How to Use Your Journal During a Crisis

When we experience a crisis, our pre-frontal cortex goes offline. In other words, at the very moment we need the logical, thinking part of our brain, it isn’t there for us! This is because our brains haven’t evolved beyond reacting automatically to a crisis with purely survival in mind.

This ‘fight or flight’ response worked well for our ancestors, but modern-day threats, or the things that tend to take us into crisis mode, don’t benefit from a quick automatic reaction. They often need consideration, calmness and logic.

How Can Journaling Help?

During a crisis, journaling is an amazing tool for bringing your pre-frontal cortex back online. Initially, it’s also great for getting things out of your head so you can start processing what you’re going through. At this point, putting words down on paper is often more beneficial than sharing them outwardly with someone else or in a social media post.

Allowing emotions to play out is an important part of emotional resilience. If we block or avoid them, we can hold on to unhelpful stress that often pops up when we least expect it. We also risk blocking and avoiding lots of positive emotions too. If we want to live a wholehearted life, we must be willing to experience every moment of it. This means learning to move through the tough stuff.

So, to start with, just go for it! Allow yourself to feel every emotion and write it out as though no one will ever read it. If needed, rip it up so no one ever does.

Emotions are sometimes described as ‘energy in motion’ giving us messages about a problem or struggle. If we listen and allow them to flow through us, we can give the energy what it needs. After you’ve spent time journaling, you will notice you begin to feel calmer. Hopefully, you will reach the end of the page and experience a sense of relief.

What Can Journaling During a Crisis Teach Us?

Remember the need for consideration, calmness and logic I mentioned earlier? Getting things down on paper can give you a new perspective and increased clarity. It can help you resolve the problem because instead of jumbled thoughts whizzing around your mind, you can see it clearly in front of you, allowing you to be more objective about what’s going on.

Journaling also teaches us how to experience difficult emotions in a more helpful way, so we’re better equipped to tolerate them. Looking back at what we’ve written in a journal during a crisis can help us get to know and understand our minds when they’re struggling with anger or fear or anxiety. This increased awareness supports us going forward, giving us more control over our tricky minds and how we respond to difficult situations.

Journaling Prompts

If you want to use your journal during a crisis, but you’re not sure where to start, these prompts may help…

  • What are the facts?
  • Write out 5 different ways to look at the situation
  • How would I advise a friend?
  • What does this emotion need?

Further Reading

How to Get the Most Out of Your Journal

How to Create a Journaling Habit

What’s the Link Between Journaling and CBT?

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Sarah Rees

Sarah is a fully accredited Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and mental health writer delivering Modern Mental Health for you and with you in Mind. Sarah is the author of ‘The CBT Journal’ which helps you write for your wellbeing incorporating CBT techniques. For more information and to keep in touch have a look at