As with any medication, taking a course of antidepressants requires a degree of discipline to ensure you take them as directed. With all the distractions of everyday life, it’s easy to miss a dose through simple forgetfulness. Keeping a depression and anxiety journal can help to alleviate these instances.
Although skipping a dose may seem innocent if done a couple of times, the effects can quickly accumulate. By not taking your medication properly, you decrease its effectiveness - which may, in turn, lead to unnecessary trips to the GP.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, and positive steps can be taken to tackle the problem. If you are struggling to cope, the simple act of etching your thoughts onto paper can be a real game changer.
Why keep a journal for depression and anxiety?
Because it truly helps.
By writing down your thoughts you'll be de-cluttering your head of the brain fog that can accompany several mental health problems. Once typed or written down in front of you, things will feel more manageable - you’ll have a welcome new perspective and be able to see your problems more objectively.
Journalling will also make you more aware of your condition. You'll begin to notice patterns in your symptoms, the effectiveness of the medication, and how the condition affects your overall routine. And on a broader level, it will help you to get to know yourself better.
Aside from shifting your viewpoint and heightening your awareness, writing in a depression journal lets you take control - and allows you to take a more active role in your treatment. By isolating and externalising negative thoughts, feelings, or behaviours that may have been plaguing you, you'll feel empowered to do something to help yourself. And by staying on top of your medication, the road to recovery will start to appear more clearly on the horizon.
If you have a busy lifestyle or routine, give yourself a daily slot to get your thoughts down. Even if it’s only 20 minutes, it will literally feel like a weight off your mind.
What to write in your journal
Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it's the only way you can do anything good.
It’s your journal, so you can include anything you like.
If you’re stuck, start by writing down the times to take your medication. Writing down a schedule will make life so much easier, especially if you are taking more than one medication. It’ll also allow you to better plan your meals, sleeping pattern, and day-to-day activities.
It’s also an idea to have pages for notes. These can be for anything, including physical sensations you might be experiencing or thoughts that might be playing on your mind. This will allow you to keep track of how you are progressing throughout the course of the medication, and you’ll be able to report back to your GP or mental health specialist with much more clarity.
Even if the stuff you write down is hard to read, nonsensical, or even painful, it will still be a cathartic process that will prove beneficial as a coping strategy. You might even be surprised by what you write, and you’ll learn new things about yourself in the process. New worries might surface, and recognising these will help you and your GP or mental health specialist to better combat them. If you find yourself expressing only negative thoughts, try to challenge them or direct your writing to something else.
You may not want your depression and anxiety journal to be completely clinical, so why not include some fun things? Allow space for doodles, writing, or anything you like. In other words, get creative! This will help ensure you keep recording things down and keep you motivated - not only to maintain your journal but also to get better.
The final word
Studies suggest that writing in a depression and anxiety journal is good for your mental health.
Many talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) involve keeping a journal because reaffirming positive self-talk is a powerful way of retraining yourself how to think about yourself.
Keeping a depression journal is not a cure, but it will leave you better equipped to manage your medication and your condition. Used alongside Echo - which sends you reminders for when to take your medication - getting things down onto paper will ensure you stick to your treatment as directed.
Looking for a little inspiration? This account of journalling from Time to Change demonstrates just how beneficial the process can be.
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Clinically reviewed by Alistair Murray MRPharmS: 25/3/18
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