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Mental Health

3 Journaling Prompts for the Anxious Over-thinker

The pandemic is having negative mental health effects on college students across the globe.

According to The Washington Post, “evidence shows college students experienced higher rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation in 2020 than in 2019.” This could be for a lot of reasons—the pressures of online school and social idealization of your twenties as “the best years of your life” included. While the vaccine gives us some hope that life may return to normal, its distribution has been slow in Japan and the country is yet again in lockdown.

While it might not solve all of your problems, journaling can be a great tool for emotional regulation during stressful times. This time last year, I wrote an article about keeping a quarantine journal for improved mental health, and today I’m back with more journal prompts for people who are prone to anxiety and over-thinking.

The Life Inventory

I’m the kind of person who can’t say “no” to things, whether it’s hanging out with friends or a new creative project. Every so often I’ll find myself completely overwhelmed because I’ve said “yes” to way more things than I can handle. This is where the life inventory comes into play.

Write out a list of everything that’s on your plate. This includes schoolwork, lectures, part-time jobs, student organizations, hobbies, and anything else you can think of. For each of these items, ask yourself two questions:

1. Does this make me happy?

2. Do I need to do this?

If the answer is no to both of these questions, you should quit doing that thing. You’d be surprised by how much time you’re wasting on unnecessary things that don’t make you happy. If you can’t quit any of the things on your list, either because it makes you happy or because it’s your responsibility, then determine what you can take a break from or get help on. Maybe your student organization duties are taking up a lot of your time but you don’t want to quit because it makes you happy. Ask someone else in your org to help you out with that work so that it takes less mental strain and time.

I’m of the opinion that being busy is overrated and quitting things super underrated. We should encourage one another to do less of the things that don’t directly serve our needs and happiness and to live a more intentional life.

Write a thank you note

Sometimes when you’re feeling stuck inside of yourself, it can be useful to look outward. Write a thank-you note to someone that isn’t you. Think about all of the reasons you love that person. How do they make you feel? When did you meet them and what is your story with them? What are some things that remind you of them? Write about your favorite memory with them, or where you would want to go with them once the pandemic is over. Write in as much detail as possible.

This will help take your mind off of your anxiety and focus on something positive. It’ll also remind you that you aren’t alone, even if you might feel that way sometimes.

Write out a plan for the worst case scenario

We’re all afraid of something. These fears can cause tremendous stress and anxiety when we’re just trying to live our lives. I’ve found it incredibly helpful to plan for the worst-case scenario for certain things that are making me anxious. What’s the worst thing that can happen during my job interview? How likely is it that that worst-case scenario will happen? What can I do if this scenario happens? What can I do to prevent this scenario? Even if your fear is irrational, make sure to validate your anxiety and treat yourself with kindness.

Journaling might not solve all of your problems, but it can force you to look inward and guide you in the right direction. Give these prompts a try the next time you find yourself feeling stuck!

Sarah Ishikawa is currently serving as Editor in Chief and Campus Correspondent for Her Campus at ICU Japan. She is a senior studying English and American literature. On her days off you'll probably find her at a museum, coffee shop, or just at home getting things done.
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