The stress we carry can feel heavier first thing in the morning and just before we fall asleep. During the day, stress may weigh on us but there is plenty of distraction; work, family, appointments, to-do lists, our digital devices and other daily bits and pieces can keep us just above the spiral. It’s in those quiet moments on each side of sleep when we have time to get carried away by our thoughts. These journaling prompts to relieve stress can help us calm and engage our busy minds.
Journaling can help us move through stress, and even let go of some of it. By writing it down, we can see what’s in our control and what isn’t (most of it isn’t). Or, we can write about other things to add perspective, clarity, distraction and even humor when we may not feel like laughing. Don’t worry about punctuation or grammar, spelling or other editing. Just take the stress off of your insides and put it on paper. Looking at the words will help you see things for what they really are, maybe lead to action (maybe not), and will give you room to breathe easier.
If you don’t know where to start, use one of the writing prompts below first thing in the morning or just before you fall asleep.
Writing Prompts: morning
When I wake up, my mind wants to jump into everything. It wants to know … What’s happening today? What about that thing that’s bothering me? When will I have coffee? What’s going on with everyone I love? Many other questions and thoughts pop up too which is why my morning routine is so important. I know what I’m going to do when I wake up so my mind can calm down a little bit. The morning routine adds a little bit of certainty to the uncertainty of life.
When you start to journal, jot down one of these prompts at the top of the page, set a timer for fifteen minutes and go. At the end of fifteen minutes, stand-up, take a deep breath in and let it all go. Notice if you feel lighter or if you feel like writing more. The journaling process is just for you. You don’t have to share it or even reread it. Use the prompts that work for you and let the rest go.
1. Even though I’m working through a stressful situation, I know the following five things will make me feel better (add at least one of these things to your to-do list, to the top of the list).
2. How do I feel in my body right now? Where am I holding my stress and tension?If I was talking to a five-year-old, how would I describe how I was feeling?
3. Describe a place you’ve always wanted to visit. How would it feel to book the trip? What would you pack? How long would you stay?
4. The best advice I’ve ever received is …
5. Describe that one friend who makes you laugh so hard you cry. Recall one of those times when you couldn’t stop laughing.
6. Even though I can’t change my situation today, if I do this one tiny thing, I’ll be moving in the right direction.
7. Instead of thinking about this problem (that I have no control over) today, this is what I can do to help someone else.
8. What are you holding on to that’s holding you down? What can you let go of right now (without losing a thing)? – I borrowed this from these summer journaling prompts.
9. Make a list of ten things you can do to take really good care of yourself today.
10. Even though I’m stressed or upset, I can’t help but smile when …
Writing Prompts: evening
My favorite time to think all the thoughts is just before I close my eyes to sleep (and occasionally when I wake up in the middle of the night). You may notice your thoughts run in loops, never fully solving a problem or getting you anywhere but closer to the morning. Don’t go there. As soon as you notice that your brain is spinning, grab a pen and notebook, write down one of these evening journaling prompts at the top of the page and turn your thoughts into words.
1. This might keep me up at night unless I write it down.
2. Write about the most peaceful place you’ve ever visited or heard about.
3. If I let go of this situation completely, this is what it would feel like.
4. If I still feel like I need help working through this tomorrow, I’ll ask the following people or Google this question.
5. Aside from my thoughts, here are some other things that may be keeping me up at night. What would it be like if I eliminated them from my life for thirty days?
6. Where do I want to visit in my dreams tonight?
7. This is what I would tell my best friend if she was struggling or having trouble falling asleep and called me right now.
8. The funniest movie I ever watched was _____________. Here’s why it made me laugh so hard.
9. Write about building your perfect sandwich (yes total distraction). What’s on it, what does it look like, where are you when you are devouring it?
10. I promise to revisit this in the morning, but tonight I’ll leave it on paper.
Journal when you need it most with one of these prompts, or one of your own, or challenge yourself to journal every day for a whole month. Even just a few minutes a day will help you create a practice so stressful situations don’t always feel like an emergency or crisis. Daily journaling will help you create a reserve of calm and resilience to relieve stress and allow you to respond to stress in a more calm, thoughtful, healthy way.