Historically, writing has been a technique used by practitioners to help people cope and heal. Recent research by Hans Schroder has found that the technique called expressive writing is especially beneficial in freeing the mind from chronic worry. Expressive writing involves writing freely about your deepest thoughts and innermost feelings without concern that another will read what is written. Another common form of journaling involves chronologically organizing your day into a timeline without emotion.
In Hans Schroder’s study, those participants who used the expressive writing technique performed better on a stressful computer task and used fewer cognitive resources to do so. Schroder explained that worrying overloads our cognitive capacities. Therefore, individuals who struggle with chronic anxiety are constantly multi-tasking by trying to do one task while simultaneously monitoring and suppressing their worries. Expressive writing provides an opportunity to unload these worries and free up the brain to become more efficient in daily life.
This can be especially helpful for those who struggle with test anxiety. A University of Chicago study found that students who were given 10 minutes to write about their fears prior to a high-stakes test improved their test scores. Similar to the study done by Schroder, this writing exercise allowed these students to dump their anxieties onto paper before taking their test. Thus, freeing up the brain space needed to perform closer to their potential.
If you or someone you know suffers from chronic worry, give expressive writing a try. Find a journal with a lock or password-protect a Word document and unpack your worries to help free up space within your brain.