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I find myself journaling quite often. For someone who struggles with anxiety and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), I tend to keep a lot of thoughts to myself jumbled in my head. There are many times where I can easily transfer these thoughts to paper in my journal. 

Writing in a journal is a great way for anyone to express themself, have their own creative outlet and be comfortable with their own writing. There are no rules for journaling when it comes to mental health. You don’t need to be a good writer or journalist to complete a task like this. There is also no need to plan ahead; it is easier to write down the thoughts in your head at the moment they come. Once you decide what to write, consider these tips for beginner journalers. 

The first tip is to find the right space, meaning a quiet room with no noise or distractions. A quiet room allows you to focus and concentrate on letting thoughts flow out. Journaling can provide an opportunity for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts and feelings, which can be rewarding at the end of a long day. Some good places to journal include your own room, an office, a quiet coffee shop or a library. 

My second tip is to reflect on the day as a whole. Ask yourself questions. What did you do today? How did your mood change? Did you take care of yourself today? Who did you interact with? Questions can guide your journaling process — think mood trackers, symptom trackers, self-care diaries, self-care routines, or even a reflection page. Tracking symptoms is can help you recognize triggers and learn ways to better control them.

The third — and least expected — tip is to time yourself when journaling. Now, this may seem a little out of the ordinary but it is important to not get so wrapped up and deep into your thoughts when you are alone. It is recommended to take about 10 to 30 minutes out of your day to journal. It is easy to get carried away and write every detail, but it's best to stay calm and journal positive events of your day. 

I believe that journaling helps control your symptoms and improve your mood by helping you prioritize problems, fears and concerns. Overall, journaling really helps me cope with stress and anxiety and develops into a positive mindset by the end of the day.

Gabby is a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill, studying advertising and public relations.
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