Journaling for overwhelm is my favourite coping mechanism. There is a lot going on in the world right now, and we’re all deeply feeling all the things.

Overwhelm is real. Many of us are questioning how we can possibly get up each day and go on with our regular lives, when so many others’ lives have been deeply disrupted. The environment is a mess, the world is a mess, everyone is divided on everything, and we’re all in fear of getting sick.

Overwhelm, guilt, a feeling of futility – those of us whose daily lives continue more-or-less “normally” may wonder how we can possibly go through the motions, with this privilege of just being in the right place at the right time.

Yes, I’ve gotten off easy. I’m one of the lucky ones. We aren’t touched by any immediate threat to our safety and health. And yet, our struggle is to find meaning in the everyday where there is so much horrible-ness happening for so many.

This is when journaling for overwhelm really becomes a place of solace. It really doesn’t matter what you do in your morning routine though. Having a daily mindfulness practice is something that can really anchor you when everything around you is unstable.

How to protect your morning journaling time

Here’s the key: plan it in advance.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to a protected morning routine is finding yourself with some time to fill and not knowing what to fill it with.

If you’re like me and you’re groggy in the morning, the pull to stay in bed is likely stronger than your ability to make decisions. If you’re serious about protecting your morning journaling time you need to plan.

Ask yourself the following questions to help you protect your morning practice of journaling for overwhelm:

  • What activities do you do every morning?
  • How much time do these activities typically take?
  • What special activity do you want to include or protect?
  • How much time do you want for this special activity?
  • Where in your morning schedule will this activity fall?
  • What comes right before it?

Journaling for Overwhelm: Automate the Activity Trigger

You’ll be far more successful at implementing and protecting your morning journaling if you automate how you start the activity in the first place.

To automate an activity, a great hack is to figure out what you’ll do right before it. What will you do right before you sit down to write? Maybe you’ll grab that cup of coffee and walk to the table where your journal and pen are ready for you. So your automation would be:

  • make the coffee
  • pour the coffee (trigger)
  • walk to the writing table
  • start writing

If you can determine what you do right before that activity then you are less likely to become sidetracked by something else, and more likely to get your pen to paper.

The Biggest Stumbling Block: Making Decisions

One of the great ironies of journaling for overwhelm is we can let the morning routine itself become overwhelming. This is so common.

If you’ve been trying to protect a morning routine and find yourself getting stuck, step back and identify the moments where you get off track. I’ll be willing to bet this happens when you find yourself with too much available time and the need to make a decision.

Here’s an example. You’ve carved out an extra 30 minutes to do some journaling for overwhelm. You get yourself out of bed and manage to get to the kitchen to make the coffee.

When it comes time to sit down to write, you can’t decide where you want to sit. The table is covered in the kids’ homework, you can’t find your favourite pen, someone is in the next room making noise. So you try to figure out where else you might want to go.

But it’s just easier to grab your phone and start scrolling Instagram, so you do that instead. Just like that, your journaling for overwhelm got sidetracked, and now you’re overwhelmed by social media instead plus the feeling that you’ve wasted precious time.

What to do instead: plan in advance

The evening before you plan to do your morning journaling, walk through the steps. What time will you get up? What is your trigger? What do you need to have in place? Make it as easy on yourself as possible.

Here’s a handy worksheet for you to use if you need some help.

Journaling for Overwhelm: how to do it

Again, we can become overwhelmed with the journaling itself. In fact, this is one of the main reasons people avoid starting journaling at all in the first place.

Give yourself the permission to just write. Don’t censor anything, just write. Write anything that comes to mind. I usually start with the weather, or how grumpy I am to be up early. I’ll review what happened the day before and what I have coming up that day.

Just keep writing. If you run out of things to write, just write, “Keep pen moving.” I do that all the time.

If you do this steadily, after about 15 minutes you may find yourself sinking into flow and the ideas will just come. This is where the real magic happens, and likely the place where you will find the most solace.

Read more about journaling for flow in this post.

Finding comfort in the familiar

If you can keep a regular morning journal practice, you can make good use of this time to process through the overwhelming feelings that regularly bubble up. It’s certainly not a magic cure for everything, but you will likely find that you come out of a great journaling session feeling more settled about what you can control in your life.

Remember to separate the overwhelm of the journaling practice itself by planning ahead and giving yourself permission to write without judgement.

Do you use journaling for overwhelm?

If so, comment below with some tips and tricks for others who might be struggling to implement this practice for themselves. Let’s help each other.