How To Create A Self-Care Plan For The New School Year

Students Need Self-Care

University is such an interesting and chaotic time of our lives.

Our schedule is packed with classes, assignments, tests, seminars and work clashing together—and that’s just for an undergraduate degree.

It feels like we have no time for ourselves except for a few hours to sleep. And even that’s not guaranteed.

Studies have shown that burnout amongst high school and university students can create symptoms of PTSD. And while I’m a few years removed from university, I still experience some of those symptoms.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

National Library of Medicine – Student Burnout and PTSD Symptoms

Preparing for the new school year with a self-care plan may help students to manage and hopefully prevent burnout.

September is the perfect time to start as school is just beginning, and you may have more wiggle room to try out new things.

But if you’re discovering this post during midterms or spring break, that’s fine too!

When you start doesn’t matter—having a plan does.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, psychologist, therapist or similar. This blog offers ideas, tools, strategies and recommendations based on my experience with anxiety, panic attacks and mental health. I do not guarantee any results or outcomes as strategies that have worked for me may not work for you. For diagnosis and treatment of any physical and mental health condition, consult a licensed professional.

Make Time For Self-Care

I realize it may not feel possible, but I guarantee you can add self-care to your daily, weekly and monthly routines.

As a student, I would sleep in the university library, eat lunch outside my next class and schedule bathroom breaks into my study time. I was shuffling through my days like a zombie.

It was not until my third year of university that I learned to add proper me-time to my school agenda.

I scheduled when I’d eat, when I’d exercise, how often I would clean and when I would literally do nothing.

That may sound very constraining, but it resulted in a wonderful transformation. I suddenly felt like I had more control and time and generally felt more like myself.

Self-care for students: how to have a stress-free year

Creating A Self-Care Plan

In this post, I will help you to formulate a plan to add self-care activities to your schedule.

Below, I have outlined four self-care categories.

The best self-care plan will combine activities from every category to create a holistic* routine. This will ensure that you fully take care of all aspects of yourself.

*Holistic refers to treating or caring for the whole person (the body, mind and spirit) rather than one part.

And you are not expected to do all of the activities every day. That’s simply not possible.

Instead, consider these general guidelines when adding self-care activities to your schedule.

  • Daily activities are those that require roughly 5-10 minutes
  • Weekly activities: ~15-30 minutes
  • Monthly activities: ~1 hour
  • Annual activities: ~half a day

Remaining cognizant of the time you have and the time you need will provide a better chance of scheduling your self-care.

5 Steps To Create Your Self-Care Schedule

Woman looking at her busy schedule and a calendar

1. Look at your current school and work schedules to identify the number and duration of break times. Don’t forget to factor in homework and study time.

A blank calendar with dates highlighted

2. Highlight or list the duration of your break time–just the time in minutes or hours.

A woman writing a list in a notebook

3. Look over the list below and choose the activities you consider interesting, relaxing, or useful. Write them in a list along with the amount of time they take.

The words daily, weekly and monthly

4. From your activities list, choose three daily activities, four weekly activities, and three monthly activities. You may, of course, choose more, but I suggest starting with these numbers.

A woman writing in a planner that has different events in different colours and post-it notes

5. Add those activities to your school calendar, agenda or planner.

  • Set a specific or general time of day to complete them.
  • It may be helpful to add these activities in another colour.

A Brief Caution

A problem I often face with lists like this is that I want to try everything all at once. And it’s overwhelming!

So while creating your self-care plan, start slow. Choose a few activities that you can start doing today.

You want to try to build a habit of doing these activities but don’t want them to become tasks.

Aim to include these activities in your schedule, but give yourself some leeway and don’t be too tough on yourself if you can’t get them done when you hoped.

4 Self-Care Categories

There are many categories for self-care.

For this post, I have chosen to focus on the following four: physical self-care, practical self-care, psychological self-care, and social self-care.

And I’ve ordered the categories alphabetically because no one category is more important than the rest.

Physical Self-Care

Graphic of woman doing yoga in front of a laptop to indicate physical self-care

Physical self-care aims at caring for your body. It involves focusing on what you put in your body, ensuring you’re well rested and keeping your body moving. Remember that physical health can help or hinder mental health, so you want to take special care of both.

1.       Schedule Meal Breaks

  • 5-30 minutes
  • Many people opt for fast food because it’s a filling meal you can eat quickly. But it’s full of harmful ingredients that drain your energy.
  • Set 2 meal breaks where you can eat a full meal (perhaps breakfast and dinner) and mini breaks for snack time.
  • Another option is to designate lunch as your big meal of the day and have smaller portions for breakfast and dinner, supplemented with hourly snack breaks. (This is my preference for my schedule. Follow the plan that works for you and your schedule.)

2.       Sleep

  • 10 minutes-8 hours
  • Micro naps during the day can help you to stay focused. But don’t rely on napping to keep yourself healthy.
  • Try to get a full night’s sleep. For some people, 6 hours of sleep is sufficient; for others, 9 hours may be necessary. Listen to your body and what it needs to feel rested.

3.       Breathing Exercises

  • 2-5 minutes
  • Practice breathing exercises anywhere, at any time, as needed.
  • Breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds, hold for 5-7 seconds, and exhale through the mouth for 8 seconds.
  • Breathing exercises will allow your body to relax while providing a mindful moment as you focus on your breath and the counts.

Read More| How To Self-Soothe During A Panic Attack

4.       Get Sunlight

  • 10+ minutes
  • Take a walk, study on a patio or sit on the greenspace at your school.
  • Vitamin D and fresh air are essential for our bodies and overall happiness.
  • In winter, vitamin D drops and a light therapy lamp are helpful.

5.       Exercise

  • 15+ minutes
  • We are recommended to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, and it is possible to allocate 15-minute exercise sessions during breaks.
  • Remember that walking, yoga, cycling and jump rope are all forms of exercise, so you are not required to go to a gym unless you choose to.

6.       Hydrate

  • 1-2 minutes
  • Drink water. Bring a water bottle to every class and take a few gulps every hour.
  • If you drink water regularly, you will feel and see a difference.
  • Always remember that what you drink matters because not all beverages will support your body the same way.

Practical Self-Care

Graphic of woman with her laptop sitting on a calendar next to an hour glass to indicate practical self-care

Practical self-care can be thought of as the necessary chores to relieve us of future stress—like the adage to plan today for a better tomorrow. Taking small steps to prepare for your day, week or year will pay off substantially and cut much stress from your life.

1.       Create A Budget

  • 30+ minutes (to create), 2 minutes (for upkeep)
  • You may buy a budget planner or create a spreadsheet. (Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets offer annual and monthly budget templates.)
  • Steps to create your budget:
    • Write down your net income (this will be the income you receive, less taxes and other work expenses).
    • Track how much you spend—write every purchase down, including your bills, Netflix subscription, groceries, coffee, etc.
    • Set a budget for how much you can spend for the month to ensure you will keep some savings. For example: If I earn $1,000 per month (net income), my bills are $300, and my loans are $200, I may set myself a budget of $200, so I can save $300 per month.
    • Adjust your spending habits to stick to your budget (this may mean less Starbucks).
    • Review your budget to see how you are doing, what is working, and what needs improvement.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

WorkBC – Student Budgeting

Clever Girl Finance – How To Create A College Student Budget You’ll Actually Use

Student Space – How to make a student budget

2.       Organize Your Closet

  • 1+ hours (for initial organization), 5 minutes (for upkeep)
  • Use baskets, totes, shelves or a whole closet organizer to organize your clothes and storage.
  • Separate your work clothes from casual ones so they are easier to find. This may be done simply by having work clothes on the left side of the closet and casual clothes on the right.
  • Seeing disorganization and interacting with it daily can result in a sensory overload leading to stress and distraction. Therefore, having an organized closet with everything in its place can be freeing.

3.       Make Your Bed

  • 2 minutes
  • Make your bed every day. You don’t need perfect corners or to change the sheets every day.
  • Having a bed in disarray can cause a room to look messy and may add to your overall stress. Having an organized bed to fall into at the end of the day creates a peaceful area that will help you feel relaxed and may lead to better sleep.

4.       Meal Prep

  • 30+ minutes (to prepare), 3+ minutes (to heat)
  • Depending on your fridge and freezer space, you may meal prep for a week or month at a time.
  • Preparing meals that will only require a quick warm-up will ensure you eat properly and save money.

5.       Schedule Decluttering

  • 10+ minutes
  • Slowly start decluttering by donating or throwing away things you no longer need or use. And organize the things you need regularly.
  • If you believe your clutter has a system, create an improved design with baskets and shelf dividers.
  • Less clutter leads to tidier spaces, creates more peaceful and stress-free environments and ensures everything is easy to find.

6.       Set Out Clothes For The Week

  • 10 minutes
  • Decide your tops, pants and shoes and arrange the items in your closet from Monday through Friday.
  • Choosing your outfits ahead of time will ensure you have clean clothes for the week and fewer decisions to make first thing in the morning.

Psychological Self-Care

Graphic of woman holding her head and a thought bubble full of squiggles to indicate psychological self-care

Psychological, emotional, mental self-care is all about taking time to identify your headspace and express your feelings. There are many activities for psychological self-care that will allow you to channel stress and negative thoughts into a medium that will help you to let them go. Some activities will also allow you to sit with and enjoy your happy moments. Being able to positively impact and express your inner world is very important for your mental health.

1.       Affirmations And Mantras

  • 1-2 minutes
  • Keep positive affirmations and mantras posted on your mirror, phone lock screen or anywhere you will see them. Repeat the affirmations a few times a day.
  • Affirmations and mantras will help you to rewire your brain to think positively and calmly.

Read more| Generate Positivity With Affirmations

2.       Practice Gratitude

  • 5 minutes
  • Make it a habit to take a few minutes at the start or end of your day to write a list of things you are grateful for. Do not rush! Be slow and mindful while you make your list.
  • Speak what you are writing and try to use the expression “I am grateful for….”
  • During stressful times, creating or reading these lists will remind you of the positive things in your life.

3.       Journal

  • 5-10 minutes
  • Write when you are happy, stressed and overwhelmed.
  • There are many uses for a journal and many ways to write in a journal. Choose the option that serves you best. And choose the time that works best for you. You may find journal prompts to get you started here: link.
  • Writing a journal entry will provide relief and is an interesting keepsake.

Read More| Why You Should Start Journaling

4.       Create Art

  • 5-20+ minutes
  • Draw, paint, sculpt, knit, whittle, etc.
  • Depending on your medium, art may be created between class periods or give you an extended mindful release a few times a week.
  • Art will give you something to focus on while releasing stress. Or it may allow you to express your feelings.

5.       Play Music

  • 2+ minutes
  • This may refer to listening to your favourite artist or playing an instrument.
  • Music can help us to feel lighter, connect and release pent-up feelings.

6.       Meet With A Counsellor Or Therapist.

  • 30+ minutes
  • If your high school, college or university offers free or discounted counselling services, take advantage of them!
  • Counselling is a genuinely positive experience as it will help you understand yourself, learn how to handle stress and disappointment, and, most importantly, celebrate and focus on your achievements.
  • If you do not vibe with your assigned counsellor, talk to your school and try to seek an alternative option. You deserve a counsellor or therapist who is working with you.

Social Self-Care

Graphic of 2 women and 2 men communicating on a laptop, tablet and phone to indicate social self-care

Social self-care directs its focus on social interactions and how to maintain healthy relationships. Whether introverted or extroverted, our social life will add to our happiness. However, during school, our social life can sometimes hinder our schoolwork. So while considering your social self-care, you want to create a beneficial school/work/life balance. Please note that I could not list specific times for some activities because what you need and your available time varies significantly from person to person.

1.       Set Boundaries

  • Unfortunately, I cannot create a timeframe here as it involves deciding, communicating and reinforcing your boundaries. This may take consideration and practice over a few days or weeks.
  • There are many different types of boundaries, but perhaps while focusing on school life, you can narrow the boundaries to what you need for a successful and stress-free year.
  • Consider these questions while creating your boundaries:
    • What do you need from friends and family when you are stressed? For example, do you need someone to vent to, alone time, comfort foods, etc.?
    • What will help you focus on your studies? This may be quiet time, a peaceful area, fewer messages and screen time, etc.
    • What will take the pressure off? Perhaps you want to ban certain questions about your schoolwork or tests. Questions like How is your dissertation coming along? Are you ready for your midterms?
  • Asserting your boundaries may sometimes feel rude, and some people may consider them selfish, but they are necessary to your well-being. Boundaries communicate our needs to others so they can support us.

Read More| Are Introverts Rude? And How To Assert Your Boundaries

2.       Call A Friend (Or Your Safe Person)

  • 5+ minutes
  • Have a friend or a safe person you can call, FaceTime or message whenever you need to. Let them know ahead of time that you may be contacting them during stressful times and what you may need from them (a listening ear or advice).
  • You may also schedule regular calls to ensure you are both available and give you something to look forward to.
  • A safe person is someone you can share with who will keep your conversation private and whose sole interest in the conversation is in supporting and protecting you.

3.       Meet With Friends

  • 30+ minutes (or short breaks between classes)
  • Schedule time with your friends. Everyone has a busy schedule, so last-minute plans may not work as well as they used to.
  • Friendships can strain and start to fizzle during university. So use the time to catch up, share a little about school and be a support system for each other.

4.       Be Intentional With Social Activities

  • There is no time suggestion here, as this option involves deciding if, when and where to add social activities to your schedule.
  • Accept that you should not partake in every social event or go out drinking every weekend. A night out will impact your budget and physical self-care.
  • Pick and choose events that are important to you and your experience. They will be more memorable and give you something to look forward to.
  • And practice saying NO. It may be hard at first, but it gets easier with practice, and you will be happier.

5.       Join An Online Support Group

  • 2+ minutes
  • Join a Facebook or Reddit (or similar) group for your school or area. If a gender, religion or ethnic-specific group exists, that may also be beneficial.
  • Try to ensure it is a safe space for people to share stories, ask questions and offer advice without judgement or bullying behaviour.
  • I recommend observing the group before asking any sensitive questions and using the anonymous post option whenever necessary.
  • While living in South Korea, I joined five Facebook groups: three regional and two women-only groups. I never commented in the regional groups because I followed them for events and found the most active members to be very opinionated and rude. It did not feel like a safe space to ask questions. But I was very active in the women-only groups, and though I no longer live there, I am still part of them today because they’re incredibly judgement-free, and everyone is looking out for each other.

Read More| 10 Ways To Expand Your Comfort Zone

6.       Play With A Pet

  • 2+ minutes
  • Take a break and spend time with someone who loves you unconditionally and does not care about your schoolwork.
  • Playing with a pet releases serotonin and will make you feel happier.
  • If you currently do not have a pet, consider your budget and the free time you will need to care for your pet properly—it’s a lot of work.
How to create a self-care plan for the new school year

Final Thoughts

If self-care is selfish, be selfish.

Caring for yourself provides the benefits of reducing stress, thinking clearer, maintaining relationships and, most importantly, not losing yourself to your studies.

Creating healthy habits takes time and practice, and there are many options for adding self-care to your schedule.

Again, I have only covered four self-care categories, but many more options exist.

Please let me know in the comments below if you are interested in learning more about self-care and additional self-care categories and activities.

And if you like this post, please like this post, comment, share and follow for more.

 

Glossary of Terms to Support Your Mental Health Journey

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, psychologist, therapist or similar. This blog offers ideas, tools, strategies and recommendations based on my experience with anxiety, panic attacks and mental health. I do not guarantee any results or outcomes as strategies that have worked for me may not work for you. For diagnosis and treatment of any physical and mental health condition, consult a licensed professional.

A mental health journey comes with a complete vocabulary of terms. And a clear understanding of these terms will assist you with the process.

Many glossaries for mental health provide definitions of disorders and conditions. So I want to focus this list on terms you will encounter during the self-work aspect of your journey.

This is not a comprehensive list. It is designed to provide a brief overview of these terms. I have also attempted to paraphrase the definitions/meanings so they may be more easily understood.

I plan to continue to add to the list over the next few months, so please feel free to offer suggestions in the comments below.

What are boundaries? Growth? Self-work?

Affirmations

Affirmations are short, positive statements we use to help retrain our brains to think positively. For affirmations to be effective, we need to say them aloud daily until we believe them to be true.

Read More| Generate Positivity with Affirmations

Boundaries

Boundaries are guidelines used to communicate what we need to feel safe, comfortable, supported and respected. Boundaries help us navigate our relationships by giving us the knowledge and ability to say yes and no to protect our well-being. There are seven types of boundaries: physical, emotional/mental, spiritual, financial, sexual, time and non-negotiables. Boundaries can change as relationships evolve.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Psych Central – 7 Types of Boundaries You May Need

Calm

Calm is a generally positive term meaning a state when we are not experiencing strong, negative feelings. This could mean we are free of anger, sadness, anxiety or agitation. Most coping strategies aim to “re-establish calm” or release negative thoughts and emotions.

Comfort Zone

A comfort zone is a physical or mental space in which we feel safe, secure, content and comfortable. A mental comfort zone will dissuade us from partaking in activities that may be mentally or emotionally harmful. A portion of our growth journey may involve expanding our comfort zones. This work will allow us to practice “scary” activities in small doses to redefine what our comfort zones look like.

Read More| 10 Ways to Expand Your Comfort Zone

Comforting Activities

Comforting activities are any enjoyable activity that brings us focus, calm, relaxation and comfort. Many disorders will wear on the mind and body, leaving us exhausted. Comforting activities distract our minds in order to provide much-needed relief. A comforting activity may be sleeping, watching a movie, pursuing a hobby, taking a walk, etc.

Cope/Coping

Courtesy of Oxford Languages: coping means to “deal effectively with something difficult.” The key to coping is finding an effective strategy to manage our symptoms, provide comfort and work on healing. A worthy goal of our journey may be finding coping strategies to control and heal effectively.

Read More| 7 Strategies for Coping With Morning Anxiety

Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

Emotional intelligence is a psychological theory focusing on skills to identify, understand, control and successfully express our emotions. Most studies and books on EQ focus on the workplace, but the skills are helpful for all interpersonal relationships. Within a mental health journey, practicing EQ skills can help us better understand ourselves and the roots of our negative feelings and mindsets.

Empowerment

Empowerment is all about having control and power over our mental health journey. This includes access to support networks and resources that will aid and encourage us to grow strength, confidence and authority over our lives.

Personal Empowerment

Personal empowerment is the ability to be our personal source of encouragement and support for our mental health journey. It involves taking responsibility for our journey and holding ourselves accountable to do the work, make positive choices and track our progress.

(Mental) Energy

Courtesy of Healthline: mental energy is “a mood state where you feel productive, motivated, and prepared to get things done.” Low mental energy may present as boredom, inability to focus or frequently zoning out. Feeling mentally drained may or may not cause us to also feel physically exhausted. Some mental health disorders claim a lot of our mental energy, whether we are aware of it or not.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Healthline – 8 Tips to Boost Mental Energy, in the Moment and in the Future

Growth

Growth refers to gaining knowledge and abilities to support and improve our mental health.  Growth can be measured by tracking goals or keeping a journal that can show how our mindset has changed. Growth can also be detected as we start recognizing when we are better capable of handling difficult situations than we had been at the beginning of our journey.

Read More| Why You Should Start Journaling

Personal Growth

Personal growth is also referred to as personal development or self-improvement. Personal growth is about developing positive behaviours, habits, mindsets, and skills to improve our mental, physical and emotional health.

Read More| 5 Personality Quizzes for Personal Growth

Healing

Unlike physical health, mental health does not have cures. Healing involves growing by learning how to cope and live with a mental health condition. A healing process begins with the desire to improve ourselves and includes seeking help, whether it be understanding our condition or pursuing therapy.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Psych Central – Can You Cure or Heal the Mind?

Journey

Journey is another word for the process of learning about and taking care of our mental health. We can consider it a journey as there will be a start but no definite ending. There will also be many ups and downs, comprising bright days and challenging experiences. The journey is a worthwhile endeavour to benefit our overall happiness and well-being.

Limiting Beliefs

A limiting belief is a belief or state of mind that limits or prevents us from pursuing and achieving our goals. Limiting beliefs often present themselves as fears or in I can’t/I don’t have/I’m not statements. Affirmations help identify and minimize our limiting beliefs.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Happier Human – 15 Limiting Beliefs Examples That Hold You Back in Life

Mental Focus

Mental focus involves making a conscious effort to concentrate on and work towards achieving our goals. Developing and improving mental focus takes time and practice. It will require us to limit distractions, create time for ourselves, take breaks for comforting activities and to practice mindfulness.

Mental Health

Mental health refers to the health of our thoughts, behaviours and emotions. We can have good mental health or poor mental health. Our mental well-being can influence our relationships, decision-making skills and how we experience the world. It can also simultaneously impact our physical health for better or worse. Poor mental health is not the same as mental illness.

Mental Health Glossary. Learn the terms you will encounter on your mental health journey.

Mental Health Awareness

Mental health awareness aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and mental illness. It provides a greater understanding of mental health to reduce misconceptions and increase acceptance. Awareness and acceptance offer greater access to information, diagnoses, treatments and support.

Read More| 5 Steps to Create A Safe Space to Discuss Mental Health

Mental Health Strategies

Mental health strategies are actions used to achieve our mental health goals. These strategies may include long-term and short-term plans or practical coping activities. Practicing mental health strategies is helpful for everyone to support good mental health or treat a mental illness.

Mental Illness

Mental illness is a mental health condition that negatively disrupts or changes our thoughts, behaviours and feelings. It can make functioning in daily activities and maintaining relationships difficult. It is an umbrella term to refer to all diagnosable mental disorders. Mental illness is treatable.

Read more (I have no affiliation with these websites):

American Psychiatric Association – What is Mental Illness?

Health Direct – Types of Mental Illness

Mindfulness

Courtesy of Greater Good Magazine: “Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.” It is about focusing our attention on acknowledging and accepting our present thoughts and emotions without judgement. Mindfulness provides an opportunity to understand ourselves and our needs better.

Mindset

Mindset is our mental attitude that determines our ideas, beliefs, values, philosophy and worldview. Our mindset is typically established through our social and cultural settings. In some cases, our communities may lead our mindset to perceive mental health practices in a negative light.

Shifting Mindset

A mindset shift is a shift or change of our minds. It allows us to be more critical of our current beliefs and accept different philosophies to support, manage and heal our mental health. A shift in mindset is required for mental health awareness.

Read More| 5 Steps to Create A Safe Space to Discuss Mental Health

Motivation

Motivation is the driving force behind setting goals and persevering through the necessary work to achieve them. Beyond having a major end goal, motivation can be maintained by setting and achieving small goals along our journey. Being able to track improvements and using personal rewards are effective motivators.

Process

The process is a sequence of steps and stages we follow to achieve our goal of overall improved mental health. Some steps of the process will be difficult (mentally, emotionally and possibly physically). And some stages will feel frustratingly stagnant as if we are not improving or healing. Trust the process, as every bit of work we put into our journey will pay off at some point.

Safe Space

A safe space is an area (whether a physical or social environment) in which a person feels free to be themselves. This means the space is welcoming, accepting, and free from bias, criticisms and risks of physical or emotional harm. And can include acceptance of different values, sexualities, mental health, etc. 

Read More| 5 Steps to Create a Safe Space to Discuss Mental Health

Self-Care

Self-care is literally caring for the self. It is a combination of activities we follow to support our good physical, mental (or psychological), emotional and spiritual (religious or not) health. Self-care requires positive daily habits to establish a healthy environment and lifestyle. And includes activities to help us handle stressors.

Self-Discovery

Self-discovery allows us to learn about who we are, separate from the opinions and values of our family, peer groups and culture, in order to follow our own path. The process will allow us to understand our personal feelings, thoughts, needs and priorities to become who we want to be. Self-discovery can include learning about our personality, identifying our strengths and weaknesses, unlearning limiting beliefs and behaviours, and growing self-confidence.

Read More| 5 Personality Quizzes for Personal Growth

Self-Love

Courtesy of Brain & Behavior: “Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth.” At its core, self-love means showing kindness to ourselves. It encourages us to prioritize our happiness and well-being rather than be lost in the needs and expectations of others. Self-love involves using positive inner thoughts, setting boundaries, treating ourselves respectfully, and nurturing our growth. It is neither selfish nor vain as prioritizing ourselves leaves us with a better capacity to support others.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Brain & Behavior – Self-Love and What It Means

Self-Work

Self-work is the work and effort we dedicate to improving ourselves. From setting goals to developing mental health strategies to seeking professional assistance, we must hold ourselves accountable to do the work before receiving the reward.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Hello Giggles – Here’s How You Can Start Your Self-Work Journey

Soothing

Soothing relieves pain or discomfort to create a feeling of calm. Different soothing methods may be used to target physical, mental, emotional or spiritual pain. Effective soothing techniques will differ from person to person, so it may be helpful to test multiple options and suggestions.

Read More| How to Self-Soothe During A Panic Attack

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Positive Psychology – 24 Best Self-Soothing Techniques and Strategies for Adults

Stigma

Courtesy of Better Health: “stigma is when someone sees you in a negative way because of your mental illness.” Stigma involves prejudice and discrimination that is often the result of misinformation, disinformation and deception. It may prevent people from seeking help, which will, in turn, cause mental illness to worsen. Always remember that mental illness is only one aspect of our identity, and everyone has a right to strive for good mental health.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Better Health – Stigma, discrimination and mental illness

Therapy

Therapy or counselling is the process of meeting with a trained and licensed mental health provider in a series of sessions. Sessions may be completed privately, as a couple or in a group as needed. The term “therapy” is surrounded by stigma. However, therapy is a very healthy activity for our mental well-being and is similar to seeking physical healthcare. Therapy benefits everyone, whether seeking treatment for a mental illness or looking to improve their overall mental health.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is therapy more specifically aimed at treating mental illness. A trained mental health professional may assist us in learning the cause of our condition and how to cope effectively. Psychotherapy is a clinical term we may choose to use while searching for an appropriate therapist. However, it is acceptable to refer to any form of therapy as therapy.

Glossary for Mental Health

Trauma

Courtesy of American Psychology Association: “trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event.” Physical or psychological symptoms may present immediately after the event or arise years later. Sometimes the traumatic response will be to forget specific details of the event, but our mind will still remember the danger. Psychotherapy can help unearth the details of the traumatic event to provide treatment.

Trigger

Courtesy of Healthline: “triggers are anything that might cause a person to recall a traumatic experience they’ve had.” Anything may trigger a memory of the event, including images, scents, sounds or someone discussing a similar experience. The trigger may cause minor to dangerous emotional or psychological pain. A minor reaction may be soothed with self-care and mental health strategies. However, a strong reaction may be dangerous to our safety and require help from a professional mental healthcare provider.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with this website):

Healthline – What It Really Means to Be Triggered

Trigger Warning (TW)

A trigger warning is often used on social media to indicate the content may be triggering. TW will be included at the top of the post and should be followed by the topic (i.e. TW: violence). The increasing use of trigger warnings is an example of the benefits of mental health awareness.

What other words should I add? Let me know in the comments below!

Why You Should Start Journaling

Journaling is a very personal activity. And there are many different purposes and means of keeping a journal.

It can be a memoir of your travel, year or life.

It can be a means of self-help, record-keeping or tracking personal goals.

Or it may just be a new hobby to try.

I have been journaling for ten years. And I have used many journals for various reasons.

In this post, I aspired to include everything you may want to know about starting a journal. It may be an information overload. Just take what you want and leave the rest. Please use the links to jump ahead to the section you need.

One of the purposes of this blog is to share my mental health journey. So I have focused a lot on journaling for mental health. However, I hope the information I provide is still useful for anyone interested in journaling.

Why to start a mental health journal

Why Do People Journal?

The most basic use of a journal is to keep track of events and experiences. But the benefit is beyond the simple act of writing. Reading over those events later gives us a unique view of ourselves.

Every entry includes snippets of our personality, mindset and emotions.

Our mindset in a moment can shape how we view and remember an event. But our memories make it very difficult to separate fact from emotion. A journal entry gives more detail than our memory ever will. And once we have multiple entries to review, we can get a richer portrait of ourselves.

The self-reflective element of journaling makes it useful for practicing self-care, emotional intelligence, and improving therapy.

Journaling for Self-Care

Self-care is exactly as the name suggests: caring for yourself. It is the activities that you do to take care of your health.

Proper self-care requires working on yourself every day, both mentally and physically.

A good self-care routine includes activities that are physical, mental and emotional.

  • Physical activities are things like walking, dancing or taking a bath.
  • Mental activities like reading, drawing or learning a new skill.
  • Emotional activities like meditation, talking with friends or journaling.

Keeping a journal eases your thoughts and feelings.

It also can help you understand your mind, especially when it starts to feel jumbled and overwhelmed.

And reading past entries will also remind you of good days filled with happy memories. And you can trust the bad days will pass.

Journaling for Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is all about recognizing, understanding and using our emotions. And as I said above, one of the benefits of journaling is self-reflection.

Reading through past journal entries allows us to identify our feelings and the source of those feelings.

I’ll give you a very personal example of using a journal for EQ:

I started to find my journal entries to have common themes of feeling sad, small, and stupid. The common event was any form of contact with my partner. Once I realized this, I began to use my journal to encourage myself to end the relationship.

I identified my feelings, understood their cause and used them to create positive change in my life.

While this is an oversimplified explanation of EQ, keeping a journal is one practice to grow your emotional intelligence.

Journaling for Therapy

A journal can help you talk to your therapist.

Journaling has been described as a cheap form of therapy. But I would never say that it replaces a therapist. I have been in therapy during my mental health journey, and nothing can fully replace the help it provides.

Keeping a journal for therapy will add to your growth.

My experience is that a therapist will expect you to do homework between sessions. This homework could be reflecting on your session or practicing some form of self-help. Your therapist may even provide you with resources, such as worksheets or tasks. But if not, a journal is a great tool.

Regular entries will reveal your mindset and help you understand why you are struggling. Through these breakthroughs, you can narrow down what you need to work on in your sessions. Therefore, a journal can help you talk to your therapist.

You can also use a journal to track your progress in therapy. Re-read your entries over the past year to see where you started and how it’s going.

We take from therapy as much as we put into it. It takes time, emotion and honesty. And writing a journal entry gives us this outlet while only requiring a few minutes of our day.

How I Started Journaling (And Almost Quit)

When I was in high school, a teacher told everyone to keep a pad of paper and a pen next to their bed.

It was easy to start. I bought a cheap notebook and searched online for journal prompts.

And I wrote every day to form the habit.

Working the pen lightens my load.

But it quickly felt like a chore for two reasons:

First, I have very messy handwriting.

My hand simply cannot keep up with my thoughts. And when I first started, I hated that. I wanted to have pretty journals and didn’t want to wreck a new one with my writing.

I started writing slowly and focused hard on my penmanship. Until I realized I wasn’t writing as much as I needed to express myself fully.

Eventually, I came to accept how much better it feels to mark the page than to have pristine paper. Working the pen lightens my load when I write freely.

Second, I was trying to follow prompts and 30-day writing challenges.

Prompts are great for beginners. They will give you ideas of what to write about.

But I only connected with a few prompts I found online. So I’d be bored using the same topic again. Or I’d force myself to write one I’m not interested in. It wasn’t fun or beneficial.

Therefore, once I understood the journaling basics, I stopped using prompts.

My tactic is now to start with a statement or create a question, similar to the examples I provide below.

Ultimately, I got the idea and basics of journaling from other people. But I’ve been able to keep journaling for over ten years because I adjusted the pastime to suit my needs.

I try to update my journal three times a week. I allow my pages to be messy. And I rarely use prompts unless they’re interesting.

Everything you want to know about starting a journal

How to Write In a Journal

The rules are there ain’t no rules.

– “Grease” (1978)

A journal is incredibly personal. And there is no one right way to do it.

So let’s start by breaking whatever misconceptions you may have about journaling:

It is not a school assignment. You don’t have to be a good writer, use proper grammar or tell a story. There is no minimum number of words and no maximum number of pages. You are writing for yourself. You won’t need to explain your thoughts to other people or seek their approval. And please don’t feel like you have to write pages-long prose about the woes of the day.

Now let’s give you some motivation to start writing:

Write about what you want as often as you need. You can write once a day, four times a day, once a week, three times a month—it’s in your hands. A few sentences are fine. It’s understandable if you don’t have the energy to write every day.

Write when you are happy as well as when you are sad.

Choose a writing style that suits you:

  • Freewriting
  • Jot notes
  • Lists
  • Poems
  • Lyrics
  • Comics
  • Doodles
  • Write in a notebook
  • Type on a computer or phone

Use one pen or multi-coloured pens and highlighters to develop your own technique.

Using different pens really helped me in therapy.

When I journal, I will often start wherever my mind is focused. For example, it could be in the middle of a story. Then as I write through the event, I will go on tangents to cover different angles.

Before my next therapy session, I will read over my journal entries and mark up the pages with a different coloured pen. In other words, I study my journal entries to prepare my notes.

Bottom line: You have total freedom to do whatever you want in your journal.

Start Your Journal

Before buying a journal… start writing.

Before buying your first journal, notebook or diary, start writing.

On the one hand, waiting until you find the perfect journal is a great excuse not to start journaling. (You’ll have to trust me on this as I am a master procrastinator.)

On the other hand, you need to figure out your journaling style.

I don’t want you to find writing as a task. So, let’s keep it simple.

Experiment to find the best writing style for you, using whatever you have on hand:

  • Add notes on your phone.
  • Start typing on your computer.
  • Make a list on post-its.
  • Answer prompts on a notepad.
  • Draw on blank paper.

Think of this as an audition.

Try writing every day, but do something a little different. If on Monday, you write a list of your favourite songs. On Tuesday, try drawing your emotions. And on Wednesday, free write on your computer.

You can narrow down the proper journal when you know what feels most comfortable for you.

Getting The Right Journal

Infographic about buying your first journal including notebooks (hard-bound, soft-bound and spiral-bound), paper (lined, unlined and dotted), Pages and cost

Once you know how you want to journal, you can start looking at the available options.

Again, journaling does not have to be expensive.

To give you an idea of the variety of journals, I will describe my journals and how I use them.

I currently have 5 personal journals and use them for various reasons:

  1. Mental health

My mental health journal is a big honker. It has three sections separated as lined, unlined, and dotted pages. It is spiral-bound and has 480 pages. It cost less than $20.00.

I really hop around and use whichever section fits my current mood. I write on all the pages but also use the unlined and dotted pages to draw.

I also use the unlined pages during my therapy sessions. My sessions are over messenger, so I jot down what we discuss and any advice I receive. After the session, I review everything and use a different coloured pen to write notes.

  1. Brainstorming

My brainstorming journal has 120 lined pages. It is a soft-bound notebook and had cost about $14.00.

I use this journal for writing my blog posts. To be blunt, this is my most chaotic journal.

  1. Quotes

My quotes journal has 100 lined pages. It is a soft-bound notebook. The cover was custom-designed and cost around $50.00 in total. The cover is also removable. Once the notebook is full, I can get a new one and re-use the cover.

I use this journal to keep track of the first sentence of every book that I read. I got the idea from a writing class. This is my favourite way of keeping track of the books I’ve read. When I re-read the sentence, I instantly remember the book I got it from.

  1. Doodling

My doodling journal has 500 unlined pages. It is a hard-bound art book. The pages are designed to absorb ink without bleeding through to the next. For this reason, it also cost $40.00.

I am not good at drawing, but that doesn’t stop me. I draw multiple images on every page. And I date each of my pictures. I’ve noticed some improvement as I keep practicing, so seeing the dates is also encouraging.

  1. Notes

My note-taking journal is really a catch-all. It has four sections and 400 pages. It is a spiral-bound notebook and cost $20.00.

I use it to learn new programs, self-care strategies, hobbies, etc.

Some things to consider

Your best journal is whatever suits your writing style and feels most comfortable. And every option has strengths and weaknesses.

A soft-bound will need to be held open. But you will get full use of the paper. I also like how they look on the shelf.

A spiral-bound will fold around, so you have less to hold. I also like how easy it is to pull a page from a spiral-bound notebook. But the coil may be uncomfortable to rest your wrist on. And sometimes, the coil wrecks the covers of other books, so I don’t want them on my bookshelves.

Some notebooks include writing prompts. These are good if you really want a writing challenge or need the motivation. But they will cost more money. And the possibilities for these journals are limited to the subject of the prompts.

If you want a journal just because you love the cover, go for it! I have bought many journals for that exact reason. In time, I always find a use for them.

And I fully encourage you to keep multiple journals at once. You can separate them by theme or goal.

Again, there are no rules so choose the options that serve you best.

What to Write In Your Journal

It can be challenging to sit down and start writing. You may question where or how you should start.

Just remember that there are no rules to writing in a journal.

If you have something sitting heavy in your mind, write it out.

And it’s okay to start in the middle of a story. You are journaling for yourself, not for other people to read. You already know the situation/feeling/problem you are writing about. Let it out; the paper can take it.

If you need some help to get started, please use my list of journal prompts.

Journal Prompts

Choose the prompts that connect with you. Don’t force yourself to write every prompt.

General

  • What did I do today?
  • How do I feel today? Why?
  • Look out the window. What do I see? (Be detailed.)
  • What is something new I learned this week?
  • What are my goals for today? This week? This year?

Opening Statements

  • The things that bring me the most joy are…
  • I want/need to forgive…
  • I wish…
  • I am excited to…
  • I am focused on…

Lists

  • 10 of my favourite inspirational quotes.
  • 5 emotions. Try to answer: what does [emotion] mean to me?
  • Things to let go of.
  • My favourite song lyrics. (Can you explain why?)
  • Daily affirmations.

For Mental Health

  • What am I grateful for today?
  • What makes me feel safe? (These could be people, objects, places or actions.)
  • How do I want to feel today?
  • What do I love about myself?
  • (After meditation) What passed through my mind?
20 effective prompts to motivate your journaling journey. Prompts for beginners.

I hope you feel motivated to get that journal started! Have you started a journal? Share your tips or questions in the comments below!

5 Personality Quizzes for Personal Growth

We all have a fascination with personality quizzes.

We enjoy measuring our compatibility, discovering our spirit animal, and finding our Hogwarts house (I’m Hufflepuff, y’all!). 

Regardless of the test, receiving a general assessment of our personality is incredibly interesting.

But their value goes beyond simple fun as they are a considerable resource for personal growth.

And the internet is awash with easy quizzes created by psychologists for this exact use.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, psychologist, therapist or similar. This blog offers ideas, tools, strategies and recommendations based on my experience with anxiety, panic attacks and mental health. I do not guarantee any results or outcomes as strategies that have worked for me may not work for you. For diagnosis and treatment of any physical and mental health condition, consult a licensed professional.

5 free personality quizzes to start your self-discovery

Quizzes to Support a Personal Growth Journey

Personality tests offer a unique outsider’s perspective to help us be introspective and self-analyze.

By answering a few questions at the start of our journey, we can discover strengths and weaknesses that we might not realize we have.

Once we identify the areas we want to focus on and improve, we can set our goals.

Then we can judge our progress by retaking the tests during the journey.

5 Free Personality Quizzes

Below is a list of 5 personality quizzes that I have found most informative on my journey.

(I have no affiliation with these websites. And please note that the links will take you away from the Introvert Proofing website, and you will be subject to the Privacy Policy of those individual websites.)

All the quizzes provide a test and free, basic results. However, I will indicate anywhere additional fees may be required for in-depth results.

I have ordered the list based on the amount of free information offered on each website.

Guidelines for Completing the Quizzes

The quizzes are all multiple choice, and there are no wrong answers. To get the best results:

  1. Answer honestly and with the first answer that comes to mind.
  2. Do not overthink your responses.
  3. Do not try to answer based on what you think you should choose.

Once you have your results, think about the traits you identify with—positive and negative. Again, these are general results, so some characteristics may not apply to you. Now you can begin to focus on those traits you want to improve.

How do personality quizzes support your journey? 1. A unique outsider's perspective. 2. Discover hidden strengths and weaknesses. 3. Provide focus to set goals. 4. Track progress.

Grab yourself a beverage and get comfy; it’s time to discover who you are.

1.      16Personalities

This quiz takes roughly 10 minutes to complete.

The amount of free information on the website is rather impressive. For example, each personality type includes data for the following categories: introduction, strengths and weaknesses, romantic relationships, friendships, parenthood, career paths, workplace habits, and conclusion. Some free articles and a newsletter subscription are also available.

For more detailed information, you may pay for a premium profile. There are 3 one-time payment options that all provide an e-book specific to your personality type and access to their web content for 1 year:

  1. Basic: $29.00
  2. Basic plus access to additional tests $49.00
  3. Basic plus access to additional tests and all 16 personality e-books $169.00.

With this quiz, I learned that I am an INFJ-T, a rare personality type. It explains many of my struggles and reveals some pretty impressive strengths!

2.      Interpersonal Skills Self-Assessment

This quiz from Skills You Need takes about 15 minutes to complete.

The results are completely free. You will have the option to receive the results via email, or you may skip that option and copy/paste the results into a saveable document.

Interpersonal skills are all about how we interact with other people. And this quiz provides our percentage scores in the following categories: listening skills, emotional intelligence, verbal communication, and communicating in groups.

The results provide links to their pages with further information on developing these skills.

This quiz was important for my journey as I am very introverted. And to have the experiences I always dreamed of, I needed to identify the skills I lack.

I ranked well in emotional intelligence but need to improve in group communication. I’m working on it.

| Read more: Are Introverts Rude?

3.      Who Am I? Visual DNA

This quiz takes 10 minutes to complete.

I find this quiz format quite interesting as it provides pictures for you to react, analyze and respond to.

The results are completely free. You will receive a printable PDF showing the percentages you scored under 5 categories. And each category then explains what this means about your personality.

Note: To keep this test free, they ask that you do a brand/advertising test. It is completely optional and can be skipped to take you directly to your results. But they are well-worth the support.

The website does not provide additional information beyond the PDF. However, I like it as an interesting assessment.

This quiz encouraged me to share my journey and start my blog.

4.      Enneagram

This quiz from Truity takes 10-15 minutes to complete.

The free results are presented in a pie chart showing which personality type you most identify with.

A full 18-page report of your test results is available for $29.00.

However, the website also provides information for all 9 enneagram personalities, including their personality types, core values, relationships, and tips for growth. Read more

Enneagram is also very trendy at the moment, so you may find additional information for your number through an online search.

I’ve taken this quiz twice over a several-month period. My initial result was a 9, and my second a 1.

5.      Emotional Intelligence Test

This quiz from Psychology Today takes 45 minutes to complete.

The test offers situations and asks how you would respond in order to assess your self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and social skills.

I am a firm believer that EQ is influential in personal growth, mental health, and relationships.

The results are provided with a rating out of 100 and one paragraph explaining if you’re doing well or not. So not a whole lot of free information.

However, a full report is available for $9.95.

I recently scored an 81 for my ability to read others’ emotions and understand myself. Unfortunately, I had taken this quiz earlier in my journey but did not document my results at that time. And I don’t want to speculate on a number. However, I do know that my score has improved!

Personality Quizzes for Personal Growth

Summary

I hope that you will find these quizzes fun and informative.

Maybe the results will surprise you, and you can better understand who you are.

As for your journey, I hope your results will help you to celebrate your strengths, identify your weaknesses and set your personal growth goals.

Have you used any personality quizzes during your journey? Please share them in the comments below!

7 Strategies for Coping with Morning Anxiety

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, psychologist, therapist or similar. This blog offers ideas, tools, strategies and recommendations based on my experience with anxiety, panic attacks and mental health. I do not guarantee any results or outcomes as strategies that have worked for me may not work for you. For diagnosis and treatment of any physical and mental health condition, consult a licensed professional.

When does your anxiety usually hit?

I’m hardest hit in the morning—right when I wake up.

Anxious thoughts always seem to float through my final REM cycle of the night.

It is the worst alarm clock ever.

Pinterest Image: Seven self-care strategies to cope with morning anxiety

My mind is constantly working.

As an office worker and again as a teacher, I would constantly be thinking about what I needed to do at work and the best way to accomplish it. And now, with my blog, I’m always thinking of new content and how to present it.

No matter what kind of job I have, I lose sleep thinking about it.

And then there are all the other things that I worry about: a bill that needs to be paid, heavy rainfall, questioning if I turned off the stove or a what-if scenario that I’m running late.

Any of these things will force me to sit bolt upright in bed, drenched in sweat, heart hammering away as if the world is ending.

Anxiety is a terrible way to start the day.

But I have learned how to manage my anxious mornings with time-intensive strategies; and none of them are ignoring it until it goes away

We can fake confidence, but we can’t deceive our mental health.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Healthline – Why Do I Have Anxiety in the Morning?

Well and Good – How to Prevent Morning Anxiety From Totally Ruining Your Day

Anxiety Specialists of Atlanta – Waking up Exhausted and Anxious?

1. Take a Day

Some people offer this as a last resort, but having a day for yourself is vital.

I think everyone should take a day more often. But I realize that this is not always an option for everyone based on your job or economic necessity.

If your job offers mental health days or sick days, take them.

If you’re a stay-at-home parent, ask your partner or a family member to take over for a few hours.

Calling work may add a little more nervousness to your morning. And I have always needed to convince myself to do it, but I have never regretted making the call.

Dedicate the entire day to yourself if you can.

Catch up on the sleep that was attacked.

Do your comforting activities.

Ignore social media for the whole day (I’ll explain why later).

And just relax. And I mean, really relax.

If part of your anxiety revolves around unfinished household chores, set a one-hour timer to get some (not all) done. Then save the remainder of the day for yourself.

My typical mental health day is filled with the comforting and stress-relieving activities I enjoy:

  • Sleeping for as long as possible with Do Not Disturb in full effect.
  • A shower to relax tense muscles and keep my skin healthy.
  • Wearing daytime pyjamas.
  • Drinking a warm beverage, but I try to avoid caffeine as it won’t soothe an anxious body.
  • And listening to an audiobook while working on a puzzle to focus my mind.

Again, these are the activities that I enjoy and I find calming.

When you take a day for yourself, fill it with the activities that comfort you. You can exercise, do crafts, bake, or do anything that feels calming to you.

It’s your day.

The main point is to rest your body and your mind.

2. Make a To-Do List

Anxiety sometimes leaves me feeling as if I am lazy, inept, and unproductive.

When an anxiety attack hits first thing in the morning, the idea of getting through the day can be daunting.

It’s already hard to get out of bed and only gets worse as the day’s tasks continue to build up.

Write a list on paper or your phone to get those tasks out of your mind.

When you accomplish a task, you can check it off.

It’s hard to explain but seeing all the check marks on a completed list is uplifting.

Even if I have completed a task before making a list, I will write it down for the simple joy of checking it off.

A to-do list helps me to focus. I know what I need to do, and I can track my progress for the day.

I can also limit my list based on what my current energy can accomplish.

If I have ten tasks but only the energy for four, I list the four most important things I need to do today. The act of finishing those four tasks may give me the energy to complete another two, three or four. And if I can’t do all ten, I reassure myself by looking at what I have achieved today.

My list will prove to my mind that I am competent and productive.

3. Feel for 15

This suggestion will take time and practice to master, but it’s entirely worth the effort.

Emotional intelligence is all about being aware of, understanding and managing our emotions.

No one likes to feel angry, sad, or anxious. These are heavy emotions that wear on our bodies. 

But we need to experience all emotions in their turn.

When anxiety hits, give yourself a set amount of time to feel through it.

You will dictate the amount of time you are prepared to give to your anxious thoughts.

This can be done in bed, in the shower or on the bus ride to work.

When my chest is bursting, I allow my mind 15 minutes to be anxious.

I will start by asking myself aloud, 

Okay, what are we freaking out about? 

Then my mind will flow through every negative and positive thought for 15 minutes.

That time allows me to be introspective about the issue(s) that triggered my anxiety and possible solutions.

I also use my physical coping mechanisms to calm my body during this time.

| Read more: How to Self-Soothe During a Panic Attack

The anxious thought may return later.

However, I can self-soothe with the reassurance that I already gave it time:

“No. I’ve already worried about that. Let it go.”

Through practice, I have found that 15 minutes works best for me.

If you need more or less time, take it.

Try not to suppress your anxiety, anger or sadness. I am happier for feeling all of my emotions.

4. Journal

The old faithful.

The basics of journaling are getting your feelings out of your mind.

Use it to understand and work through your thoughts and experiences. 

It doesn’t matter how you write; just write:

  • Freewrite
  • Jot notes
  • Poems
  • Lyrics
  • Comics

When I am anxious, I freewrite in my journal and let my mind go on its journey. 

Sometimes it just relieves me from the weight of overwhelming thoughts. 

And sometimes, it helps me find solutions.

Writing is a comforting activity for me. Just the feeling of writing with a pen on paper is calming. 

Please never feel embarrassed about starting a journal. It’s personal, and it’s helpful.

5. Use Affirmations

An affirmation is a positive statement we can use to recondition our minds.

It is a mindful activity that we need to prepare and practice during calm moments. Consider it like preparing your arsenal for when anxiety attacks.

You can find an overwhelming number of affirmations through Google. But I would suggest using those as examples only.

I find affirmations are more successful when meaningful and personal.

| Read more: Generate Positivity With Affirmations

You can also choose the number of affirmations that you need. Rely on one or choose from a collection to suit your present circumstances.

Should an anxiety attack hit me, I choose one of my affirmations and repeat it in my mind or out loud while looking into a mirror.

And I don’t just use affirmations when I am feeling anxious. I have five daily affirmations that I say to myself in the morning and night.

I find they don’t just protect me; they can also set my mood.

6. Do Not Use Social Media

I know that scrolling through Instagram or Facebook can feel relieving; we can see cute animals or funny videos.

But we have zero control over what we will see on social media.

Your friends and family can share personal updates or news stories that you are not prepared for.

Or you may start watching a cute animal video just to find out it’s an in memoriam—this happened to me recently.

If you’re already feeling anxious, stay offline.

Similarly, be deliberate about when you check the news. It’s important to stay informed. But a majority of the stories are negative.

I don’t need to compound an anxious day with further doom and gloom.

Choose a comforting activity that you can control.

7. Do Not Use Negative Self-Talk

Anxiety will try to convince you that you suck.

But your mind is lying to you.

You are worth so much more than every negative thought.

And you owe it to yourself to be encouraging and optimistic.

I would never speak to the people I love how my mind speaks to me.

I consciously reassure myself that I am safe and loved and better than my mind wants me to believe.

Pinterest image: Transform your mind. How to overcome morning anxiety. Anxiety is a terrible way to start the day. 
Learn how to manage anxious mornings with 
time-intensive strategies.

I hope that you have noticed the common theme among my coping strategies is self-care: giving time to the care of my mind, body and emotions.

For an anxious person, it can feel like the best solution to our struggle is to become numb and just follow through the motions of the day.

But we are not robots.

I want to live a fulfilling life, not just survive the day.

Blocking out feelings to avoid the bad ones also blocks out everything positive, happy and exciting.

Pushing through to endure beyond enduring draws a heavy cost on our health.

And not giving time to our difficult emotions does not control them. It actually takes all control from us.

Knowing the best strategies to serve your anxiety will first depend on what your anxiety triggers are.

| Read more: 100 Anxiety Triggers

Try to keep in mind that most mental health remedies, strategies and skills take practice, time and effort.

There is no quick or easy solution so give yourself time to find the perfect strategies to serve you.

When does your anxiety usually hit? And what is your most successful coping strategy? Share it in the comments below!

100 Anxiety Triggers

“…things that were, things that are, and things that may yet be.”

J. R. R. Tolkien

Anxiety doesn’t make sense. I know it doesn’t. But that doesn’t stop my mind from filling with worry and my body from feeling sick with nerves.

And I am tired of people asking me what I have to be nervous about.

So I decided to make a list.

I set my number at 100 to see if I could actually make a full list. Then I let my mind take over to remember every real-world and “what if” scenario that has triggered my anxiety at one point or another.

Thankfully, one thing we can always count on is a flighty imagination to keep the panic ticking on.

My triggers have developed from a mixture of past experiences, learning from others’ past experiences, and my own unkempt imagination. However, I will not be discussing those root causes on this list.

What are the benefits of knowing your anxiety triggers?

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, psychologist, therapist or similar. This blog offers ideas, tools, strategies and recommendations based on my experience with anxiety, panic attacks and mental health. I do not guarantee any results or outcomes as strategies that have worked for me may not work for you. For diagnosis and treatment of any physical and mental health condition, consult a licensed professional.

Sitting down to make a list of anything that has tripped your anxiety is a practice in self-reflection. And once you have that list, you can analyze it to see the connections and identify the underlying causes.

Knowing the root cause of these feelings will then give you a goal to focus on during your journey.

And, this practice will give a huge boost to your emotional intelligence.

But beyond that, perhaps the greatest benefit of identifying your emotional triggers comes when developing your anxiety coping strategies.

To cope with your anxiety, you may focus on addressing the root causes, begin to assert boundaries, and learn how to avoid the triggering events.

Read more from the pros (I have no affiliation with these websites, but have found them useful on my journey):

Healthline – How To Identify and Manage your Emotional Triggers

Psychology Today – How to Spot Your Emotional Triggers

The Holistic Psychologist – Let Your Triggers Be Your Teacher

The benefits of knowing your anxiety triggers.

A List With A Purpose

I know this is an odd post, but this list serves two purposes:

  1. exercising my emotional intelligence; and
  2. for a laugh because I know that some of these things are completely ridiculous.

At the risk of this topic feeling sad, please know I chose to post it to share and create camaraderie among people with anxiety.

Perhaps this list will provide some comfort that you are not alone should you have similar triggers or your own silly triggers (like number 44: stomach gurgles).

Please know that I try to laugh at how ridiculous my mind can be rather than mope in constant dread.

When a negative thought flits through my mind, I try to push it away with a hopeful alternative or action plan.

Anxiety will only leave me as stuck as I let it. And I’m nervous about getting stuck anywhere (see numbers 43 and 51).

How does my anxiety get triggered? Let me count the ways.

Disclaimer: Please read this post with caution as I do not want it to trigger your anxiety or, worse, a panic attack. Take care!

  1. When a doorbell rings.
  2. A knock on the door.
  3. Answering the door.
  4. Not answering the door.
  5. My messy apartment.
  6. My clean apartment.
  7. People who drop by without warning.
  8. Having people over, ever.
  9. Talking.
  10. Not talking.
  11. Talking too much.
  12. When I set the alarm.
  13. When I can’t sleep.
  14. When I can’t sleep because I set the alarm.
  15. When I have five more hours to sleep before the alarm goes off.
  16. My home security alarm.
  17. My car alarm.
  18. Loud noises.
  19. Going on a date.
  20. Going on a virtual date.
  21. What if I forgot to unplug my straightener?
  22. A ringing phone.
  23. Calling family.
  24. Calling a client.
  25. Calling to make an appointment.
  26. Going to an appointment.
  27. What if I’m early?
  28. What if I’m late?
  29. What if I have the wrong date?
  30. Tuesday.
  31. Am I having a panic attack or heart attack?
  32. Lighting a candle.
  33. Extinguishing a candle.
  34. Using a lighter.
  35. Using a gas stove.
  36. The first day of the new school year.
  37. The first day back after a break.
  38. Tests.
  39. That embarrassing thing I said when I was 9.
  40. Walking alone.
  41. Walking with other people.
  42. Walking near crowds.
  43. Getting stuck in the mud (walking or driving).
  44. Stomach gurgles.
  45. My posture.
  46. What if I forgot to turn off the light?
  47. Entering a new store.
  48. Asking for help.
  49. Returning an item.
  50. I’m not sure what I’m anxious about right now, but my body feels anxious. Let me think about it.
  51. What if the tire doesn’t line up on the track at the car wash, and I get stuck?
  52. The flight I have tomorrow.
  53. The flight I have in six months.
  54. The flight I haven’t booked yet.
  55. Finding my seat on the plane.
  56. Receiving bills.
  57. Paying bills.
  58. Remembering if I paid the bills.
  59. Taxes.
  60. Deadlines.
  61. Making mistakes.
  62. Running.
  63. Driving in a new area.
  64. What if I don’t know anyone there?
  65. What if I know someone there?
  66. Setting up a bio on any social media app, ever.
  67. Making a reel.
  68. Taking a selfie.
  69. Posting a selfie.
  70. Posting myself in a story.
  71. Writing a blog post.
  72. Sharing a blog post like this.
  73. Doing too much.
  74. Not doing enough.
  75. It’s 3 AM—why am I still awake?
  76. It’s 11 PM—what am I doing with my life?
  77. Everything I need to do tomorrow.
  78. Everything I didn’t do today.
  79. When I need to leave and can see the neighbours are outside.
  80. When I need to leave and can hear the neighbours are also about to leave.
  81. When people are close enough to read over my shoulder.
  82. When people can see me sing in the car.
  83. What if I’m overdressed?
  84. What if I’m underdressed?
  85. Wearing a bra.
  86. Not wearing a bra.
  87. Forgetting someone’s name.
  88. Being too excited.
  89. Being too sensitive.
  90. Being too mean.
  91. Being too nice.
  92. Spending $200.00.
  93. Carrying any amount of cash.
  94. Having a wallet.
  95. What if I forget my wallet?
  96. What if I forget my phone?
  97. What if I forget my keys?
  98. Poor Wi-Fi.
  99. A phone battery at 60%.
  100. Anything outside of my control.

How I Deal

I’ve developed some coping strategies to ease my anxiety.

But I also structure some of my life around limiting the triggers:

For 1-4, I will only use an app like Skip the Dishes or DoorDash when ordering food. The delivery instructions are always: leave the food at the door, do not ring the bell. And when they don’t even knock—above and beyond! You get five stars.

For 23-25, I ask to keep all communication online, and thankfully, in 2022, it’s more acceptable than it used to be.

For 95-97, I need my fives when I go out: phone, money, ID, keys and lip balm. I keep the list short. I always count off my fives before leaving the house. If I need to add one more item, I keep it under the keys and put a post-it note on the door.

While these extra steps can feel like a pain, they make me feel confident and in control.

Please tell me you share some of these triggers! And if you have any odd triggers, share them down below.

100 anxiety triggers and how to create coping strategies