When I’m not feeling well – back to my journal

I just stumbled across this post that I had drafted in February. Coincidentally, I’ve been going through the motions over the last days and in searching for ways to ease my stress and anxiety, I once again ended up with my journal that I hadn’t touched in weeks.

Rereading my journals has become one of the most helpful practices in my life.

After all, nobody knows you better than yourself. Every time you let a new person into your life, trying to help you, you have to start from scratch, explaining to them who you are, how you ‘tick,’ and what matters to you. And most of the time, you’ll be left with the realization that no matter how much you explain yourself to a person, they will never fully understand you.

I want to add here that I do think talking to a counselor, therapist, or coach can be incredibly helpful in its own ways. Sometimes, you are so honed into your own thinking that you cannot see your world from another perspective. You might not know all the tools that there are to get better. You might need someone to spark that feeling of motivation and hope in you and give you some direction. I’m writing this because you might not be able to go to therapy for whatever reason that is.

So back to the journals.

Every time I reread my journals, I find inner peace. I also usually get very emotional and am reliving the memory of my pain and suffering. That will then bring me back to the present, and I will realize that those moments have passed and that I am in a different moment right now, even if it will feel similar to some previous situations.

I acknowledge that I have worked a lot on myself. And even if at the point that I am reading this, it doesn’t feel like that did anything to help me, seeing the effort will give me the feeling that I am acting at least and now standing still. I am working on my personal growth, and even if I’m hitting rock bottom, I know that I have been in different stages and states before.

The other day, I found a whole list of practices that I’ve tried over the years. I had made an Excel sheet and had written what I got out of the practices. And despite not following up on all of the practices anymore these days, I appreciate all the work that I put in.

So what I do with my journal these days? I don’t journal daily anymore, but more whenever I feel the need to bring it up. Often when I feel down, I feel low in self-esteem and lonely. Writing on paper soothes me as it’s a welcoming distraction from screens that seem to suck the life out of me and my eyes these days (working from home and being glued to it, that is). The slow movement of a pen over paper is consoling to me as I feel like I’m sorting things out.

  1. I take my journal and do a ‘thought dump.’ It’s like a big mind map of all these random ruminating thoughts that are circulating through my mind. Like this, you can look at your thoughts from a more distant perspective, which can help you gain clarity over them. 

  2. If I have the mental energy, I will write some questions regarding the points above – My previous coach shared the concept of ‘quality questions‘ with me, and I love it. Quality questions refer to meaningful reflective questions regarding your problem that you can then ponder over and dig deeper into what’s really going on. Often, a problem is not what it seems, but there are layers and layers of other issues and reasons underneath.

  3. If that’s not possible (because I don’t feel like it all the time, let’s be honest), then I’m trying to take another step back and look at the BIGGER PICTURE. Will these things matter in a year from now? Have I had these fears, worries before and know they will eventually fade? Should I thus spend my time worrying about this? Note that I said worry – usually, the bad and uncomfortable feelings will last. They won’t magically disappear, but the ruminating worrying might lessen a little. 

  4. To stop feeling sorry for myself, I will make a list of the things I’m grateful for. I used to write down what I was grateful for daily, and though it doesn’t automatically make me love life again immediately (just being honest here), it will show you this tiny, tiny light in this whole messy darkness. It might be big enough to accept the state that I’m in and that once I get through this, I can focus on the things I’m grateful for again. These things might be the most mundane, e.g., my apartment with space all for myself, the new plant that I bought and haven’t killed yet, the 15-min workout I managed myself to do despite wanting to stay under the covers, etc.

  5. I do allow myself to release any emotion that comes up. I used to think crying made me a weak person. These days I find crying a very freeing practice. I actually wrote a blog post about this and didn’t post it on any social media because I felt so vulnerable. Still, people managed to find it, and it’s one of my most-read posts now. In the post, I’m writing about how I embrace crying and make it a mindful practice and coping mechanism. I’m feeling vulnerable in sharing it here again, but I am hoping it will benefit someone.

  6. Reflecting on previous valuable experiences can bring a little more light into your state – I like to browse through my photos from living and traveling abroad. They might create a whole snowball of nostalgia, but ultimately, they also remind me that even though life wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies back then, I count these as genuinely valuable times of my life.

If you’ve never journaled, then congrats for reading through all of this. If you have, maybe this will motivate you to pick up your pen again. I feel like the longer lockdown gets, the more the overall mood in the world is going down, and this is just a little thing that can help us get through this.

If you’re interested in some prompts, check out the following

Personal development journal prompts

We are all constantly changing. We are moving through life with no day as the previous. Journaling can make us stop and reflect on our journey and help us make conscious changes and adaptions to how we spend our time on Earth. This can be a long practice or a quick journaling session. Take some time out of your day and dedicate it to yourself.

Here are some powerful journaling prompts to foster your personal growth.

  1. What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
  2. What do you value in the people that you respect the most?
  3. What are your values? Are you living your life congruent to them?
  4. If 10-Year-Old You Saw Yourself Now, what would he/she think?
  5. Do you love yourself? What does self-love mean to you, and how can you practice it better?
  6. Where do you draw the line between self-care and selfishness?
  7. Would you rather be happy or fulfilled? What would you need to do to get to this feeling?
  8. What are some limiting beliefs that are holding you back from making the changes you’re desiring to see in your life?
  9. Where will you be in 10 years if you keep living your life the way you’re currently living it?
  10. Picture your own gravestone. What should be written on it? How do you want to be remembered?

“Your life is a blank page. You write on it.”

― Donald Miller

Fun and creative journal prompts

Journaling has been invaluable to my mental health – it’s helped me understand my thoughts, emotions and feelings more and as well as prompted me to look at my life from different perspectives and angles. Most prompts go quite deep and can create heavier thoughts, so I thought I’d share some more light-hearted ones. You can always take these prompts to a deeper level by asking yourself why you gave that answer. You might also just want to leave the answer the way it is. These prompts also make nice questions to ask among friends/coworkers/students.

Happy journaling!


  1. If you were reincarnated as an animal, based on your personality, what animal do you think you would come back as?
  2. What color best describes you and why?

  3. What’s the most vivid memory in the kitchen of your childhood?

  4. Take a personality quiz. What do you think of the results?

  5. If you could only speak twenty words for the rest of your life, what words would head your list and why? 

  6. Which character from a book or movie would you most like to meet and why? What would you ask?

  7. What would you do it all the electricity in the world just stopped? (have you ever unplugged your Wi-Fi?)

  8. If you had to evacuate your home because of a natural disaster, what three things would you take with you?

  9. If you had to give up one of your senses – which one would you give up?

  10. If you could decide what happens in your life tomorrow, what would you want to happen?

  11. If you won €1,000,000 at the lottery, what would you buy?

  12. If you went back in time, what year would you go to and why?

  13. If everyone was mentally incapable of lying, what would the world look like?


2021 might not have brought the change we’ve been waiting for so far. If you’re like me, you simply felt as if 2020 continued. Months of lockdown have seemingly been tearing on everyone’s nerves.

Journaling has helped me through this time. My mind has been racing too much for me to meditate and I’m grateful that at least using pen on paper has helped me return to a calmer state.

I like to set the scene when I’m journaling. I put on some dim lights – fairy lights, a salt stone light and get comfy. I like sitting on my bed or on the ground so that I have a lot of space around me. You might on the contrary also enjoy cuddling into a smaller space like an armchair. Take a notebook that has a nice cover – treat your journal like something special.

For my first prompt and in general, I always like to do a little check-in with my body. I like to do a self-scan of my body, eyes closed and in a sort of meditative state.

And here come the prompts:

  1. What sensations are you feeling in your body right now?

  2. Are you judging these feelings – my anxiety ache is bad, I’m making myself sick, etc. If yes, can you simply focus on it and then let it be there the way it is?

  3. If you were a loving parent to yourself, what would you tell yourself to console you?

  4. If you had your best friend right next to you now, what would he/she say to you?

  5. What do you need right now? Can you give it to you unconditionally?

  6. Which minor everyday life things make you happy and grateful to be alive? Here comes your gratitude list 🙂

  7. What are the weaknesses I’m frustrated about, and how can I use them to fuel something positive? Which ones should I simply let be and accept, reminding myself that in the end, no matter what the world makes us want to believe, nobody is perfect, and embracing that is a positive step into acceptance.

  8. Do you think what you’re feeling right now will last forever? Do you remember the last time that you felt down? Did it end? Are you willing to accept it and sit through, knowing that you will come out at the other hand?

  9. What is a compliment that I could make myself today? Reading this post means you’re taking action!

  10. If you’re angry at another person: Is their behavior something that you don’t like in yourself either? E.g., the other person is so selfish – are you selfish yourself?

  11. If you’re angry at the world: Are you in control over this? If not, can you let it go? If yes, what steps can you take for yourself to better your own position and stance in this world?

I hope you’ll find acceptance and release in this. Stay safe!