get access to resource library



Check your email inbox for your free resources!

Self Care Ideas for Stress Relief Using a Journal or Daily Planner

open journal with pen and glasses

As you probably know, stress can have a major impact on your life. Among the different

daily habits and healthy forms of self-care to reduce and manage stress, using a journal and/or planner are at the top of the list.

These tools are inexpensive, easy to use, portable, and provide a lot more self-care benefits than just stress relief.

Let's explore using a journal to reduce stress, as well as how to use a daily planner for this purpose.

Reduce Stress with a Journal

Journaling is a powerful tool that can have great benefits if used correctly. Not only does

it help people on a psychological level, including helping with depression, boosting

memory, and so much more, but it also can have actual physical benefits that manifest

themselves in one’s health. Bearing that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most

prominent rewards that come with jotting down your feelings and emotions on a piece of


Journaling Can Help with Everyday Learning

Given the massive amount of information that you are bombarded with on a daily basis,

it would be impressive if you could retain more than half of it. What’s more, it’s not

enough to just remember this information, but you also have to take the time to reflect

on it and see how it relates to you if you truly want to learn something meaningful:

The best analogy to drive the point home is the difference between a student who can’t

remember anything from their classes, a student who regurgitates everything their

professor says in class and a student who takes the time to rephrase what is said in

class and tries to connect it with other concepts they’ve learned over time. Journaling

can help you be the third type of student, the one who actually makes use of their

college tuition and knows how to thrive in today’s knowledge economy.

Think about how stressed you can get on a daily basis just by trying to retain all of this

information. It's a lot, especially when you combine it with everything else going on in your head at any given time.

Apart from the fact that writing something down allows your brain to better recall it later

as opposed to just thinking about it, taking the time to write in a journal will give you the

time to both mull over important events, whether throughout the day or in your past, and

reflect introspectively on what these events mean and what you can learn from them;

this, in turn, can enhance your decision-making skills in future situations as well as

make you a better critical thinker.

Additionally, when you force yourself to write down your thoughts and ideas, you will

inevitably develop clearer thinking that allows you to structure your ideas and

arguments in a way that will facilitate your future communications with others. Most

important of all, journaling will help you learn about yourself, aid you in constructing a clear sense of identity, and clarify your life’s narrative.

Construct Your Life’s Narrative

Life can get hectic and messy, and it's very easy for someone to lose their way. As a

result, having a way to record valuable moments that can keep you anchored in the

most tumultuous of times can be worth something. As a matter of fact, some people

who journal go so far as to record the entire family history, leaving something younger

generations might one day cherish.

This is one of those benefits of journaling that goes beyond just helping to reduce

stress but to gain more clarity and understand more about yourself and your life. This, in

turn, can help with a lot of issues you have been experiencing on a daily basis, even the

ones you were not completely aware of. You might even figure out what some of your

biggest stress triggers were.

Journaling Helps Achieve Your Goals

There are many forms of stress in your life, from things you can’t avoid, like work and

school, to daily, unexpected stresses like personal and relationship issues. If you are

someone who deals with more stress from the long list of things you need to do or want

to get done or hope to achieve, then journaling is perfect for you.

It will allow you to sit down and work through all of these plans. You can first figure out

what your goals are, then make lists right in the journal that show you what is needed to

achieve your goals. This reduces your stress by helping you make all the important

decisions that you were too overwhelmed to think about before.

Journaling Enhances Your Creativity

Journaling can be an excellent way for you to document the most creative ideas that come

to you, whether they come while you’re strolling through a park or while you’re fast

asleep dreaming of how you could have solved that problem at work.

The bottom line is that there doesn’t have to be a filter on what gets recorded in your

journal: If you are the type of person who gets a flash of creativity every other minute,

then a journal might be the only sensible way for you to keep track of all that creative

energy. And even if you don’t fancy yourself as a creative individual, taking the time to

commit your ideas to paper might be the push you need to discover a side of yourself

you have yet to explore.

Find More Gratitude

Having more gratitude in your life is one of the top benefits of journaling, and can also

help you to reduce stress in your life. If you haven’t heard the term before, a gratitude

journal is a journal where you get to list everything you feel grateful for, which helps you

relieve stress and elevates your mood. After all, how could you not feel better after focusing

on all the good in your life?

Over and above, learning to be grateful for the good in your life has countless benefits:

To begin with, it can help you reach your goals along with enhancing your quality of life.

Moreover, it has been shown that when people attend to the positive things in their

lives, they become more mentally resilient and are able to bear the emotional

turbulence that life may throw their way. Along with all of this, happy people tend to be

more optimistic and friendlier overall.

Help With Your Depression and Anxiety

It should go without saying that people suffering from depression should seek

professional help, especially in serious cases, and that no alternative could take the

place of an experienced counselor. That being said, journaling has been shown to have

positive effects for people fighting depression by supporting their attempts to manage its


If you want any evidence, you can look into the studies done to see the effect

expressive writing can have on women exhibiting signs of depression who had

previously suffered intimate partner violence; there have also been studies showing that

journaling might be as potent as cognitive behavioral therapy when it comes to

mitigating the symptoms of depression. Even people suffering from severe depression

reported feeling significantly better after journaling for three days.

Tips for Using a Journal

You should now have a better understanding of how journaling can benefit you,

especially as it pertains to using one to help reduce your stress. Now let’s discuss some tips and self-care ideas for stress when you're just getting started with journaling, and really using it to your advantage.

Journaling for beginners can sometimes seem overly simplified, but for others, it seems

daunting and like homework. It is neither of these things!

The great thing about choosing to write in a journal when you are dealing with a lot of

emotional stress in your life is that there are no rules. You will learn some tips and

tricks, but you don’t have to follow any of these. You can journal however you want, and

in whatever way works best for you.

These are just some recommendations for getting started, and to really use journaling to

help with your stress and anything else you are dealing with.

Use Journaling Prompts

The first pages of a journal can often be the most daunting, so an easy way to get

started is to use journaling prompts. These can be more generalized journaling prompts

that are just meant to get the creative juices flowing, or they can be tailored specifically

toward reducing stress and figuring out why you are so overwhelmed lately.

Journaling prompts are very easy to find online, whether from other bloggers and

websites, sites like Pinterest and Etsy, and here on this site.

Stream of Consciousness Journaling

Another excellent method of journaling when you are feeling stressed is stream of

consciousness. This is when you just start writing, and have absolutely no timers, plans,

or prep. All you want to do is start writing what comes to mind first, and just keep


You aren’t forced to stick to a specific topic, you don’t have to worry about how long it

takes, or how many directions your mind seems to go. Just let it flow naturally, writing

about anything and everything you want.

Do this for however long you want to, or when you feel satisfied with how much you

have written. A lot of times, just doing this is enough to find some clarity, figure out

where your stress is coming from, and acts as a type of “brain dump” in your journal.

Don’t Follow Any Journaling ‘Rules’

It is really important that you take out any ideas of rules when it comes to journaling. If

you keep thinking about so-called rules, such as what type of journal to use, how long

you have to write every day, and what topics to stick to, it can make it hard to really find

clarity and actually benefit from the practice of journaling.

Another rule you definitely want to avoid is about the type of writing you are doing. Don’t

worry about spelling or grammar! You are the only one who will see these journaling

pages, so as long as it makes sense to you, that is really all that matters.

The reason this matters is because if you are so focused on making everything perfect

and being sure your spelling is right, you're overthinking about the writing itself, and

not your feelings. You want to reduce stress with journaling, not increase it or put too

much pressure on yourself.

Find Your Stress Triggers

Lastly, a great way to use journaling for stress is directly, where you are actually trying

to find those triggers. A trigger is what is causing you to experience the high levels of

stress you have been dealing with.

In some ways, it can be obvious, such as work or your personal life. But you might be

surprised by the seemingly meaningless things that can be making your overall amount

of stress much worse. When you figure out what these triggers are, you are able to work

on reducing them in whatever way you can.

How to Find Your Triggers

If you want to try using your journal to identify stress triggers, here are a few helpful


Stream or Consciousness with a Twist

Stream of consciousness usually means just writing what first comes to mind. You can try this for your triggers, which alone can help a lot. But with a twist, you can try writing what you want, but with a minor focus of how you are feeling and what you think led to feeling that way.

The Good and the Bad

This is a type of journaling prompt, where you are going to have one good thing for every bad thing, and vice versa. A type of pro and con of every action or emotion you feel. What happens is that you figure out exactly how negative your thinking is even when good things happen to you.

Journaling Your Days

This is where you journal everything you did, felt, and experienced each day. You only have to do this for a while, or until you figure out what some of your triggers are. Simply write in your journal as often as you can about what you are doing, and how you feel while doing it. You might find that you always tend to have more negative emotions around certain things – those

might be your triggers.

Reduce Stress with a Planner

Planning is one of the most vital components in determining how productive you will be.

Tasks are broken down into simpler ones allowing you to focus on one thing at a time.

After having achieved one of your duties, you feel much more fulfilled and productive.

If you are still unconvinced that there is a need to write things down to feel a sense of

productivity in your life, read on. This section is going to discuss some of the psychology

surrounding using daily planners. The act of writing your tasks down – even your

feelings and emotions – can be a powerful way to combat stress and trauma.

Why Writing Things Down Can Ease Stress

Most people would think that writing things down in a notebook or a planner is too old

school. But then again, what’s wrong with that? By using one of those brightly colored

notebooks and planners, you allow yourself to let go of a thought with the security and

assurance that the idea has been written down somewhere, somewhere you can always

go back to.

With that in mind, here are the reasons why writing things down can ease trauma and


You’ll find more time for everything

Have you ever noticed how you are always running out of time? Well, it’s not just you. The key to appropriately managing your time on a day-to-day basis is writing all of your tasks for the day on a planner. You can adequately define your goals for the next hours, and you can also monitor them well with your planner. As a result, you wouldn’t be caught off guard when

something unexpected happens. You’ll still be able to track your progress despite a

number of changes within the day.

You can adequately schedule all of the activities you need to get done for the day

By using a planner, you are allowing yourself to follow a routine that you have

previously written down. Yes, it provides you with some sort of peace of mind; however,

planning your day also allows you to look at the bigger picture.

What are the things you need to finish within the day? What are some of the deadlines

you need to take care of? How can you fit in emergency meetings within the day? Do

you have room for any self-care activities?

By properly planning your day, these tasks, deadlines, and meetings appear much less

daunting. You don’t feel overwhelmed with what you need to do for the day resulting in

less stress and anxiety. Of course, there are outside influences that may affect your

stress level for the day, but by the act of writing these down on your planner, you get a

sense of control over things.

You worry less

By using a planner for your daily activities, you can achieve these three words: “you worry less.” By writing down your tasks for the day, your goals for the month, or even your happy thoughts and other accomplishments for the day, you acknowledge one thing over the other. By writing down your task, you are claiming to the universe that this is one thing you need to get done within the day. This makes achieving your goal less demanding, less stressful, and less worrisome.

Why Planners are Better Than a To-Do List

Planners can function better than a simple to-do list or sticky notes.

Why? Here are some reasons:

Planners can recognize which of your tasks are more urgent and which are not. You’ll

know which to prioritize first.

A long list of tasks can be overwhelming; this is one of the elements that we try to

eliminate. With planners, you can prioritize those tasks that need to be done

immediately, tasks that can be rescheduled, and tasks that are of low priority.

Planners do not contribute to stress in the way that long, detailed to-do lists can. Look

into the Zeigarnik Effect, where unfinished tasks can create uncontrolled thoughts and

lead to more stress.

You can’t plan your day as effectively with a to-do list, especially not when it comes to

schedules and times.

With a planner, you can easily juggle multiple roles in your life. Your responsibilities

for each role will not overlap with one another, resulting in a stress-free process of going

about your tasks for the day.

What is the Importance of Daily Planning?

Daily planning is an essential factor in achieving success. Even just for the next 24

hours, proper planning can make you feel like you can take on the entire week, month,

or even year. This is because you are more in control of what happens in your life.

As explained, the process of writing things down gives you peace of mind.

Furthermore, there are other reasons as to why it is essential to have a daily planner:

A planner can reduce your stress quotient.

By writing in your planner, you allow yourself to believe that your goals are much more attainable – which they are.

Planners allow you to be better prepared for emergencies.

You can create contingency plans on your planner for any unexpected problems.

You can properly evaluate your progress throughout the day, week, or month

with planners.

Writing your schedule for the day on a planner can actually help you realize ways

to free up your time.

A planner allows you to be more mindful of your choices. As you write things

down on your planner, you become much more aware of the things you spend on

and the activities you invest in.

A planner lets you know if you are slacking off. As a result, you are more mindful

of your daily productivity.

A planner facilitates relaxation. The truth is that there will always be something

beyond your control. The key to achieving a less stressful day is to simply accept

this fact. What you can do is focus on the things you can control. With that in

mind, writing those controllable aspects of your life in a planner can facilitate


With all of the happenings going on in your life, it can get pretty hectic to keep track of

everything without the use of a planner. A mental note is okay; however, having a

planner with you can change your whole productivity game.

Journals and planners are very helpful self-care tools for stress relief but as always, they should be considered tools to help, not just one more thing to add to your to-do list. They should never be used as a yardstick for your value, in other words, they are only there to support you not to be a source of frustration. I think approaching these tools with that attitude gives you the best chance of truly enjoying the benefits they have to offer.