Getting real- How journaling is helping me with my anxiety disorder
Finally, 4 days into 2019, I feel like I have had enough time to digest all that 2018 was. For me 2018 was full of both positives and challenges. I refrain from calling the adversities that I experienced in 2018 ‘negatives’ as I feel that while they may have been hard times and caused me a lot of pain and suffering, there were things to be learned and learning new things is always a positive in my book. The main challenges that I see when I reflect on 2018 are the transition from running collegiately to professionally, graduating from college, and being injured for the last 3 months. Whenever I am in periods of transition I tend to be very anxiety ridden. I am a person that likes to know the plan and be able to prepare for what is ahead. Transitioning from a collegian to a professional runner was full of unknowns for me. I had no idea what group I’d be training with (if any), if I would make enough money to survive on, or even what part of the country I would be living in. I did not have any of this locked down until shortly after the USATF Championships this June and that caused me quite a bit of anxiety. Add that to the ever present question for soon-to-be college graduates: “So what is your plan after graduation? What are you doing next?” and I found myself in a 6 month long swirling tornado of anxiety and depression. Cue the anxiety disorder.
In July I decided that I needed more than just seeing a therapist once a week to cope with the anxiety of the unknown so I began creating a bullet journal. I have found that an anxious mind can be easily distracted by purposeful tasks and so this began as less of a true coping mechanism and more of a distraction from negative thoughts. While I really did enjoy the distraction of meticulously turning a blank journal into a training log+planner combo, I did begin to really enjoy the deeper meditative process of it all. Hand drawing pages to represent every month gave me a creative outlet and some stress release. I also felt that unlike an adult coloring book, this training log+planner had a purpose. Once I was done it was not only a pretty picture that I had colored but it was useful, it kept me up to date on all of my everyday appointments and let me track my training and how I felt running each day in a way that was customized to me. Giving purpose to one of my hobbies also helped to put my anxious mind at ease. Not to mention I was no longer feeling overwhelmed by keeping track of important dates or training plans, it was all in one convenient place.
After moving to Flagstaff and settling into the routine of running professionally with a new team, I came to realize how much I relied on my training log+planner. It became a nightly ritual for me to fill out the day’s training, add more illustrations or pages to the weeks ahead, keep to-do lists, and remind myself of the appointments ahead in the next few days. I started bringing this planner with me everywhere I went because it had all of my important information in it. I know that some may say “Well a phone can do that. There are apps for that.” but writing things down, putting pen to paper, really has a calming and therapeutic effect. It was then, after some coaxing from friends, family, roommates, and teammates, that I decided I wanted to share what I had created with the world. Surely I couldn’t be the only one suffering from anxiety, and surely others would appreciate a hand designed planner inspired by bullet journaling that put all their training + everyday needs in one convenient place.
While the planners were in design and production this fall I came down with my first ever running injury. At first it was tough and there were a lot of dark days the last 3 months of 2018. However, I realized that even while injured I kept going back to my planner as a coping mechanism. It made me feel safe and helped me get through the days. The tracker that I created at the beginning of every month (see example below) helped me to identify that while not every day was better I was indeed trending positively in my anxiety and progress. I also began to track what days I took my supplements so that I could aid my body in a speedy recovery. I began to keep a gratitude list full of things, no matter how small, that I was grateful for each day even when if felt like the weight of my anxiety, depression, and injury was crushing me. I began to be grateful for the journal itself, for it being there to take all my secrets and keep them safe while reassuring me that it would be alright at the same time.
Fast forward to present, I am still using my journal everyday and it is a mindful experience that I very much look forward to. In sharing what I have created in my training log + planner with you I hope to give you the gift of mindfulness. I hope that for those who experience a crippling anxiety disorder like me this journal may give you a sense of relief. And most of all, I hope that this planner will motivate you to stay positive in the face of adversity and keep you held accountable to yourself so that you may make the most of every moment of 2019. With that I hope you will support me in my first ever business venture where I am working really hard using these planners to try and make the world a more motivated, mindful, and anxiety free place.