Bullet Journal Therapy 😌
How to transform your bujo for tougher times
by Patrizia Diana (@lifeinabujo)
The Bullet Journal method is a great tool not only to organize our lives better but also to make ourselves more aware of our internal processes. That’s why so many bullet journalers say they became ‘better humans’ thanks to it and I can tell the same. But what happens to our bullet journal when we’re going through a very stressful moment or we struggle with anxiety and/or depression? Is the classic method still valid?
Not exactly, but I’m going to tell you how you can do ‘Bullet Journal Therapy’.
What is Bullet Journal Therapy and how does it work
Bullet Journal Therapy is not a different method from the classic one, just an adaptation to mental health. Indeed to build a bujo for our mental health we don’t need to create anything new, but daily logs, lists and trackers all need to be adjust to our needs and I’m gonna show you what I and many other people found very useful.
The purpose is a bit different: is not much about organizing and planning but about increasing awareness and coping with anxiety and depression by recognizing our recurrent patterns day by day.
Important note: Bullet Journal Therapy is no way a replacement for a real therapy. It is a ‘tool’ that can help us or, in case we already go to therapy, an extra tool to improve our therapeutic relation.
How to build a bujo for mental health
Many people wrote me during the years telling me they couldn’t keep up with the ‘classic’ method so, if you felt the same way, you’re definitely not alone. In fact it happens to many of us because when we’re going to very stressful periods our brain works and responds differently.
Confronting myself with many people during the years, I found out these parts of Bullet Journal Therapy are the most effective but you are totally free to change, adjust or delete them as you see fit.
‘Goodbye’ to to-do lists, welcome ‘what I did’ lists
The first big change we found effective is about to-do lists.
Opening our Bullet Journal at the end of the day and seeing so many empty tasks can be extremely triggering.
When anxiety is really high, our brain is focusing on alarming stuff and it really doesn’t need extra negative thoughts. At the end of the day we need to see progress and not something we may consider ‘a failure’. We can shift our focus to the pole positive by transforming the to-do lists into ‘what I did’ lists. By focusing on what we actually did, it can be really helpful to see we are able to do so many things while anxiety is kicking us. We should never take for granted all the small things we do everyday, most of all when our brain is in ‘survival’ mode.
Why Gratitude Log didn’t work for me
When Bullet Journal became extremely popular in 2016, the biggest promoters of the system suggested to use the Gratitude Log to help you with anxiety and depression. So many people used to tell me they completely failed at filling their gratitude logs and I'll tell you why...
Gratitude Logs and many logs about ‘mental health’ can be triggering because they try to ‘silver line’ our deepest pain. We’re forcing our brain to think that we need to be grateful while it’s trying to show us something is going wrong in our lives and this is the opposite of empathising with ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong, Gratitude Logs can be a great exercise, and it really works for many people but this blog is dedicated to those who have to deal with severe anxiety and depression and need to know they’re not alone.
So what can we do instead?
We can transform our usual Gratitude Log into an ‘Anxiety Log’ where we can write down when we felt anxious and why, what triggered that anxiety. About the layout we can keep it simple like a ‘One line a day’ by writing at the end of the day how much was higher our anxiety and what triggered us or we may have an Anxiety Log we can fill every time we are triggered and why. That means in a day you may write many times while no one on other days.
The Positive and the Negative
Something I found extremely useful was opening my bujo every night before bed and write down in a very small space (so I couldn’t feel the pressure) just a few lines about the Negative and the Positive side of the day. That is a very good way to shift our focus from considering only the negative to a complete vision of reality. Our brain in ‘survival’ mode tends to take us away from perceiving reality for what it is: everyone’s life, everyday, has the bad and the good side.
Also it is a very quick way to journal and write down your feelings when you feel like you’re too tired to keep a journal.
Bullet Journal Trackers
So far we talked about the emotional part of our lives but through trackers we are able to explore the ‘cognitive’ and symptomatic side of it.
The purpose of trackers in bujo therapy is to understand and learn about the fluctuations in our lives. There are no people in the world who have linear lives.
We can create all the trackers we need but these are the most used: Mood Tracker, Health Tracker, Medicine Tracker and Habit Tracker.
Using the most famous mood tracker where you choose a color for every mood and pick one everyday can be helpful itself, but there are many ways to track your mood and I want to show you my favorite. It’s a tracker made by psychologists for people with Bipolar Disorder but also very useful for people struggling with several anxiety and/or depression:
The benefits from this tracker are several but the most important lesson you learn from that is: everything will pass. You’ll be more and more aware that even the worst days and moments, don’t last forever and this is the most important thing to keep in mind during bad times.
While understanding our mood fluctuations, we have the chance to understand how our body reacts in certain situations and this is extremely helpful understanding the correlations between our brain and our health.
The tracker will contain every kind of pain that occur in your everyday life. For example you may discover that your bellyache has a strong connection with your anxiety.
If you struggle remembering to take your meds that are strongly important for your recovery or you want to control how meds you take, I highly recommend to add a more specific Meds Tracker.
The habit tracker needs to be exactly like the usual but you can focus on behaviors that would really be helpful for your mental health. That may include washing your teeth, make your bed, have a shower, all things that sound very ordinary but not granted when our brain is in survival mode.
Remember to avoid behaviors you don’t really care about improve (e.g. reading when you don’t like reading too much) because we still want to avoid empty spaces that increase our anxiety and negative thoughts.
Build the perfect system for you
Either you’re recovering and seeing a therapist or you’re just going to a stressful moment of your life, remember to keep your bujo functional considering your needs and preferences. Many people found Bullet Journal the best way to unwind and grow as human beings. Just don’t ask yourself too much and keep your system easy enough to help you a little bit everyday.
About the author
Patrizia Diana is a 27-year-old illustrator who found her way back to art thanks to a bullet journal way back in 2016. She then started sharing those pages on her IG profile (@lifeinabujo) where the support of many helped her being courageous enough to change path and pursuit her oldest dreams.