How To Manage Worries Through Writing, Bullet Journal Not Required

Mary Seph
4 min readAug 24, 2021
Open journal divided in eight sections with a black pencil in between the pages

Effective stress management is a key feature in fitness. It is not only a form of self-care, but a strategy to improve mental health, even if one doesn’t know much about the topic.

There are many tools available to manage stressors, triggers, or worries that don’t rely on a colorful bullet journal tracker: analog or digital, handwritten or typed; the market is plentiful. On the digital and typed intersection, there is Worry Tree, a CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) based app to track mental health and manage stress.

Taking inspiration from Worry Tree’s methodology, I created an analog, handwritten template for the bullet journal to manage worries and improve mental health. Without the need for one, here is a downloadable freebie you can use as you read along or print for personal use!

To be honest, I haven’t used this template consistently, but I would like to teach you how to apply Worry Tree’s active stress-management method and give an example of my own to show you how to start. Perhaps you also prefer writing instead of typing to manage your most intense thoughts and feelings or are interested in the topic. If you decide to print the template or copy it in another page/notebook, keeping it safe in a folder, notebook, or perhaps wallet to use it on the go, you can get the same benefits if you were using a bullet journal.

I divided Worry Tree’s methodology into four categories: Key Questions, Worry Categories, Action Plan, and Distraction List.

Firstly, when I’m about to write, I use key questions to guide my thinking which doubles as an also a summary of Worry Tree’s CBT method:

  1. What are you worrying about right now?

This is an invitation to put my feelings into words: I’m worried about the test, I’m worried about my friend’s situation, I’m worried about this country’s problem, etc. I take all the space I need to put everything on paper.

2. Is this a worry that can be resolved or is it something I have control over?

When I’m done word puking, this question helps me shift to action-based thinking. My answer is either yes or no, which directly brings to the following query.

3. Make an action plan (if it can be resolved) or find ways to distract yourself (if can’t).

The action plan is a space to write as much as I want. This will be expanded in section three.

Secondly, I categorize a worry to specify what it is about. These areas are distinct enough, of different areas of my life. Due to space limitations, I represent each category with a symbol, written in parenthesis. I left this area blank in the template so you can make your categories:

  • Family (Letter F)
  • College (Graduation Hat)
  • Financial (Dollar Sign)
  • Health (Cross like the Red Cross)
  • Relationships (Heart)
  • Work (Suitcase)

Thirdly, the action plan is particular to the worry. After deciding if it’s the situation that’s worrying me that can be resolved or if it’s something I have little control over, I either write an action plan to start taking control of the situation or choose a distraction from the list. Yes, choosing a distraction is making an action plan because deciding to ignore what causes worry is taking control over those thoughts.

Lastly, the distraction list contains the sure ways to entertain the mind and body, pulling it away from what is causing me stress. Mindfulness and boundaries have helped me acknowledge there are some things I just cannot do something about. My existential value remains and refocusing my efforts is a much more productive way to deal with reality. Like the previous section, I use symbols for each way I can distract myself which are not included on the template:

  • Meditation (Sitting blob-like person)
  • Music (Beam note)
  • Fun video (Flat Screen)
  • Reading (Book)
  • Garden (Sprout)
  • Work (Laptop)
  • Classify recycling materials (Recycling symbol)

If you checked the template, you may have noticed there are two columns I haven’t mentioned: Date and R/C. The first is self-explanatory, write the date, and the latter stands for “Resolved or Controlled.” This section is filled with a checkmark when the action plan isn’t to distract me. I value moments when I choose to ask for help from others, so when looking back through these worries, those with checkmarks stand out.

To summarize, stress management is a key skill in mental and physical health. I was inspired by Worry Tree’s app and made a template based on their methodology which you can download. This template has six columns from left to right: Date, Write Here, Category, R/C (Resolved or Controlled), Action Plan, and Distraction. To use it, you first note the date, then write what you are worried about. After that, choose which area of your life the worry is coming from. Then, you start to control the worry by making a checkmark if the situation that is causing the worry can be resolved or controlled, writing an action plan to start dealing with it. If it can’t be resolved or controlled, instead, write which distraction you will use to keep the worry out of your mind, acting on it as soon as possible.

How do you manage your worries? Do you use an app or a journal? Thank you very much for reading and cheers for good mental health!

Check the notes that made this article possible in Mary’s Mind Garden.



Mary Seph

Green-living | Productivity | Eco-minimalism They/them. 🌲 🌲