Last Updated: May 11, 2021
Are you stressed out by all the pressures and expectations in your life? Modern life demands a lot from us, but sometimes we also expect too much of ourselves. That just exacerbates the stress we feel from outside sources like our studies, work, and relationships. One of the best ways to find some relief from this kind of self-imposed stress is to reflect in a journal.
These self-compassion journal prompts will help you think of new ways to show yourself more grace and kindness, and to let go of expectations that are weighing you down. When you write in a journal, you can be open and honest with yourself, and that will help you dig deep and explore new ideas to reduce stress. But first, let’s take a closer look at how we can use self-compassion for stress relief.
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Why Use Self-Compassion Journal Prompts for Stress Relief?
Usually after a stressful day, you want nothing more than to crash on the couch, forget about all the things that are stressing you out, and zone out. You probably just want to relax and watch TV, but you might already know that mindless distraction won’t truly help you deal with stress.
Sometimes we need to confront stress head on to find out what’s causing it and how to deal with it. It might take a disciplined effort, but one of the most helpful things we can do is a bit of self-reflection through journaling.
Whenever I sit down to take a good, hard look at what’s giving me stress, I often find that it isn’t actually the external circumstance or issue itself. Instead, it’s the unrealistic pressures, expectations, and standards that I put on myself. Can you relate?
So the best way to relieve that stress might not be to tackle the issue itself, but to have more realistic, gentle, and forgiving expectations of ourselves. That’s where self-compassion comes in.
What is Self-Compassion?
Self-compassion, a mindfulness technique, is the ability to extend understanding, acceptance, and kindness to ourselves, in the same way we would extend it to others.
Self-compassion isn’t self-pity or self-indulgence. It’s giving yourself the same grace you would want a good friend to give you.
Dr. Kristin Neff, a researcher who has spent several years studying the psychology behind self-compassion, defines 3 key elements of self-compassion (Source):
- Self-kindness: Instead of criticizing and judging ourselves, we recognize that it’s okay to make mistakes, and that we can’t avoid difficulties in life. So self-kindness means giving ourselves grace rather than getting stressed or frustrated about our imperfections.
- Common humanity: Everyone goes through hard times, so we’re not alone when we face difficult experiences or feel inadequate. By acknowledging that our experiences are part of being human, we can have the same compassion for ourselves that we would have for a friend or a stranger going through the same hardships.
- Mindfulness: We tend to get caught up in negative thoughts and emotions in response to stressful and difficult situations. Mindfulness helps us put a bit of distance between us and our thoughts and emotions. We can be aware of our thoughts without judging ourselves. Instead of either exaggerating or denying our feelings, we can take a step back and simply notice that we are having those feelings.
Let’s put those 3 elements into more everyday language. Here are some useful phrases you can say to yourself to practice self-compassion:
- It’s okay to feel this way.
- I know it hurts.
- I will grow through this.
- I’m doing my best.
- I forgive myself.
- Common humanity:
- I’m not alone.
- I’m going to get through this.
- This is really hard.
- I’m only human.
- Everyone makes mistakes.
- I am not my thoughts.
- It’s okay to take a step back.
- I am bigger than how I feel right now.
- I can look at this from a different perspective.
- My emotions don’t define me.
If you want to learn more about how to put self-compassion into practice in your life, these resources and workbooks can help:
How to Use These Journal Prompts
These 30 journal prompts will help you apply self-compassion to your stress. Take some time to sit down, relax, and reflect in your journal. Don’t judge yourself as you write! Just let your thoughts flow onto the page. Try answering 1 prompt a day for a month, or jump in with 2 or 3 today.
I recommend answering the prompts in order, because they build on each other. If you start in the middle, you might miss out on some key insights from previous prompts. But if just a few prompts stand out to you, feel free to only answer those.
Tips for Answering the Prompts with Self-Compassion
The purpose of these journal prompts is to guide you into responding to stress with more kindness and gentleness towards yourself. Some of the prompts will ask you to make a small change in your life. With those prompts, don’t judge yourself for the way things are in your life now. Instead, try to develop an accepting attitude towards yourself, to learn and grow from your mistakes, and also to reduce stress by making some lifestyle changes.
Some of the prompts ask you to think about your situation from the perspective of others, or to imagine giving advice to others. It might feel unnatural at the beginning. But those exercises will help you build the “common humanity” aspect of self-compassion by thinking of how you’d treat someone else in your situation.
Finally, don’t forget to include the self-compassion phrases listed above while you write in your journal! Now let’s jump in.
30 Self-Compassion Journal Prompts for Stress Relief
- What is one simple adjustment you can make to your morning routine to help you care for yourself as you prepare for the day?
- What is one expectation you have of yourself that you can stop pressuring yourself to meet?
- What stressful circumstance are you currently facing? If you had a friend in the same situation, what advice would you give them?
- In what ways are you letting your circumstances determine your stress levels? What 3 things can you do to take charge of how you feel?
- What was a problem you had this week, and how did you handle it? Brainstorm other solutions that also could have worked.
- What is one new skill you could learn that would help you handle a current stressful situation? How can you start learning it?
- What is one thing you can remove from your everyday schedule to create more space for rest and self-care?
- Did you recently make a mistake and get upset with yourself? What can you say to yourself now to replace beating yourself up with grace and self-compassion?
- In what area of your life would you like to be more organized? What advice would you give to a friend to achieve that goal? Write down 5 practical action steps.
- What’s one thing that you feel scared to do, even though you know it’s important? How would a close friend encourage you to overcome that fear?
- Are you holding a grudge against someone? What do you need to do to forgive and forget?
- What is one small way you can adjust your evening routine to promote true rest at night?
- Write a note to yourself 5 years ago. Try to build up your past self with some advice and encouragement to get through what’s coming.
- In what ways can you be more gentle with yourself? Write down 3 of them.
- Take a look at your to-do list. What is one thing you’re expecting yourself to do that is not actually necessary or is not the best use of your time?
- What is currently making you feel disappointed? How would a friend or loved one encourage you about this situation?
- What helps you feel safe, held, and supported? How can you include this in your life when you feel stressed?
- How can you better use your words and self-talk to build yourself up? What words should you stop using?
- Are you taking time to relax and care for yourself? If not, what can you do to make that time?
- Write a note to yourself 5 years in the future. Honestly describe what your life is like right now. Then, tell your future self what you hope your life will be like then, but reassure your future self that it’s okay if everything isn’t as you hope.
- Reflect on a time when you made a positive difference in someone’s life. What did this experience teach you about loving others?
- What is a problem that has been giving you anxiety lately? If you were talking to an encouraging, supportive friend about it, what questions would they ask you? Answer the questions honestly and try to see the problem from different perspectives.
- How would you spend a full day doing only things that make you feel relaxed, happy, and fulfilled? Choose one or two of those things to do this weekend.
- What is great in your life right now? What current situations are you thankful for?
- What have you been giving most of your energy to lately? What would you like to devote more energy to?
- What expectations of others can you let go of?
- How would it feel if you conquered stress for good? Write down 5 affirmations you would tell a good friend about their ability to achieve this. For example, “You are capable of living with complete calm.” “Stress doesn’t own you.” etc.
- What is one thing you can forgive yourself for?
- What is an impossible standard you’re holding yourself to? How can you adjust that standard to be more realistic?
- Taking into account everything you’ve learned with these prompts, write down 3 practical ways you can give yourself and others more grace.
I hope these self-compassion journal prompts have been helpful for you. When I answered them myself, I used this page in my Bullet Journal to collect the key insights from each prompt. Follow Calming Grace on Instagram for more like this:
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