Journaling is a well-known method for dealing with anxious thoughts. It can help you slow down your racing thoughts, get mentally organized, sort out your priorities, and more. The problem is, if you’re not used to journaling, the blank page in front of you can be daunting. What do you write?
“One of the techniques we oftentimes use when we are working with people dealing with a lot of anxiety is something called a thought record,” says Susan Samuels, MD, psychiatrist at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine.
A thought record is a tool of cognitive behavioral therapy. The goal is to help you challenge your own thoughts to see if they’re accurate or biased, which can then help you reframe your thinking.
“In this thought record, you would write down whatever that anxious thought is. Allow yourself to feel validated by writing down that thought,” says Dr. Samuels. Resist the urge to judge your own thought or put yourself down for it.
“Then, you write down evidence that would support that thought, and evidence that might not support that thought and go against that thought,” says Dr. Samuels. Evidence may include images or thoughts that led to the negative thought.
The last step is to reflect on everything you have written and synthesize it by reframing your original thought from the start of the activity. Maybe it’s changed a lot; maybe one or two words have changed. The important thing is that you have considered new perspectives and information, and used that info to reframe your thinking.
BTW, if the blank page is still stressing you out, you can create a thought record template or print one from online to give yourself a little more structure.
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