I used the Anti-Anxiety notebook that I’ve seen all over Instagram to see how it worked.
Anxiety as a college student is not a foreign concept, and oftentimes the tools we’re recommended are inaccessible due to budget, transportation, or time– that’s where the Anti-Anxiety Notebook comes in. At $38, it’s not cheap, but it’s definitely less than therapy. If you really just can’t work with a therapist right now, it’s a great way to develop tools to work through frequent bouts of anxiety.
How it works
The notebook uses a simple layout to introduce its user to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques. Oftentimes, our anxiety is irrational and leads to a spiral of panic rather than allowing us to address the situation at hand. CBT is a way of reassessing a situation or a feeling and looking at it from a new perspective.
According to the journal’s introduction, “by changing our perceptions, we can feel entirely differently than we did before.” Using the framework in the journal takes you through the steps of identifying, challenging, and changing your thought patterns.
How I use it
As I mentioned, the main focus of the notebook is the formatted framework on each page that walks you through steps to reframing your thought pattern.
Step 1: What happened?
In this section, I like to write a really brief description of the situation. I try to keep this part factual, without including anything that I’m thinking or feeling.
I like that this is the first step because it immediately forces me to snap out of my spiral to put down something real.
Step 2: What is going through your mind?
Here, I do another brief description of the situation, but this time from my irrational side.
It’s tempting to really elaborate in this section, but I find that keeping it short is a better strategy. If I let myself go on for too long, I’m continuing my spiral and not getting anywhere. The point of this section is to put my anxiety into words, and I find that by doing so I quickly recognize how irrational it is.
Please note, the point isn’t to invalidate how I’m feeling, just to realize which elements are something I can address and which are just my anxiety talking.
Step 3: What emotions are you feeling?
This part gives you space to include two emotions and rank them on a scale of 1-10. I always find myself flipping to the back of the book, where the authors included a Feelings Wheel.
Paying attention to my feelings helps me better understand why a situation has led me to feel anxious. Specifically naming some feelings clears up my jumbled emotions and allows me to create a connection between a situation and how it affects me.
Step 4: What thought patterns do you recognize?
“Cognitive Distortions” are the inaccurate thought patterns we experience that make us feel like shit—and anxious. In this section, you’re given the opportunity to identify what cognitive distortion you’re experiencing. There’s 12 options, based on what thought patterns are most common, with definitions at the back of the book.
I find this part to be the most useful. It allows me to recognize where my mind constantly goes. I can see how my thought patterns are habitual by flipping through a few pages and seeing that I “Catastrophize” almost every single time I feel anxious.
Step 5: How can you think about the situation differently?
This is where I take the opportunity to challenge everything I wrote down in steps 1-4. I literally argue with myself. I explain why my thoughts are irrational or unhelpful, and if applicable include what actions I can take to resolve the situations I described in steps 1 and 2.
I honestly have nothing but good things to say about this journal. Like I said, it’s not meant to be a replacement for therapy and it isn’t, but I found it to be extremely helpful. I’ve tried all the typical anxiety advice—taking a walk, free-form journaling, meditation, etc.—and this was by far the best.
I’d definitely recommend using the Anti-Anxiety notebook as a college student with a limited budget or time.