Thursday, May 9, 2019

How Bullet Journaling Helps Me Get the Upper Hand on My Anxiety



Anxiety has always been a part of my life.  I have vivid childhood memories of fixating on schedules and being apoplectic over last-minute changes of plans. As I have gotten older, I've remained as high-strung as ever, but I have adopted some strategies that help make my condition manageable.  One strategy I have developed to help organize my frantic thoughts, my goals, as well as my personal and professional obligations is through bullet journaling.

Bullet journaling has come to mean many things to lots of people over the past few years.  As I use it, bullet journaling is an exercise in mindfulness, organization, and ad hoc scrapbooking.  Over the past year, the practice has been a saving grace for my frayed nerves.

But what is a bullet journal?  What does it look like?  Again, this can vary between journalers.  I construct my bullet journals from 7.75 in x 5.75 in dot-grid layout journals that I buy from Michael's.  For each month of the year (or each month that will fit into a journal), I have a monthly-view layout with a designation section for me to record a list of appointments I have throughout the month.



Additionally, I have separate layouts for each week of the month.  My weekly layouts have spaces for each workday and one combined slot for the weekend.  Within these weekly layouts, I have included a mini-monthly calendar (for reference), an inspirational quote, and two daily habit trackers (my mood and the glasses of water I drink).



After the weekly layouts for each month, I have a page where I list my monthly goals, another page where I reflect on how the month went, and an "in review" page where I usually record the month's highlights-- including any events I went to, books I read, or films that I saw.



So, as I use it, my bullet journal is like a homemade, suped-up day planner.

Whenever I have an appointment or deadline, I draw a tickbox and record the event in my weekly layout (I've always loved the satisfaction of ticking items off a to-do list).  If something great, or worth remembering down the line occurs, I also record it in my bullet journal, usually drawing a cloud around the event to differentiate it from a task to complete.

Some bullet journalers incorporate elaborate lettering and illustrations in their layouts.  That is so not my style.  I prefer functionality and limit my decorative touches to washi-tape accents on the margins of my layouts, using the same pattern of washi-tape to visually differentiate one month from another.

Bullet journaling has been a productive exercise for me in many ways.  The physical and mental labor of planning and constructing my journals has been very grounding, keeping me present and in-the-moment, though suitably distracted, through several challenging periods over the past year.  Sometimes I feel paralyzed by anxiety and find it nearly impossible to do anything but lay in bed; however, while at some of my lowest points, I have been able to collect the energy to zone out and work on a layout.  With that being said, I fully accept that there are going to be times where all I am capable of doing is curling up beneath my tranquility blanket; but, if I can use my literal downtime constructively, I want to

One of the most useful aspects of my bullet journaling practice has been habit tracking.  As I mentioned before, I track my daily water consumption and my moods, which gives me a pretty black-and-white idea of how I am doing with self-care and gives me data that I can then take back to my mental health care professionals.  When you're going to a psychiatrist or a therapist regularly, it is often difficult to remember how long you have been feeling a certain way.  Anxiety and depression lie to you, convincing you that have always felt poorly and will never feel good again . . . mood tracking provides you with quantitative evidence to the contrary. [Note: I have since moved away from tracking my emotions daily and have since moved to a weekly rating system, rating my overall week from 1-10].

Though it isn't a substitute for quality medical treatment of a chronic health condition, bullet journaling has helped me be more mindful about my health and proactive about staying on top of my responsibilities.

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