Where are my journalers at?! OK, now where are my athletes who struggle with anxiety and stress around practices and games or performances?! This post is 100% for you and I am so glad you are here.
I have always naturally LOVED to journal without any thought as to why. Through my work with athletes breaking down mental blocks and fears as well as research and own experience with journaling, I can confidently say that journaling is one of the easiest and most important things you can do to begin to reduce your anxiety in your sport and get back to having fun!
Journaling Can Replace Anxiety with Confidence, Understanding, & Joy!
As early as I can remember, I have had a fun and “makes me happy to look at” journal in my room. In elementary school, it, of course, had to be sparkly with a fancy texture and lock that I could never quite open with the odd-shaped key and was filled with stories of school and what I had done that day. In high school, it helped me to write down all of my ideas about my future… where I would go to school, what job I would have, and of course who I was going to marry “JT anyone?!”. I really never gave any thought to the potential benefit or how this hobby was strengthening my mind. I just knew that I loved notebooks, fun pens, and writing down anything and everything that came to mind…
Fast forward to my 20s and you would find stories of my early days as a 24-year-old newlywed in a 1970s fixer-upper. My journals were filled with ideas about what our home could be and look like when the 1,000,000 projects came to an end. I recapped moments with my husband that were good to remember them in vivid detail and not so good where I could really explore my feelings in a safe space. I wrote about the thriving corporate career I was building, and how I was becoming the successful woman I imagined. As a 28-year-old new mom, I wrote about my struggles with an emergency delivery that ended in a c-section and anesthesia and my struggles as a newborn mom. I needed a place to open up about my life where there was no judgment.
My journal became my best friend and sounding board. I could put exactly what I was feeling without being judged for not being Pinterest worthy, “my life is perfect” wife and mom. I examined my heart and my thoughts in a safe place before I had a chance to try them for real with my husband or family. Journaling is a daily practice for me that connects my heart to my head, gives me peace, and helps me make decisions.
THE FACT IS …
Studies have shown that journaling increases your mental strength and helps to reduce anxiety. By processing your thoughts and feelings on paper, you are using your left brain which is your analytical or “thinking” side while the right “feeling” side is allowed to flow and activate with creativity and emotion.
Mental blocks and performance anxiety are common in teen athletes who have trouble understanding and communicating their emotions. Adolescents are so used to giving the ‘correct’ answer and being told what to do that they often have trouble feeling and experiencing ‘raw emotions’ such as anger, fear, joy, and sadness. They concentrate so much on what their parents, teammates, coaches, and teachers think and say that they are unaware of their core emotions and feelings. Learning to journal every day is a way to begin to understand how to feel and process emotions as well as make decisions in a healthy and individual way.
The Center for Journal Therapy provides a helpful guideline if you are new to journaling and not sure how or where to start:
- W – What do you want to write about? What’s going on? How do you feel? What are you thinking about? What do you want? Name it.
- R – Review or reflect on it. Close your eyes. Take three deep breaths. Focus. You can start with “I feel…” or “I want…” or “I think…” or “Today….” or “Right now…” or “In this moment…”
- I – Investigate your thoughts and feelings. Start writing and keep writing. Follow the pen/keyboard. If you get stuck or run out of juice, close your eyes and re-center yourself. Re-read what you’ve already written and continue writing.
- T – Time yourself. Write for 5-15 minutes. Write the start time and the projected end time at the top of the page. If you have an alarm/timer on your PDA or cell phone, set it.
- E – Exit smart by re-reading what you’ve written and reflecting on it in a sentence or two: “As I read this, I notice—” or “I’m aware of—” or “I feel—”. Note any action steps to take.
As a mental performance coach, my job is to help athletes understand how to become aware of the behaviors, thoughts, and fears that are affecting their mental game. We 1) identify what thoughts and feelings are present 2) work to recognize when they are triggered and 3) create strategies for more positive and effective thoughts and behaviors. My goal is to help them move through their fears to regain their passion for their sport, achieve their goals, and ultimately experience more joy in their sport and life.
Not sure how to begin?
If you would like to learn more about the benefits and specifics of journaling, a great article to check out is: https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-journaling/
I would love to hear from you… comment below or reach out 🙂