For HSPs, journal prompts are the perfect antidote to overthinking — they keep the head chatter quiet and get you out of mental loops.
One of the gifts of being a highly sensitive person (HSP) is being a deep thinker. We not only notice little details that other people miss, but our brains process thoughts, emotions, and ideas in deep and complex ways. Because of this depth of processing, we sensitive types are prone to overthinking.
Overthinking is exactly what it sounds like — thinking about things for way too long.
It could mean imagining worst-case scenarios. It could mean obsessing over or second-guessing your decisions. It could also be those late-night sessions when you dwell on all the things you could have done differently during the day: you should have called that person back or spoken up in your work meeting. Basically, your mind won’t shut off.
And overthinking doesn’t just take a toll on your brain, but also your mood. Research shows that it can increase your risk for anxiety and depression, as well as disrupt your sleep and make it harder to make decisions in the future.
But the good news is, there are ways to calm the heck down when you’re a highly sensitive overthinker. Enter journaling. It can help you process stress and anxiety and give you much-needed clarity. It can also help you come up with solutions, track progress, and cultivate gratitude.
Benefits of Journaling as an HSP
Scheduling time to worry can actually be beneficial, as long as you do it constructively. And when you sit down to journal, you’re giving yourself permission to worry in a productive way.
Journaling keeps the head chatter quiet and gets you out of mental loops. It can help you explore different angles, connect ideas, and zoom out and get a bigger perspective.
For me personally, journaling each morning became my sanctuary after a bad breakup.
When you journal, you can pour out any emotion or thought — and without the fear of being judged. Journaling can also help you see how far you’ve come. By reading old journal entries, you can reflect on situations that may no longer trouble you. You have a tangible record of your own personal growth.
There are many different ways to journal. But sometimes it can be hard to know where to start — which is where having a series of questions to reflect on can help. Instead of staring at a blank page, wondering what to write about, journal prompts can help you unravel your thoughts and emotions into something clearer. Here are some of my favorites.
13 Journal Prompts to Stop Overthinking as a Highly Sensitive Person
1. “What problem am I actually trying to solve?”
It’s easy to get caught up in overthinking and spinning your wheels. But once you define the exact problem you are trying to solve, you focus your attention. Then you can plan out a solution, step by step. Whether it’s trying to find a new job or figure out a challenging conversation, when you write it all out, new ideas will come to you.
2. “What is the very next step?”
When you’re paralysed by indecision, the best way forward is to take it one step at a time. Instead of trying to figure out everything at once, simply focus on the one thing you need to do next. This will help to move you forward with clarity. So with the job-hunting example, perhaps one step would be updating your LinkedIn profile while another could be making a list of everyone you know who works in your desired field. Or if you’re nervous about an upcoming conversation, you could jot down notes about what you want to say. That way, you can gain some clarity and confidence before you begin.
3. “What would someone who loves me dearly say to me right now?”
It’s easy to beat yourself up when you feel anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed. But often we are far harder on ourselves than the people who love us are. Who do you know that is kind and compassionate? What would they say to you when you are struggling? We’ve all been under tremendous amounts of stress, especially in the last few years. Perhaps you simply need to hear that your feelings are understandable, and that you’re doing really well despite really challenging circumstances. Speak to yourself like the warm, caring guide we all wish we had.
4. “What can I do today to restore my energy?”
Restful self-care is so important for HSPs. We have nervous systems that process information for a longer amount of time, and deeper at that. So what helps you rest, refuel, and restore balance? And when will you schedule it in? Yes, schedule it in as you would anything else. Otherwise, it may not happen. By scheduling the habits and routines that help you feel grounded, calm, and energized, you’ll cope as an HSP much better, more consistently.
5. “What is really, really hard right now?”
Acknowledge whatever is hard for you right now. Ironically, it will make life a little easier since you’ll stop pretending everything is okay. And you’ll start to bring more self-compassion into your heart. And once you admit something is really hard, you can start looking for solutions and assistance.
6. “If it could be easy, what would that look like?”
Our society is built on harmful ideas about productivity, hustle, and worth. Letting go of these ideas and inviting more ease into your life is a game-changer. Just because other people may seem to cross 101 things off their to-do lists every day doesn’t mean you have to (and, honestly, they’re probably not either!). Plus, highly sensitive people prefer single-tasking, focusing on one thing at once. Try it — you’ll see why!
7. “Where in my body do I feel stress or tension?”
Overthinking by its very nature is a mental activity. But stress isn’t just stored in the mind. It’s stored in your body. Can you notice where and how stress is showing up in your body? And then can you consciously bring relaxation to those areas? Whether you do a guided meditation or body scan, the more you can sync up with and befriend your body, the better.
8. “What am I giving significance to that doesn’t need it?”
Of course, there are things that are important to be concerned about. But there are some worries that don’t really matter. Listing them out can help you let go of the small things. Yes, they may seem like “big” things at some point, but it’s amazing how “small” some of them actually are — which is good in reducing stress for our overstimulated HSP selves!
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9. “Is this true? What else could be true?”
So often, our worries and concerns feel like facts. But are they true? Instead of ruminating, research shows that reframing a problem opens up your mind to curiosity. And when you’re curious, you’re less stressed and more creative (another HSP strength!).
10. “What three things am I really grateful for — and why?”
Gratitude has been proven to lower stress and make you happier. By adding the reason why you feel grateful for something, you deepen your connection to the things (and people) you’re grateful for. You can write that you’re grateful for your friend because they always have a positive, honest perspective on things, and this adds joy to your life. Or you could write that you’re grateful for your creative pursuits because they bring depth and meaning to your life.
11. “If criticism didn’t exist, what would I be doing differently?”
Highly sensitive people don’t do well with criticism — even the fear of being criticized can hold you back from what you really want in life. But your life is yours to live. Liberating yourself from others’ expectations helps you to thrive as your true self. So write it all out and see how much better you feel…
12. “Who can I ask for help?”
Self-care isn’t always about doing everything yourself. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your mental and emotional health is to receive help. Who do you know and trust that could help you today? List them all down. I bet you’ll come up with more people than you think! Plus, certain people may be able to help you in one area of your life while others can help in different ways. Many people love to help out. We are hardwired to need each other. And it’s often a blessing for people to be told specifically how they can help. So please ask.
13. “Who could use my support right now?”
Being generous and altruistic can help you get out of your own head. Evidence shows that helping others can have a positive impact on your own mental health and well-being, too. When you start writing down people who could use your help and act on it, it’ll be a win-win.
No Matter What, Journaling Can Help Your Mental Health Journey
If you’re deeply struggling with overthinking, it may be important to reach out to a mental health professional.
But no matter where you are on your mental health journey, journaling can help you process the challenges of being a highly sensitive person. Of course, you don’t just have to follow my prompts —- in fact, they’ll probably inspire plenty of your own! But by taking a few moments each day to reflect, relieve stress, and feel calm… wouldn’t that make pulling out the pen and paper worth it?
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