Sweaty palms, anxious jitters, a racing heartbeat – we’ve all been there. Pre-performance nerves are seemingly universal to the human species. If you dread the thought of presenting in front of a large group of people or fear failure in any performance-related activity, you’re not alone. Although the physiological responses of our bodies may be difficult to completely control, there are undoubtedly some practical ways you can start to improve how you respond to and cope with performance stressors, nerves, and anxiety. Let’s take a look at just a few of these helpful tips.
Confronting a stressful situation head-on is already hard enough but doing so while underprepared is much worse. Think about a time when you’ve begun something challenging without putting in the prep-work it required beforehand. There’s a high chance your performance wasn’t as successful as it could have been because you were ill-equipped for the task. The expression “practice makes perfect” is so overused for a reason – it really works. Human beings are less likely to feel mass amounts of nerves and anxiety if they are prepped, rehearsed, and organized.
Just consider how people with potentially adrenaline-inducing jobs handle their performances. Professional rock climbers and poker players both agree that working through the fear is possible by practicing over and over again, and that level of preparation is directly linked to the level of emotional energy necessary in order to perform well. Listen to the experts if you are skeptical: being prepared will not fail you. One of the most helpful strategies for calming performance-related stress is to acquire confidence in your ability to succeed. This self-assurance is best attained from knowing deep down that you have prepared as best you can.
Concerts, sporting events, university presentations, and adrenaline-inducing activities are all examples of situations that often produce nerves in their participants
Find ways to relax daily
Most people say that reacting calmly in the exact moment of an anxious experience is extremely difficult. While preparation helps dramatically, sometimes the body cannot help but feel the physical weight of stress. However, training the mind through daily practices of relaxation can provide you with the necessary tools to tackle these situations differently when in the thick of them.
Whether it’s through meditation or yoga, practice taking control of your breath at least once a day. Concentrate on every sensation in your body and let wandering thoughts enter freely, but without giving them the power to distract you from the moment. Find the right meditation technique for you and commit to practicing it consistently over a long-term period of time. While it may seem futile at first, you will begin to notice how your first reactions in moments of stress are more contained and calmer than in the beginning.
Studies show that daily meditation practices often see positive results in as short a time as three weeks
Be kind to yourself
When it comes to anxiety, our biggest enemy is often ourselves. Negative self-talk leading up to or during an important event can be cause for an emotional breakdown. Rather than focusing on the negative, the words we speak to ourselves should be kind, encouraging, loving, and true. Even if a performance does not produce the result you were hoping for, it doesn’t mean you are the embodiment of failure. Speak to yourself the way you would like to be spoken to, however silly that may sound. Adopting a few positive affirmations that you can repeat to yourself in the midst of any anxiety-inducing situation can help you to remember what is true and what is not.
Another huge part of caring for yourself means filling your body with the right nutrients it needs to be happy. Combining daily exercise with healthy eating habits is a foolproof recipe for success. The truth is this: being kind to yourself is a multifaceted job that takes awareness, commitment, and practice. But, ironically, if you truly want to grab a hold of your anxiety and have the power to respond to any stressful situation with ease, the most transformational changes may begin with you.
As teenagers, most of us kept diaries. We used to write what we were going through and then hide them somewhere safe. A diary was the only place we could confess our fears and struggles without being judged or punished by anyone.
It really felt good getting all of those thoughts and
emotions out of your chest and down on paper. Everything seemed clearer after
performing this exercise.
Most of us stopped using diaries when we reached
adulthood. As an adult, you are faced with struggles on a daily basis which may
result in stress, anxiety and depression. Journaling is as important today as
it were during your teenage years.
In fact, it is much more important for you to start
doing it now especially if you have children. If you are stressed or depressed,
your children will definitely be affected.
Journaling helps you gain control of your emotions. It
improves your mental health. Today, we are going to discuss how to journal for
mental health. But first, let’s understand effective journaling and its
Effective Journaling Defined
Effective journaling is a practice that helps you achieve
your goals or improve the quality of your life. Every person has
different perspectives and expectations when it comes to journaling. However,
the effects are always positive.
helps in clearing the mind and making crucial connections between thoughts,
emotions and behaviors. Mental illness is also reduced drastically. You might
be asking yourself how a piece of paper and a pen can impact your mental health.
It is surprising that such a simple practice does work. Especially for those
people struggling with mental illness.
Journaling uses both the left brain and the right
brain. It requires an individual to use the logical left side of the brain.
While the lefts side is occupied, the right side which is normally the creative
and emotional side is given the freedom to play and wonder. Journaling enhances
and expands your creativity which makes a huge difference in your life.
Benefits of Journaling
Journaling or writing in an expressive way boosts the
mood of individuals, enhances a
sense of well-being, reduces the symptoms of depression before a
crucial event such as an exam or job interview, reduces avoidance and intrusion
symptoms and improves memory.
Journaling is really beneficial to those with a
history of trauma or PTSD. Creative writing enhances mental health by guiding a
person to face his or her inhibited feelings. It helps him or her analyze
difficult or painful events and compose a clear narrative about his or her
For those without traumatic experiences, writing is
still beneficial to their mental health. Writing can make you aware of sneaky
unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors before they take control of you. It
helps in putting things in proper perspective. In fact, writing helps in
shifting from a negative mindset to a positive one thus improving your
For journaling to impact your mental health
positively, you need to have an appropriate method in place. Simply writing
words on a page may feel wonderful at the moment but there is little proof that
it will enhance your well-being and decrease your depression symptoms.
Journaling Effectively for Mental Health
The following tips will ensure your journaling or
expressive writing is comprehensive and constructive thus beneficial to your
Write in a personalized space that has no distractions
Write at least three times in a day
After writing, give yourself enough time to reflect
If you are journaling to overcome trauma, you do not have to
write about the traumatic event. Write what you are feeling at the moment.
Structure your writing the way you want.
Your journal is private. It belongs to you – not your
therapist, spouse, family or friends. You can always discuss your experience
with your therapist.
The Center of Journal Therapy has an effective
journaling guideline that can help you improve your mental health. When you are
journaling, keep in mind this simple acronym: WRITE
W – What are you
writing about? Think of your thoughts and feelings and what is going on in your
life right now. Think of your goals and what you are trying to avoid. Write it
down on paper.
R – Reflect or
review. Take a moment and be still. Breath calmly and focus. In this step,
mindfulness or meditation is important. When writing, focus on the present
moment with sentences such as “Today…”, “In this moment…” Start your sentences
with “I” statements such as “I think…”, “I feel…”
I – Investigate
your thoughts and emotions through writing. Just keep writing. If you feel you
have written everything or your mind starts wandering, take a moment and
reflect. Meditate. Or read what you have written and keep on writing.
T – Time yourself.
Write for at least five minutes or whatever time your therapist has advised
you. Write your start time and the projected end time at the top of your page.
Set an alarm or timer.
E – Exit in a
strategic way with introspection. Go through what you have written and take a
moment to review and reflect. Sum up everything in one or two sentences. Start
with statements like, “As I read this, I feel…”, “I am aware of…” If you have
an action plan or a series of steps to follow, write them down.
The Science Behind Journaling or Expressive Writing
The outcomes of journal writing are evident across the
world. Journaling is very effective in helping people identify and accept their
thoughts and emotions, manage stress and reduce or eliminate the symptoms of
It has been revealed that journaling affects physical
well-being. Michael Grothaus, an avid writer and journalist notes
that journaling strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, improves
the quality of your sleep and keeps you healthier in general.
are other benefits for people struggling with mental issues.
Journaling Can Help You Manage Depression
Journaling is an effective tool in helping a person
manage his or her depressive symptoms. Keep in mind that journaling is not a
substitute for professional help especially when depression is severe. However,
it can be used together with various forms of therapy treatment.
writing has proved to manage depression in the following ways:
Journal writing reduces depression symptoms in women who are
struggling with the effects of intimate partner violence.
Writing a journal is as effective as cognitive behavioral
therapy when it comes to reducing depression symptoms in adolescents.
In some cases, expressive writing may not decrease the
frequency of intrusive thoughts in depressed people but it can moderate
depressive symptoms hence reduce the symptoms.
Journaling can reduce brooding and rumination among college
students. Brooding and rumination are the biggest factors of depressive
Individuals diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder reported
lower depression scores after only 3 days of journal writing, twenty minutes
Journal writing gives them an avenue
to release negative thoughts and emotions and create a positive state of mind
which ultimately leads to a sense of well-being.
Journaling and Anxiety
Journaling is well-suited to help you deal with
anxiety. It always has positive outcomes. Barbara Markway, a popular
psychologist says that there is no better way to understand your thoughts and
emotions than to write them down. To address any problem, you have to know what
it is first. Journaling is tool that helps in identifying the problem and
getting it out.
writing positively affects your anxiety through:
Clearing and calming the mind.
Releasing negative feelings and stress.
Releasing negative thoughts.
Enabling you to explore your experiences with anxiety.
Helping you understand your successes and struggles.
Enhancing self-awareness and understanding about your
Tracking the progress of your treatment.
Journaling has helped students suffering from anxiety
by improving their engagement and enhancing meaning in the classroom.
Journaling and Stress Management
Journaling is great tool for anyone who wants to
manage his or her stress to prevent it from pushing him or her to anxiety and
depression. Keeping a journal will help you understand your emotions, connect
thoughts and experiences and release tension. Additionally, it can help you do
away with sources of stress to reach your goals.
can help you manage stress through:
Improving the functions of your mind.
Decreasing or eliminating several health conditions.
Strengthening the immune system.
Proper planning through considering several possible outcomes
of a situation.
Decreasing rumination while enhancing action.
Journaling and Recovery
Journaling can help you heal fast regardless of the
event, disorder or habit you are struggling with.
If you are struggling with the effects of trauma,
expressive writing will enable you to see the good side of life. It can change
your perspective and help you discover the advantages of the trauma you are
experiencing which ultimately reduces severe symptoms that come with trauma.
If you are struggling with an eating
disorder, journal writing can be a source of your healing and
recovery. Keeping a journal will help you stop avoiding issues and instead
confront them head on.
If you are grappling with a psychiatric condition,
expressive writing can help you understand your thoughts and stop worrying over
them. This will ultimately free up your mind to cope with stress and manage
One of the most traumatic events is the death of a
loved one. Journaling can help you deal with this as well. Expressive writing
will give you a chance to think about the loss and reduce severe symptoms that
come with grief. This works even for children dealing with the loss of a loved
To fully recover, journaling is an important exercise
because it allows you to write your thoughts, emotions and emotions. Doing this
maintains and solidifies your identity. It gives you a chance to reflect on
your experiences and rediscover yourself.
When You Have No Idea What to Write About
Some days, you will simply have no
idea what to write about. You should not put your journal away if this is the
case. Here are a few suggestions:
Describe an experience – Sometimes, all you can do to start
writing is describing what you worked on today or what you thought about. You
will definitely have more to say than you thought.
Affirmation – When you have run out of ideas and your
self-esteem is low, write affirmations such as, “I like myself” or “I am a
great writer.” After this exercise, you will find something to write about and
at the same time, boost your confidence and enhance your well-being.
Gratitude – Writing with gratitude
works like magic. Write about the people and everything in your life that you
are grateful for. Gratitude will help you get ideas to write on and enhance
Self-Analysis – Ask yourself deep questions such as “Who am
I?”, “What did I do right today?” and “What will I do differently next time?”
Once you answer these questions, ideas will start flowing in your mind.
Journaling has many positive outcomes for everyone.
However, it has its negative side such as dragging up memories that you forgot,
overwhelming emotions and pushing you into introspectiveness. The good news is
that its benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.
Journaling can help you manage stress, anxiety and depression. It is a tool that can improve your mental health. And you do not need to be a terrific writer to write down your thoughts and emotions. If you need help to process all your thoughts and emotions that can arise from journaling, try speaking to a licensed therapist.
Remember, your journal is private. Keep it somewhere safe after use. And write every single day.
Here is an incredible video from TED. The speaker is Andy Puddicombe. His speech is called “All it takes is 10 mindful minutes”. The following words are the transcript of this talk and at the end of this post, you will find the video. Enjoy below the speech!
Transcript of “All it takes is 10 mindful minutes”
We live in an incredibly busy world. The pace of life is often frantic, our minds are always busy, and we’re always doing something.
So with that in mind, I’d like you just to take a moment to think, when did you last take any time to do nothing? Just 10 minutes, undisturbed? And when I say nothing, I do mean nothing. So that’s no emailing, texting, no Internet, no TV, no chatting, no eating, no reading. Not even sitting there reminiscing about the past or planning for the future. Simply doing nothing. I see a lot of very blank faces. You probably have to go a long way back.
And this is an extraordinary thing, right? We’re talking about our mind. The mind, our most valuable and precious resource, through which we experience every single moment of our life. The mind that we rely upon to be happy, content, emotionally stable as individuals, and at the same time, to be kind and thoughtful and considerate in our relationships with others.
This is the same mind that we depend upon, to be focused, creative, spontaneous, and to perform at our very best in everything that we do. And yet, we don’t take any time out to look after it. In fact, we spend more time looking after our cars, our clothes and our hair than we — okay, maybe not our hair, but you see where I’m going.
The result, of course, is that we get stressed. You know, the mind whizzes away like a washing machine going round and round, lots of difficult, confusing emotions, and we don’t really know how to deal with that. And the sad fact is that we are so distracted that we’re no longer present in the world in which we live.
We miss out on the things that are most important to us, and the crazy thing is that everybody just assumes, that’s the way life is, so we’ve just kind of got to get on with it. That’s really not how it has to be.
So I was about 11 when I went along to my first meditation class. And trust me, it had all the stereotypes that you can imagine, the sitting cross-legged on the floor, the incense, the herbal tea, the vegetarians, the whole deal, but my mom was going and I was intrigued, so I went along with her. I’d also seen a few kung fu movies, and secretly I kind of thought I might be able to learn how to fly, but I was very young at the time.
Now as I was there, I guess, like a lot of people, I assumed that it was just an aspirin for the mind. You get stressed, you do some meditation. I hadn’t really thought that it could be sort of preventative in nature, until I was about 20, when a number of things happened in my life in quite quick succession, really serious things which just flipped my life upside down and all of a sudden I was inundated with thoughts, inundated with difficult emotions that I didn’t know how to cope with. Every time I sort of pushed one down, another one would pop back up again. It was a really very stressful time.
I guess we all deal with stress in different ways. Some people will bury themselves in work, grateful for the distraction. Others will turn to their friends, their family, looking for support. Some people hit the bottle, start taking medication. My own way of dealing with it was to become a monk. So I quit my degree, I headed off to the Himalayas, I became a monk, and I started studying meditation.
People often ask me what I learned from that time. Well, obviously it changed things. Let’s face it, becoming a celibate monk is going to change a number of things. But it was more than that. It taught me — it gave me a greater appreciation, an understanding for the present moment. By that I mean not being lost in thought, not being distracted, not being overwhelmed by difficult emotions, but instead learning how to be in the here and now, how to be mindful, how to be present.
I think the present moment is so underrated. It sounds so ordinary, and yet we spend so little time in the present moment that it’s anything but ordinary. There was a research paper that came out of Harvard, just recently, that said on average, our minds are lost in thought almost 47 percent of the time. 47 percent. At the same time, this sort of constant mind-wandering is also a direct cause of unhappiness.
Now we’re not here for that long anyway, but to spend almost half of our life lost in thought and potentially quite unhappy, I don’t know, it just kind of seems tragic, actually, especially when there’s something we can do about it, when there’s a positive, practical, achievable, scientifically proven technique which allows our mind to be more healthy, to be more mindful and less distracted.
And the beauty of it is that even though it need only take about 10 minutes a day, it impacts our entire life. But we need to know how to do it. We need exercise. We need a framework to learn how to be more mindful. That’s essentially what meditation is. It’s familiarizing ourselves with the present moment. But we also need to know how to approach it in the right way to get the best from it.
And that’s what these are for, in case you’ve been wondering, because most people assume that meditation is all about stopping thoughts, getting rid of emotions, somehow controlling the mind, but actually, it’s quite different from that. It’s more about stepping back, sort of seeing the thought clearly, witnessing it coming and going, emotions coming and going without judgment, but with a relaxed, focused mind.
So for example, right now, if I focus too much on the balls, then there’s no way I can relax and talk to you at the same time. Equally, if I relax too much talking to you, there’s no way I can focus on the balls. I’m going to drop them. Now in life, and in meditation, there’ll be times when the focus becomes a little bit too intense, and life starts to feel a bit like this. It’s a very uncomfortable way to live life when you get this tight and stressed.
At other times, we might take our foot off the gas a little bit too much, and things just become a sort of a little bit like this. Of course in meditation — we’re going to end up falling asleep. So we’re looking for a balance, a focused relaxation where we can allow thoughts to come and go without all the usual involvement.
Now, what usually happens when we’re learning to be mindful is that we get distracted by a thought. Let’s say this is an anxious thought. Everything’s going fine, and we see the anxious thought. “Oh, I didn’t realize I was worried about that.” You go back to it, repeat it. “Oh, I am worried. I really am worried. Wow, there’s so much anxiety.” And before we know it, right, we’re anxious about feeling anxious.
You know this is crazy. We do this all the time, even on an everyday level. If you think about the last time you had a wobbly tooth. You know it’s wobbly, and you know that it hurts. But what do you do every 20, 30 seconds?
It does hurt. And we reinforce the storyline, right? And we just keep telling ourselves, and we do it all the time. And it’s only in learning to watch the mind in this way that we can start to let go of those storylines and patterns of mind. But when you sit down and you watch the mind in this way, you might see many different patterns. You might find a mind that’s really restless and — the whole time.
Don’t be surprised if you feel a bit agitated in your body when you sit down to do nothing and your mind feels like that. You might find a mind that’s very dull and boring, and it’s just, almost mechanical, it just seems it’s as if you’re getting up, going to work, eat, sleep, get up, work. Or it might just be that one little nagging thought that just goes round and round your mind.
Well, whatever it is, meditation offers the opportunity, the potential to step back and to get a different perspective, to see that things aren’t always as they appear. We can’t change every little thing that happens to us in life, but we can change the way that we experience it. That’s the potential of meditation, of mindfulness.
You don’t have to burn any incense, and you definitely don’t have to sit on the floor. All you need to do is to take 10 minutes out a day to step back, to familiarize yourself with the present moment so that you get to experience a greater sense of focus, calm and clarity in your life.
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