I Hit Rock Bottom Then I Found Journaling: How This Simple Practice Can Help YOU
Have you ever asked someone to rearrange all their plans so they could drive you from one side of an entire continent to the other? I have and I'll never forget it. It was the moment I allowed my anxieties to take full and total control of my life but it was also my first step towards taking charge of my mental wellbeing.
But, we’ll get into that in a moment.
From the outside looking in, I was the epitome of health. I worked out every day, ate chia seeds and drank the greenest smoothies. I also had a global social media audience where I shared countless photos where I roared “Love yourself!” while I flashed my core. I wanted others to embrace who they were, but only through the lens of fitness and “healthy” living.
But, underneath all of the flashy workout clothes and spray tans, I was in the depth of an eating disorder and exercise obsession that would soon push me over the edge and to my own inevitable rock bottom.
Now, back to that whole driving across the continent part. My work as ‘that fitness person you hate-follow’ landed me in New York. I was speaking on a panel about health—ironic, I know.
On the first flight home, I watched the door close and was suddenly drenched in sweat.
I was freezing cold, and yet, unbearably hot. I was shaking uncontrollably. My thoughts raced, but my lips couldn’t form a single word. I felt as if I might throw up and poop my pants simultaneously. It wasn’t the flu. I wasn’t sick.
I was, however, freaking the f*ck out.
Panic attack. Mental breakdown. Rock bottom. Whatever you want to call it, my world turned upside down.
To this day I can’t entirely remember what happened on the rest of that 45-minute flight as I quickly passed out from the panic. But, I knew as soon as those tires hit the runway, there was no way I’d be getting on the next flight.
When we landed in baggage claim, I broke the news to my now husband and we picked up the rental car and hit the road.
At first, I felt like I had won. I had avoided four hours on a plane trapped with my thoughts. The reality? I traded it for 36 hours confined to a car and what would become a string of panic attacks.
In the weeks that followed, I cried every morning. I’d wake up, sit on my couch, and try my best to take some deep breaths and get my thoughts down on paper. At first there were more tears than words in my journal. But, every morning, I tried and tried again. And again.
Though the tears eventually stopped, my morning practice of deep breathing and journaling did not. I slowly started to put the pieces back together. I would journal and engage in a dialogue with a part of myself I’d been ignoring.
I started to take charge of my mental wellbeing.
When I reflect back on my journey, I laugh thinking that I might have been able to avoid a 36 hour drive if I had just picked up a pen and paper. But, regardless of how I found journaling, I’m sure glad I did.
How This Simple Practice Will Help You
After seeing the impacts of journaling firsthand, I wanted to learn more. What I discovered? Journaling therapy is actually proven to help.
More than three decades of research exists in support of “affect labeling” (putting your feelings into words) and expressive writing. For some big names in the field, turn to the Google machine and search Ira Progoff, James W. Pennebaker, and Kathleen Adams.
What do they all unanimously agree on? A journaling practice will help your wellbeing, both mental and physical, in many, many positive ways. Let’s dive through just a few of those benefits:
Got stress? I’d be surprised if you said no. Journaling can be the ultimate stress boosting tool. When we explore our emotions, we release their intensity. Word by word, you can leave that intensity on your journal’s page and out of your body.
Prompt: What’s causing me stress currently?
Navigate Interpersonal Conflict
Fights happen, and journaling can help. Writing about our misunderstandings with others can help us recognize their point of view. It can help you work through the conflict from a more reflective and understanding space.
Prompt: What’s this fight really about?
Clarify Your Thoughts and Feelings
Thoughts and feelings, amirite? Sometimes they run rampant, don’t they? And that’s okay, your thoughts and feelings are valid the way they happen. But there comes a point when you’ll need to clarify them in order to understand them better and journaling will help you do that.
Prompt: What’s on my mind?
Make Decisions And Build Trust Within Yourself
Writing down your thoughts will help you organize them in a way that brings out the bigger picture or maybe even a new perspective. This type of self-awareness in decision-making and problem-solving is a powerful tool that will build your trust and confidence in yourself.
Prompt: What do I need right now?
When you add all of these benefits together, you’ll see that journaling can improve the quality of your life overall.
For me, journaling helped me put my life back together. It helped my insecurities, self-doubt and anxieties slowly lift. I started to feel empowered within my own mind. My panic attacks subsided and it felt like I had finally arrived home.
And, if you have a pen and paper, I highly recommend checking out the practice for yourself.
For anyone that’s interested in starting a journaling practice, I created a guided journaling app called DiveThru. We work with mental health professionals to create guided journaling exercises that help our users take charge of their mental wellbeing. You can download the app here.
Meet the author
Sophie Gray, DiveThru Founder
Sophie Gray is the founder of DiveThru, a guided journaling app that features guided journaling exercises that help you DiveThru what you go thru.
She is also the host of the SophieThinksThoughts podcast and reaches an audience of 400,000 across her social media channels.
Sophie has been named Greatist’s 100 Most Influential People in Health & Wellness three years in a row. Her work has been featured in Cosmopolitan, People, Refinery29, Marie Claire, Self, and many more.