Keeping an Anxiety Diary

You are going to actively work with overcoming your anxiety by writing a diary and an activity plan.

In previous articles we have separately covered the most basic part of CBT. Now you are going to put all the pieces together and use everything that you have been taught in by writing a diary and an activity plan. These two tools should be a natural part of your everyday life, even after finishing our anxiety program, to get the best results in overcoming your anxiety in the long run.

Writing a diary

From now on, write a diary where you register triggers and your thoughts, emotions and behaviors that follows a certain trigger, finishing off with writing down an alternative and more positive way of thinking, feeling and behaving. These triggers should be both triggers that are unexpected and triggers that are expected. The first means triggers that suddenly launch your anxiety. The latter refers to the goals that you set up in the beginning of this program which included actions that you were going to take to work at overcoming your anxiety.

Keeping a diary is one of the best ways to look at your problematic thinking, feeling and behaving and change your bad habits into good ones, as it allows you to analyze situations where you experienced negative emotions. If you're in the grip of an unhealthy negative emotion, you can use your diary to change that into something more positive.

By keeping a diary you can effectively track what you are thinking and feeling and use it as a form of nonjudgmental self-critique. By analyzing your behavior after the event, you will most likely make the realization that your behavior often wasn't appropriate. As a result, you can use a diary to slowly modify your behavior for the future and help you to focus your aims not on feeling anxiety, but on dealing with the effects of feeling anxiety. After all, whilst anxiety is something no- one can snap out of just like that, we can use tools to help us remember what is the "anxiety" and what is really "us".

Your activity plan

Besides writing a diary on a daily basis you may start to write down an activity plan. An activity plan is also a form of diary but instead of writing down and analyzing your thoughts, emotions and behaviors your activity plan is where you schedule an exact day and time when you will expose yourself to certain triggers. An activity plan is a great way to get active which is a vital step to overcoming anxiety. After all, motivation is one of the biggest factors that play a role in keeping us feel anxiety or not feel anxiety. It will help you to get on with the daily tasks you have been avoiding and help you to challenge your problems and achieve the goals that you set at the beginning of this program. Studies show that the simple achievement of planning your day and allocating specific times to specific activities greatly increases the chances of you carrying them out. An activity plan serves as both a reference so that you can follow your progress and also a great written agreement with yourself. Take a look below for our guidelines on keeping to an activity plan:

1. Plan ahead, so that you can think ahead. Looking forward one day is better than not looking forward at all, but you should be aiming for a week at a time.
2. An activity plan isn't there to help you avoid things. Use it to add in things you have been hiding from, such as chores, visiting family, going to work, etc. The hardest part is the first step.
3. Remember that an activity plan isn't meant to be bad. Remember and reward yourself with things you enjoy so that you always have something to look forward to.
4. While rewarding yourself is important, don't forget about the necessary evils in life such as housework, chores, paying the bills, etc.
5. Start off small, and build up slowly. Don't overload yourself from the beginning. The aim here is to build up gradually.

Remember and look at your goals and previous worksheets to examine your negative behavior and avoidance tendencies. This is your opportunity to try and do something about them - but gradually!


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Summary

  • You've been given two great tools - your diary and your activity plan - which are two of the most important CBT tools in overcoming anxiety in the long run.

  • Remember, CBT is an active form of therapy and we guarantee that the more wholeheartedly you use these two tools the more progress you will make.
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