Anti-Anxiety Notebook – How journals help serve as beneficial tools for our self-care
It may seem like a quaint idea in our digital-mad era but, sometimes, one of the best ways to relieve anxiety is to grab a pen and write in a journal. "I LOVE journaling as a therapeutic intervention, and I use it frequently with patients," says Dr. Jill Gover, DAP Health's Director of Behavioral Health. (By the way, everyone who knows Dr. Gover calls her "Dr. G.")
As evidence of the renewed interest in journaling, a recent article in The New York Times noted that, "Over many centuries, journals have served as tools for recording history, as emotional outlets and as creative stimulants." The Times story goes on to mention a logbook titled "The Anti-Anxiety Notebook." Its publishers say that it provides users with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)-based entries to "help you track your emotions, become more aware of thought patterns, and grow over time specifically to reduce anxiety and manage stress."
But, wait, maybe you're asking yourself, "What's CBT? You're not alone if you haven't heard of it. CBT is a form of talk therapy that helps people become more aware of their negative thinking so they can change their way of looking at things and respond in a more positive manner to challenging situations.
"Whether I give a patient CBT handouts, or they use a journal to identify the feelings, thoughts, and distorted thinking patterns in order to reframe perspective, the therapeutic experience is the same," says Dr. G. She adds that the Anti-Anxiety Notebook is a great tool to be used in conjunction with therapy and that it includes a lot of the same exercises and strategies that she uses in therapy from other sources, like “The Anxiety Workbook.”
But she goes on to say that she also thinks it's important that people don't just use journaling on their own as a replacement for therapy. "It doesn’t work that way. Self-help material is wonderful and a great resource, but it needs to be used along with therapy to be truly effective."
Dr. G explains that some of the components she uses in CBT treatment of anxiety involve breathing/relaxation techniques; cognitive restructuring, where you challenge distorted "catastrophizing" (How else might you look at this situation that is not worst case scenario?); exposure to the feared stimulus; and ritual prevention.
"We all worry, but people with anxiety disorders have a 'faulty alarm system' that is hypersensitive to danger," she says. "Therefore they experience a lot of 'false positives' where they think they are in danger and they’re not. The goals of CBT treatment for anxiety involve learning how to block fear structures. CBT techniques increase tolerance for distress by replacing negative thought such as 'I can’t cope' to 'I can cope.' With anxiety, the goal isn’t to eliminate the symptoms, but instead to change how we interpret those symptoms."
In other words, you can develop a new narrative where you tell yourself, “I’ll handle whatever happens" and come up with a plan to help reduce your fear and lower the intensity of your anxiety symptoms.
If you'd like to know more about the Anti-Anxiety Notebook, visit shop.therapynotebooks.com.