Journaling your way through anxiety

I choose to work with clients over a period of 3 months or more. The journey, the shifts, the transformation takes time, patience, and perseverance. But more than that, when a client starts creating their own solutions for problems that once seemed overwhelming, I know that they are ready to embrace life once again. Priya-Lisa is one such beautiful warrior who turned inwards and pulled her magical soul into a space of strength and faith. It’s been an interesting journey with many ups and downs. And then one day she told me about this beautiful journaling system she had created to truly chase her dreams and achieve her goals. And I smiled. From that moment on I have seen her accomplish tiny milestones and enjoy a victory or two too.

Priya-Lisa Gonsalves

I requested her to share her system and help others who are battling anxiety or just a lack of basic coping mechanisms. This system is simple and one that can keep you on track. I hope you feel inspired enough to start a journaling practice and create a system of your own.

Since how long have you been battling anxiety?
I don’t like to use the phrase ‘battle with anxiety’ because I think anxiety is a part of the human psyche and it’s not so much a battle as a correction of an unhealthy recurring thought process. I think the trick is to stop associating these mental dispositions as bad and unwanted because it creates a feeling of stigma around something that majority of human beings will experience if faced with certain emotional stress or otherwise.

What made you start the journal?
I think I realised that I had two choices – take matters into my own hands and work hard towards solutions or feel sorry for myself. It was at this stage that even though emotionally I felt beyond drained, I decided to be action oriented instead of thought oriented. So I started doing a program from this wonderful book called “The Artist’s Way” and I also created a journal that I called “this time next year”

What’s your journal about and what’s the format that you follow? Is this format created by you? And how did you figure these topics or sections for your journal?
When I was in the thick of anxiety I was very diligent in filling my journal. It was not a thought oriented journal but an action oriented one. I read somewhere an 8 point system to battle anxiety and depression like exercise, sleep, yoga/mediation, social activity, sunlight, daily affirmation; these points are applicable to anyone. I also added a few of my own that suited me like dance, makeup, art, writing, reading, spiritual practice. At the end of the day I write what I do towards all of these. They don’t have to be grand gestures just small things for example researching a dance class, buying a makeup product, reading an interesting article.

I really believe that people who overthink have anxiety issues so this changed my attitude from thinking to doing.

Which is your favourite part in your journal?
My journal isn’t fancy or super decorative because I have to fill it every day. I like the way I can access time through the journal. Time has slowed down in a good way because I see how many things I’ve accomplished in a short period of time just through action. It’s like a reminder that I have to move forward towards life and the next year. The goal is – I will improve all these aspects of my life by next year. The goal is improvement and frequency of action…not one big idea and no action towards it every day.

Do you write your journal at a specific time? As in start or end your day with it?
I fill it at the end of the day since it’s what I’ve done during the day. Some days I don’t fill it if I’ve had a crazy day. The idea is to be gentle with yourself but also be disciplined.

You also mentioned a book called The Artist’s Way. What is it about and how has it helped you?
I can write so much about this book! It’s amazing! Written by Julia Cameron, it’s a book for creative people who have blocks regarding their lives and art. It’s a 12 week program and gives you activities every week. It also makes you write 3 pages of conscious stream writing every morning when you wake up. This teaches you discipline and self-awareness. Once a week you have to do an activity called the “artist’s date” where you do one activity completely alone for at least an hour that is not maybe usual to your regular life. It also makes you identify what you want from life without guilt or apprehension. For example, at the beginning I wrote down 20 things I would like to do without fear, I would say I’ve probably done at least 15 of them in the last 4 months. There are many unique activities that make you connect with your inner child and see the world as a place of possibilities again rather than with fear of the unknown.

What’re the changes you’ve felt or noticed since you started writing the journal?
I don’t think I’ve changed as much as I’ve come back to myself. I think as we get older we deny ourselves simple pleasures and also adventures. It’s not strange that as we get older we start to develop mental stress because society has taught us that we must simply be responsible and settle down as we get older. Doing the book and journal made me realise what I want and have no guilt associated with it. It helped me get back to myself, the most important relationship I will ever have in my life.

Has journal writing and working with the Artist’s Way subsequently lowered the frequency of anxiety attacks?
Yes I don’t really have them anymore, but I can’t say that I will never have anxiety issues. But I’m learning to cope with it on my own now.

Do you also write down your visions or goals in the journal and does writing them down help you take actions towards them?
Yes I have a manifestation board and people may think I’m crazy but a lot of exactly what I wanted has come true. It’s been like magic. I don’t really think it’s a trick. I think the problem is people cannot admit what they want so they don’t go for it. Once you write it down you get more comfortable reading it every day, you are able to believe you deserve it and you take actions towards it.

Share a couple of instances where the practice has really worked.
I had completely stopped dancing and I wanted to teach dance and also take part in a dance battle. At that time the idea seemed completely ludicrous to me. However, within 4 months I started teaching once a week, I took part in a dance battle in another city and made it to the semi-finals, and I also choreographed a commercial after around 5 years.

I also had financial goals and I can say that I’m very close to achieving them. Another short term goal was to travel with my work; I have a free work trip to Goa in November on my favourite beach there and a possible opportunity to travel abroad with dance.

Priya-Lisa Gonsalves is a dancer, make-up artist and an all-round creative person. Follow her on Instagram @priyalisa_makeup and @priyalisa_poet.


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