I’m doing pretty well lately. I haven’t cried in almost three weeks (not counting an almost, stilted incomplete cry on Sunday and who counts that?) For me, that is excellent. But lately I can feel the anxiety starting to creep in. I’m trying my best to stormproof myself from as much as possible of the shock of moving back home this Christmas with no job, but the fact that I’ve never worked full-time at my age is one of the things that makes me most ashamed, and I’m terrified of ending up where I was two years ago.
I’m not very good at self-help. I am an expert in self-sabotage. However, if I was going to write a self-help book for people with similar issues as myself, one thing I would recommend for anxiety is keeping a damn journal. I used to keep various diaries when I was a kid and they all inevitably started the same way every book of Babysitters’ Club: Little Sister did: with a lengthy introduction to me and everyone in my family. I always humbly had in mind my future biographers when I wrote in them, so I would keep explaining everything and only write when things felt they had substance. I quit a lot of journals in frustration.
Since last December, I have finally been faithfully keeping a journal and it’s made a huge difference. Different things work for different people, but I can tell you what works for me:
- Do not write for posterity. My journal over the past year is hella embarrassing. I hope no one reads it ever. My thoughts are incredibly shallow and trivial, and a waste of time. I’ve been to been to six countries in the span of time my journals cover, and still it is mostly about the same dumb boy. Do I wish I had a better record of all the awesome cool things I’ve been doing? Yes. But it is so much more useful for me to get all my garbage thoughts on the page than to attempt painstakingly to record things I deem more important.
- Pick a practical one rather than a pretty one. I am a fan of the pocket Moleskine journals. You can keep them in your purse (or backpack or wherever) and that way any time you’re sitting at Starbucks or on the bus with time to kill, rather than look at your phone, you can just write down however you’re feeling. Taking some time to reflect rather than check Facebook is so much better for your mental health, and you’re only going to do it if you have that thing on you at any given moment.Having one that lives your nightstand is great, but I personally just would never use it. Also people looking at you will think you’re hella deep.
- It’s all fair game. I draw pictures, make to-do lists, jot down notes and do whatever else I need in my journal. I basically use it as a scrap of paper that’s always on me. For a while I kept crayons in my purse so I could sit and draw any time. Your journal shouldn’t have to feel like a collection of essays and this is easier if you’re not religious about its contents. If anything and everything goes in there, you won’t feel the desire to make everything sound profound.
Keeping a journal has been so helpful to me. I worry about things 24/7 but sometimes I feel like I’ve exhausted my friends and I know I have nothing new to report. Writing it out is the easiest way to organize my messy thoughts, and it has had a huge effect on mental health I’m sure. I’m starting to feel super stressed right now but I took some time to write it out today and I genuinely feel much better. So that is my advice to everyone, even though I know what works for you might be different. Write, write, write all your shitty thoughts down, and you will see how manageable they truly are.