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How To Journal When You're Upset

Journaling is a great way to process your feelings and give yourself something to do with the intense energy that accompanies pain, anger, or sadness. If you have lived situations where you felt unheard or like you couldn’t have a voice, you may feel a sense of powerlessness or voicelessness when things bother you now. Journaling can give you a place to express your thoughts and feelings, and an opportunity to use your voice again. For some, journaling comes naturally, others have no idea how to begin. Here is a worksheet to help you get started. Remember, this is just for you, so grammar, spelling, and convention are unnecessary. Be deeply honest with yourself. If you need to shred or burn it after to feel safe enough to be honest, you can. Eventually the journaling process will come naturally, but until then, it might be helpful to print the following exercise and paste it on the inside cover of your journal. Keep that journal with you at all times, that way you won’t have to search for it when you need it most.

Journaling Exercise For Emotional Expression

Write about what you feel, try to explain and describe the feeling as closely as you can. You can use metaphor, images, descriptions, or feeling words to do this. As if you are trying to help someone else understand what is going on inside you. Elaborate until you cannot anymore.

Try to identify if there are any softer, vulnerable feelings under the primary feeling. For example, often when we are experiencing anger, we feel fear or sadness (or both) first.

Write about what happened that made you feel these feelings. Try and identify what upset you most and why.

Write about what you wish could be different. Elaborate on why and how that would impact you. Is there anything you wish you did different, or anything you will do differently next time.

Write about what you think this experience means. What does it mean to you in this moment? What do you feel it means about you and your life? What does it mean about your future? Are any of those things irrational, but still how you feel right now? If so call it out (emotions are not always rational and they don’t have to be, but it is important to build awareness about when they are irrational and taking over).

What are your take-aways? What will you do now?

Click below for the downloadable version of this exercise

Journaling for Emotional Expression
Download PDF • 30KB

© 2021 Boudewyn Counseling


Here are some resources and conversations to help you thrive. While these resources are no substitution for good therapy,I hope they will help you on your healing journey. 

Kaila Boudewyn

Licensed Mental Health Counselor

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