20 Journal Prompts for Stress, Anxiety, and Self Growth

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Boy oh boy has 2020 been a rollercoaster and we’re only halfway through. Here’s a little rundown of the marvel that 2020 has been so far:

  • World War III scare
  • Australian fires
  • Death of Kobe Bryant
  • Trump’s impeachment trial (really feels like a lifetime ago, tbh)
  • Coronavirus (duh)
  • Murder hornets
  • Bernie dropped out of the presidential race
  • The economy is practically in shambles
  • Police brutality (not new, but a defining feature of this year)
  • Basically every significant member of Hollywood and the U.S. government exposed as pedophiles by Anonymous on Twitter
  • … and more!

For better or for worse, 2020 will be seared into every single person’s brain for as long as they’ll be alive. Everything that has occurred in the past six months is heavy af. The accessibility of information on social media and the 24 hour news cycle is super toxic as well, and it can be very easy to spiral down a rabbit hole of doom and only come out days later.

Checking up on yourself is always important, but it’s required now more than ever before. Journaling is one of my favorite activities to check in on my mental health because it’s a surprisingly versatile activity. I’ll rant when I’m stressed or angry, I’ll just write down little parts of my day to stay mindful, or I’ll describe my goals to pick me up when I feel stuck.

Sometimes it can be difficult to know what to write about or to get motivated to pick up the pen. These 20 prompts are meant to help you get started writing when you’re feeling any type of way!

Journal prompts for stress…

  • Write down your ideal self-care routine. Go in depth about each ritual and how they make you feel, emotionally and physically. Visualize going through this routine, and if you have time, actually do it.
  • Write down your top 10 favorite things in the entire world. Maybe your list includes clean sheets, a good playlist, or a hot cup of coffee. Choose a couple items from that list and engage in them in some way.
  • This exercise is little different: Drop the pencil and pick up a marker or colored pencil or pen. When I’m stressed, it helps for me to dedicate my mind elsewhere to a very methodical task. I like to draw “zen doodles” which are just detailed patterns. Google “zen doodles” and fill a couple pages in your journal with them.
  • Describe every single detail around you. What does the air smell like? Is it hot or cold? Are you sitting in a chair or on your bed? How does that feel? What do you see? Often times when I’m stressed, I can get very existential about every issue in the world and I become overwhelmed with the gravity of it all. By focusing on the minutia around you, you can ground yourself back into reality.

For when you feel stuck…

  • Write down 3 long-term goals you’ve always wanted to accomplish but never gotten around to. Why do you want to do these things? Why haven’t you started yet? How will you feel once you complete them?
    • Make a vision board for each of these goals.
    • Write down the next steps for working towards these goals. Do one of these tasks each week/month.
A vision board I’ve made for myself. All photo creds to Pinterest
  • Write where you want to be in 5 years, 10 years, and 20 years. Where are you living? What’s your job? Do you have a partner or a family? Any pets? What does your future bedroom look like?
  • Create a little “glow up” check list. Mind, body, and soul. Could you start reading a new book? Shake thinks up with a new haircut? Learn a new skill?
  • Try out some visualization. Journal an exact scenario that you want to happen. Maybe you want a certain someone to text you, or maybe you want to be picnicking on the banks of the Seine at some point in your future. Write every detail on that specific scenario from the first person and in present tense. Close your eyes and imagine that scenario in your head.

Journal prompts for when you feel angry…

  • Set the timer for 10 minutes and write everything that comes to mind. It’s your journal, so grammar and spelling don’t matter. Nothing needs to make sense, just let it out. To physically “let it go” rip out the pages and get rid of them (burn them, tear them up, recycle them, etc).
  • If you are angry with a specific person, imagine a conversation between the two of you. Imagine what they would say, and write down everything you would want to say in response.
  • If you are angry with yourself, write down ten positive affirmations. A few examples: I am strong. I am loved. I am good at what I do. I have control over my body and my actions, etc. Now say them out loud.
  • If you are not angry with any specific person but maybe the world as a whole or a specific institution, write a letter or a message to someone in the future. Maybe it’s your future children or just a future person in the world. Write everything that’s bothering you and what you feel like needs to happen to resolve those problems. Think of this message as a documentation of history and a call to action for that future person. You never know who might find your writing decades from now. If the world looks different in the future, your message preserves what it looks like now. If the world looks the same, your call to action encourages someone from the future to change it.

When you feel defeated or unmotivated…

  • Who are 5 of your role models? Why do you look up to them? How do they motivate you to be a better person?
  • What are 3 things you were grateful for today? Describe them. How did they make you feel?
  • What are 10 things you are proud of? Did you finish your semester strong? Have you received good feedback on a project? Did you cross everything off your to-do list today? Whatever you feel proud of, write it down.
  • A simple to-do list is great for getting motivated. Don’t make it too long, just 3 or 4 simple tasks that you can do today. Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started.

Journal prompts when you need a distraction…

  • Write a letter to your 30 year old self. What’s happening in your life right now? What are you working towards? Who are your friends, what’s your favorite music, etc. What questions do you have for your future self?
  • Plan out an itinerary for a huge vacation. Where do you want to go? What sights do you want to see? What do you want to learn? What food would you like to try? You could also print out a few photos of these places and make a collage.
  • Make a bucket list of every movie and TV series you’ve ever wanted to watch. Give yourself some downtime every night to watch an episode or a movie from that list.
  • Imagine living a different life. Maybe your “dream” life. How would you do life if you could start over? Where are you living? What do you do in your free time? What are you studying? How do you dress? Do you travel? Now… think about how much of this life you have yet to live. You can start living parts of that dream life today 🙂

I hope some of these journal prompts come in handy for the rest of the year. I can only imagine what we have in store… Remember that caring for yourself is always an essential task. We live in a hustle culture, and with much more time spent at home, it can be easy to get down on yourself about a lack of “productivity.” In my opinion, doing what you need to do to recharge or take a break is productive, so never feel like it’s a waste of time. These journal prompts are just one way to do it, but do what you feel like you need to do to be your best self.

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