Using a Bullet Journal to Relieve Anxiety and Depression
Keeping Organized and Having a Private Depository for Thoughts and Feelings Helps
Anxiety is often paired with depression because the feelings of hopelessness and pointlessness inevitably lead to thoughts of how much worse our lives can get. We imagine our lives falling apart, piece by piece, until we fade away into nothing. For me, this often includes how all my responsibilities will go undone and everyone that relies on me or cares for me will stop caring about me.
Keeping track of what I need to do has always been a problem for me. I have a horrible memory, and I try to write things down, but I always forget to have pen and paper handy. I've tried using phone apps, but they just sit on my phone unused. I needed something that I could not only keep track of things, but develop better discipline about keeping my life in order. I needed a method that would keep me interested in it while being functional. I also needed something that was personalized so that it felt like mine and mine alone.
I decided to attempt keeping a bullet journal. I went and bought a graph paper notebook (the reason for this will be explained later), a really nice pen, and some colored pencils. I then looked for different ways bullet journals can be set up. I went with the method explained by one of my favorite YouTube channels, How To ADHD. Immediately, I became engrossed in setting it up, and found it pleasurable to fill it with what I needed to do, what my future goals were, and my day-to-day goings on.
Making My Bullet Journal Mine
The great thing about this method of bullet journaling is that it leaves for lots of freedom to allow me to put any thoughts and feelings anywhere in the book without worrying about a strict organizational system. All I have to do is simply make a note of what page I put my latest entry to remember where I put it.
Being able to customize my bullet journal with whatever art, cartoons (like the one of my D&D character above), and decoration that I want allows me to be creative and take artistic risks without having anyone else see it. It's my bullet journal, after all.
Keeping Track Of Progress
As much as I can organize my life, it becomes a chore unless I can visually see my progress. Seeing results spurns us to keep striving to achieve, and a bullet journal is a perfect place for that. I borrowed an idea from Chris Hardwick's book, The Nerdist Way, and I created a character sheet. This is a simple technique, similar to the character sheets in RPG video games and tabletop games. A photo of mine is above. By quantifying your goals into experience points and skill points, it becomes very easy to track your goals and your growing skill set.
With my bullet journal set up, I made a promise to myself to use it every day. So far, it's been a week and I've done something with it every day. It's only been a short time, but every little step counts.
But, you might say, how does this help with anxiety and depression? Depression can make you ignore your life's responsibilities, falling into despair. My bullet journal allows me to stay grounded in reality, facing my responsibilities in plain black and white. I can't warp excuses not to do the things in my bullet journal. They are right there, in my face and awaiting me to strike through them when I have completed them.
My anxiety about forgetting things melts away when I have them all in one place. No random notes stuffed in desk drawers or typed in smartphone apps anymore. Everything I need to do is in one notebook, organized well, and is easily indexed to be found.
One of the best things about bullet journals is that I can use it for anything I feel like. Graph notebooks are best for random doodling or connecting dots as a way to focus. I can write in the margins or upside down, put stickers and decals anywhere, or just coloring in squares as a way to relax.
Bullet journals can help people with anxiety and depression as well as people with ADHD. They can help relieve stress about handling all of life's problems and give you a place to keep track of goals. Your bullet journal will become your best friend, the one you can rely on to help you keep your life organized, dump all those horrible thoughts onto, and allow you to experiment creatively. So far, mine has made my life a lot more peaceful. I highly suggest starting one.