Looking for a way to relieve some stress? The simple act of journaling can do wonders for your mental health, therapists say.
If you’re looking for ways to let go of stress and find more happiness in your life, look no further. Really, we mean that: Experts say that the best way to find more happiness in life is to examine what you already have, rather than looking and reaching for something else you think would make you happier.
Journaling can be profoundly stress-relieving, and many purpose-built journals and notebooks have popped up in recent years to help provide structured ways to track your mood, feelings, behaviors, gratitude and goals. We dug through what’s out there and asked a few therapists for their favorites, too.
Cognitive behavioral therapists designed this journal to help you identify patterns in your thoughts and use structured exercises to get out of anxiety or stress spirals. Use the writing prompts and tools in this book to record how you’re feeling — and what triggered that response — to help you get back to a calmer space when you’re feeling anxious. Buy It
“Journaling is for you,” says Janet Philbin, a licensed clinical social worker, hypnotherapist and author of Show Up for Yourself. “Journaling allows you a safe space to express what is in your heart and what is on your mind. Having a way to process your feelings allows you the space to heal and grow.”
Janet says she recommends her clients write in notebooks with blank pages. “I want my clients to write freely without worrying about staying in the lines,” she says. “A blank page gives you the freedom of expression without the rules that a lined page implies.” She says not to worry too much about how neat you write, or how you write — just as long as you do it. And if it stresses you out to have your raw thoughts lying around, she encourages recycling or responsibly burning your journals when you feel ready.
“You can shred it, rip it up or burn it safely in a fireplace or coffee can,” she says. “When you get rid of the pages, thank yourself for showing up for yourself to write and release.” Buy
Janet is one of the most insightful, powerful people you will ever meet. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Hypnotherapist and Certified Conscious Parenting Coach. She helps adults heal from the emotional pain and trauma of their past and on today’s episode we talk about healing ourselves.
She’s the author of, Show Up For Yourself: A Guide to Inner Awareness and Growth. Her book offers readers a framework to heal their emotional wounds and become emotionally whole once again. Show Up For Yourself hit Amazon’s best seller status and won as a finalist in the 2020 Readers Favorite book contest. She works closely with Dr. Shefali Tsabary, NY Times best selling author and Oprah’s favorite parenting expert, as an ambassador in her Conscious Parenting Coaching Method Institute.
Discover what burnout means to social workers, learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms, and get resources and expert advice for preventing burnout in yourself and others.
Social workers offer strong, compassionate help for individuals and families experiencing a variety of life’s challenges. From working in the foster care system to helping patients and families through hospice care, social workers engage with people experiencing upheaval and change in their lives. In caring for so many people in so many ways, however, social workers may find themselves experiencing the symptoms of burnout. This is true both for professionals with years of experience and for students in social work programs who are just beginning their careers.
Fortunately, there are real, concrete solutions for preventing social work burnout. It may not always be simple, but with genuine self-care and a helping hand, burnout can be prevented and treated. Learn how you can identify social worker burnout, find the tools and techniques needed to overcome it, and gain expert advice from experienced social workers.
Discussing Burnout with a Licensed Social Worker
Janet Philbin clinical social worker
Janet Philbin is a licensed clinical social worker, certified hypnotherapist, and certified conscious parenting coach. Janet helps adults heal from the emotional pain and trauma of their past. She is the owner of Janet Philbin, ACSW, a private psychotherapy and hypnotherapy practice. For 21 years Janet has been successfully helping people recover from their emotional wounds and change their lives with the power of transformational healing and hypnotherapy.
Q. How do you think the pandemic has affected burnout for social workers?
A. Some of the signs of burnout can include being more critical or cynical in your work with clients or colleagues. You may also experience difficulty focusing or concentrating on work-related tasks, decreased sleep, poor energy, increased fatigue, or being easily irritated. These are all signs that you might be experiencing burnout.
Q. What advice would you give to social work students and those just starting in the field for handling secondary traumatic stress?
A. I think the pandemic has been a call to action for social workers. Social workers are helpers. Social workers usually go into the field because of a deep calling to be of service. We want to help those who are struggling, who are in pain, need support, counseling and concrete services. Social workers are frontline workers providing emotional support to medical staff, families, and clients. Social workers are supporting others during the pandemic to cope with the same struggles and traumas they, themselves, are coping with. It would be impossible for social workers not to experience burnout during this pandemic.
Even social workers in private practice have been impacted. We are now working remotely. Since social workers are working remotely, we do not have the day-to-day, in-person support of colleagues to just quickly get support for a difficult case or have a casual conversation. Social workers are isolated, and that isolation can lead to depression, anxiety, increased fears, health issues, and a decrease in self-care. Social workers have an increase in clients dealing with loss due to the pandemic. We are counseling the essential workers. Social workers are witnessing, firsthand, the emotional trauma and devastation their clients are experiencing. It is our job to support them and at the same time care for ourselves as providers.
Q. You said you’ve experienced burnout. How did you get through it?
A. When I was a nursing home social worker, early in my career, I definitely went through a period of burnout. I got to a point where I became very exhausted in my job. I no longer liked working where my clients lived and found I was having a hard time making meaning out of the work I was doing. I was tired of tracking down lost remote controls and dealing with family members about their mother’s missing underwear. You would think that is not even part of a social worker’s job, but it is, and it is because as social workers we are responsible for the biopsychosocial health of our clients. That means we watch out for and consider all that is going on in their lives that affects them.
It hit me one day how frustrated and unfulfilled I was with having to do parts of my job that I previously enjoyed. Instead of enjoying connecting with my residents and families to solve these “small” issues, which represented larger ones like loss, I was not happy.
What I did in this instance was to make a big change. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to change my caseload and take on the role of hospice social worker. Though it did not eliminate having to deal with these issues, the new role offered me a new meaningful way to help a new population of residents and families which I loved. It was a renewal.
I was also in counseling with my own therapist at the time and used my sessions to talk about my work stress and experience of burnout. I also made sure when I left the building, I would take big exhales as I walked to my car, making a conscious choice to leave work at work as I headed home for the day.
Q. Anything else you’d like to add about burnout, specifically in social work?
A. Now that I am in private practice, I have had times where I feel as if “I have too many people’s problems in my head.” We hold the truths of our clients’ pain. The work of a social worker is sacred, but it is also hard, demanding, and overwhelming at times. While it may seem noble to be self-sacrificing, it is actually counterproductive. To sacrifice means to make sacred. As social workers, it is our responsibility to make ourselves sacred. We need to do this through self-care. Self-care also means creating and holding boundaries between your work life and your home life. When we take care of ourselves first, we have more resources at our disposal to give to another.
If you’re feeling stuck—whether it’s in your personal or professional life—journaling can help close the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
“Journaling helps us to clarify thoughts and feelings, reduce stress, solve problems and helps to resolve disagreements with others, says Janet Philbin, LCSW. “In my 21-year practice as a clinician, I have found journaling to help my clients improve coping skills, maintain emotional regulation, decrease worrisome and obsessive thoughts, improve sleep and journaling allows for integration of traumatic experiences.”
When you sit down to start journaling, the words might not always flow onto the page, and that’s completely normal! If you’re unsure what to write, Philbin recommends the following prompts:
Journal a list of five things you did today that brought you joy and write down why.
Journal a list of five things that upset you today and write down why.
Sit still for a moment and journal how your body is feeling at this moment in time, use as much description as possible.
What are you afraid to speak out loud but wish people knew about you?
What was one thing you felt proud of yourself for today?
If you were to say one thing to yourself that is loving what would that be and why do you need to hear that?
What is something you have always believed about yourself and why?
What is something you always felt you wanted to accomplish and what has held you back?
Imagine your perfect day and write down all of the details.
What TV or movie characters do you most identify with? Write as many details as possible.
Mary Potter Kenyon, certified grief counselor and Therapeutic Art coach, program coordinator at a spirituality center and author of Expressive Writing for Healing: Journal Your Way from Grief to Hope, suggests these journaling prompts to raise your self-awareness and heal emotionally.
Make a list of all the lies you tell yourself. Now go down the list, cross out the lie and write the truth.
Everyone has a story to tell. What’s yours?
Author Lewis Carroll marked never-to-be-forgotten days in his journal as “white-stone” days. What are some white-stone memories in your days?
Without thinking about it too much, make a list of ten milestone moments in your life from birth to now, moments, good or bad, that stood out. Now, take one of those moments and write more about it.
You don’t have to be a writer to express yourself through writing. When the writing is for ourselves, and not for publication, there are no rules. Try writing a free verse poem. It doesn’t have to rhyme, nor does it have to follow a certain format.
What have you learned about yourself in facing difficult situations? Maybe you are stronger, or weaker, than you ever imagined. Make a list of your strengths.
You are going to feel emotional pain during difficult experiences. That is a given. The question is; what are you going to do with that pain? Will you use it to propel you do make changes in your life, to become a better person, or to reach out to others? Write down some ways you can mine your pain.
Research has proven that practicing gratitude has health benefits. Make a list of three things you are thankful for. Some days, it might be as simple as a smile from a stranger.
If time or money were no object, make a bucket list of sorts, a list of all the things you’d like to do or experience in your life. Now, choose one, and make plans to do it,
Look back to your childhood. What were you naturally drawn to? Where did your natural interests and talents lie? Make a list of activities you loved as a child. Now, choose one and make plans to incorporate that same activity into your adult life.
Fill in the blank with these simple yet powerful prompts from Alexander Burgemeester, Neuropsychiatrist and Founder of “The Narcissistic Life:”
I couldn’t imagine living without…
I really wish others knew this about me…
One thing I wish I felt comfortable doing is…
What I loved most about today is…
The biggest surprise of my life in the past year has been…
The biggest lesson from my biggest mistake, so far, is…