider using drawings if you are able to communicate easily that way.

Allow Time to Reflect on your Writing

Reading and reflecting on what you have written allows you to revisit, remember and see your journey forwards.

Write a date on your entries for when you return and reflect.

  • Do you still feel the same way about the issue/decision/feelings etc?
  • Do you need to challenge your original thoughts?
  • Are you able to look back and analyse whether your thinking was accurate/ misguided or biased for example?
  • Can you identify particular triggers for certain behaviours or ways of thinking?

Perhaps a little time to move on from the thoughts allows you to reconsider and feel differently.

Writing a Journal when ‘Everything is Ok’

Writing a journal provides an opportunity to explore thoughts and feelings even when it feels nothing much is an issue, everything is moving along smoothly. If you know you are the type of person who bottles up emotions to enable to you cope and carry on, you may find that writing about current or past painful feelings and troubles can allow you to move the pain from somewhere deep inside you, to outside of you and can also help with the healing process.
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Some people like to buy a special book to use and like to find a place where it can be kept private.

Journalling should also be an enjoyable process. If it is causing you more pain, perhaps discussing this further with a counsellor or psychotherapist may be useful.

If you would like to get in contact with Claire at Insight Counselling, you may use the Contact Form or email info@insightcounsellingbrighton.co.uk

 

Mental health apps – daily tools for stress and anxiety

August 22, 2017

Are you the kind of person who uses their mobile phone to organise, keep notes, sync calendars and even check step count? You might find using a mobile phone app to support your mental health journey could also be beneficial.

Mental Health Apps

There are lots of different types of apps that you could try. At Insight Counselling, the mental health app Pacifica has been trialled over the last six months with some really good results. Clients find it easy to use, helpful to record moods and feelings and to carry out CBT thought experiments. There are also audio mindfulness meditations and self-help CBT advice.

It’s free unless you wish to delve deeper, so worth taking a look.

How can therapy help me and my anxiety?

February 25, 2017

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Anxiety is a word that gets thrown around a lot and can mean different things to different people. Essentially, it’s used to describe feeling uneasy, worried and afraid and the mental and physical effects this can cause. For example, before sitting an exam it’s natural to feel scared, worried, sick, have stomach cramps, etc.

So when does anxiety stop being a natural response to a stressful event and turn into something more significant?

Anxiety is caused by the ‘fight or flight response’. A normal biological reaction to when we feel threatened, and something that has been with us since the dawn of man. When your body feels under threat it automatically releases hormones that physically prepare you to fight the danger, or run away from it.

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Although we don’t have much use for the fight or flight response anymore – we’re unlikely to be charged at by a woolly mammoth any time soon, our biological reactions to it remains.


Anxiety becomes a problem when the fight or flight response stays switched on and the physical and mental symptoms have an impact on your quality of life.

Long term anxiety can be extremely difficult, and is often experienced alongside other illnesses such as depression and chronic pain. One of the key difficulties is that anxiety can lead to you feeling trapped within a ‘vicious circle’. When you’re feeling low and run down you tend to avoid activity because you don’t have the energy for it, or just can’t muster the motivation. This can lead to you feeling guilty and that you haven’t achieved as much as the ‘healthy’ you would have – you don’t feel like the person you used to be anymore. This makes you feel worse and you avoid more activity and you seem stuck in this never ending circle.

As anxiety can affect your health and wellbeing in numerous ways it is important to figure out the causes and find a way of resolving the anxiety whilst managing the symptoms. Although self-help and medication are useful in reducing symptoms, research has shown that therapy is usually the most effective option when it comes to treating anxiety.

Therapy looks at the causes of triggers and any underlying issues that might aggravate it rather than just treating the symptoms.
One starting point to be used in combination with other therapeutic approaches is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT uses the basis that it’s the way you think and react to a situation that’s causing the anxiety, rather than the situation itself. CBT challenges the way you think in a process called ‘cognitive restructuring’.

It’s a three step process that involves:

  1. Identifying the negative thought processes
  2. Challenging the negative thoughts
  3. Replacing the negative thoughts with realistic thoughts

CBT may also include learning to recognise when you’re anxious and what that feels like for you – often there are some signs that anxiety is going to kick in that when you learn to recognise what they feel like, can help you prevent the anxiety from kicking in.

Therapy gives you the tools to be able to manage the symptoms of anxiety and employ coping mechanisms and relaxation techniques to lessen its impact on you and your life.

Whilst self-help alone may not be effective in treating your anxiety, it is useful when combined with therapy. From writing a journal or diary to help figure out patterns of thinking, or even identifying triggers; through to mindfulness and breathing exercises that can help you through a panic attack. For some great tips and ideas for self-help visit the Mind website


CBT is best used as a ‘holding approach’– it’s useful for managing the anxiety and lessen its impact with a supportive counsellor guiding you through and challenging the negative thinking, but often there are deep rooted issues causing or aggravating your anxiety. So in the long term, it’s important that these issues are resolved through exploration and discussion with an experienced counsellor.

There are various kinds of therapeutic approaches that can be used to discover these causes which are tailored to your needs, problems and requirements ensuring that you get what you really need out of therapy.

room3Having an open mind is important when starting therapy as the process can be a difficult one with long-term thoughts that have to be challenged and adjusted. However, it is effective in treating anxiety and can mean the difference between coping with your anxiety and living your life how you want to.

 

Claire ScottFor a more in-depth discussion about how therapy can help you contact Claire at claire@insightcounsellingbrighton.co.uk to arrange your initial consultation.

 

In the meantime, check out these YouTube videos that you may find useful.