Conditioned behavior in regards to anxiety disorders typically means that our obsessive thoughts have created what we call a “circular pattern”, meaning that our thoughts constantly repeat themselves over and over. This circular pattern many times is difficult to break.
One means of breaking this circular pattern is to journal. By journaling, what we are essentially doing is taking our thoughts and giving them an escape; a chance to change direction. Instead of the circular pattern, now they can take on a more linear path.
Journaling does not have to follow any specific format, or include any specific information. It is advised to start out small. To just keep the act of journaling on your daily to do list allows you an opportunity to help empower yourself. Journaling can be done daily, or weekly. Our typical suggestion is to keep your topics simple to start with. The easiest way to begin journaling is by noting your levels of anxiety and how they were. Were they higher or lower? And if so, do you know why? Write about the tools and practice that you may have engaged in. These things help you in terms of intellectually looking at the recovery process and what your anxiety has been doing.
In addition, journaling offers added benefit for people with health anxiety and other forms of anxiety which may be difficult to distinguish anxious thoughts from intellectual thinking. The journaling will allow these people an opportunity to put down in writing the pattern of their thoughts and see how his pattern repeats itself. This can be beneficial in helping to learn to not respond to the anxiety.
Another suggestion for journaling is to do so when you have had a good experience of some kind; some success in our recovery. Whether exposure practice, use of tools, a positive experience of some sorts, or any specific situation that you find noteworthy in your recovery should be written down.
The benefit of writing down positive experiences when they happen are we often forget the positive experience after a period of time. Especially when our anxiety levels go higher, it is almost impossible for us to remember the positive experiences that we have had. So by journaling, we write down the positive experience, and in the future when we are feeling “stuck” or hopeless in our efforts, we can go back and read our own words explain a positive experience.
This can have a tremendous impact in reminding us of what has happened in the past, in order to help us stay motivated and hopeful to continue working the program.