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Stress Journaling (and how to make it work for you)

“If you’re feeling unmotivated, I know where you’re coming from,” says the YouTuber, who earlier in the video had admitted to planning her schedule and working since around the time she knew how to walk. I resist the urge to click away, because I’m sure she does give good advice, but I can’t help but laugh just a little.

I notice a lot of the personal development squad is like this. Not all of them, but a lot. They try to paint themselves as realistic and attainable, but they’re already on the other side of what hurdles they overcame, and hurdles always look small when you’re viewing them from a distance. When you’ve got your own looming over you, it’s easy to roll your eyes and say, “Oh, but it was easy for them. I can’t do that.”

So, all that said, uh, hi. I’m Jillian. I’m turning 25 in April. Ten years ago I was exhausted, aimless, disorganized and miserable because I was convinced that I needed to give up my dreams because they were impossible to achieve. And today, I . . . still feel a lot of those things, quite frequently! But I’m slowly unlearning them.

And on paper, things are going pretty good for me. In my day job, I was recently promoted to Project Manager, and I’m sort-of on track to take over the business if I continue to grow. I’m working closer to publishing my debut novel, The Songbird’s Refrain, every day. I’ve got a decent work ethic and a genuine desire to learn and grow.

But I’m still growing, and still have a long way to go. I feel lost and confused most of the time. I’m very, very, very frequently distracted. I very rarely feel present in the moment, and I’m pretty much constantly second-guessing myself and my own emotions.

I’m not my “best self” yet. But that’s okay! It doesn’t mean that the “me” I am now is any less amazing or deserving of happiness.

And I’m slowly, slowly learning coping mechanisms for my own challenges. There’s far too many of them to fit in a single blog post, so I’d like to focus on one—stress journaling.

This is the perfect solution for when I get overwhelmed, or I feel like there are just too many things hanging over my head (which, due to the nature of my work, is frequently). When this happens, I take out a notebook and write down every “problem” that I have—every question that’s haunting me, every worry I have, everything that’s distracting me and forcing me into my own head, where everything is too loud and too quiet all at once.

While I’m listing these things, I’m sure to skip a line or two between each one. Here are some examples from past lists:

[REDACTED] has not responded to my emails, so I can’t move forward on [REDACTED].

I’m not sure what to [REDACTED] means, so I don’t know how to get the project started.

I have a lot of nervous energy with nowhere to put it.

Then, once I get everything written down, I take a pen of a different color, and I start writing down solutions.

Now, these solutions aren’t groundbreaking. In the case of the three I listed above, these are the solutions I came up with:

Call them if they still haven't responded tomorrow. This gave me an action plan even if the problem persisted, and helped me feel in control of a situation that I largely was at the mercy of someone else for.

Ask for clarification. Just the act of writing this gave me “permission” to just reach out and ask (something I frequently have trouble with).

Bake cookies. For me, there’s nothing better for nervous energy then just following a set of very clear instructions from start to finish, and being able to get something out of them. (If that “something” is delicious, all the better!)

If you feel like you’d benefit from this kind of journaling, I definitely suggest that you’d give it a try. And don’t hesitate to let me know about your own simple solutions. After all, I’m always growing and trying to learn.

I’ll probably be sharing more of these tips in the future. So if you have areas of your life where you struggle, be sure to tell me about them so I can offer things that might help!


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