The Bullet Journaling Trick That’s Helped Me Stay Sane This Year 

Go ahead, call it cheesy.

There was a period in recent months when nearly every time I inhaled — so, often — it felt like a troop of butterflies was beating their wings around inside of my stomach. And not in that lovely, oh-my-gosh-I-totally-have-a-crush-on-that-cute-barista way. More in an oh-my-gosh-I-think-I’m-on-the-verge-of-a-panic-attack way.

Now, before you get the wrong idea and assume that this was alarming to me because I am generally a spitting image of Deepak Chopra leading a YouTube meditation video (admirably calm and collected, that is), it’s important to know that this is not entirely unusual for me. I’ve been known to wake up in the middle of the night in a full-blown state of panic. That said, for me to feel constant anxiety during a week when I wasn’t actually consciously worried about anything at all was not normal.

When I realized that I felt off, I opened my notebook up to the page where my trusty mental health tracker — a technique I stole from the super-popular bullet journaling trend — for the month was and realized that I’d been feeling anxious for nearly exactly the same time since I’d been taking an herb that came in a tailored-to-me vitamin pack.


I stopped taking the herb, and pretty soon I wasn’t feeling so anxious. I didn’t consult a doctor, so I can’t be 100 percent sure that was the cause of my temporary madness, but I’m pretty sure it was. And without tracking my mental state throughout the month in such a digestible, color-coded, easy-to-spot-patterns way, I might not have put two and two together.

To break down what this technique actually is, it’s tracking your feelings/emotions/mood  — or whatever you want, really. I also track whether or not I drank my lemon water on any given morning, because digestion — throughout the month using colors and symbols. That way, you can easily see a snapshot of how you’ve been feeling or what your behavior has been like over days or weeks, which makes connecting your emotions and mental state to events in your life much simpler. You can see an example of what mine usually looks like below. (It’s not my real one, because we’re friends and all, but I’m not ready to get that personal with you.)

For instance, if I see that I was feeling stressed all week, in bright pink ink, I can say to myself, “Okay, well I slept terribly on Sunday night which led me to function poorly on Monday, and get behind on work for the rest of the week. Of COURSE I was stressed.” And then knowing that impacts my behavior the next Sunday evening, because I know that I need to get a really good night’s rest in order to avoid feeling stressed all week long.

I found this bullet journaling technique in a blog post BuzzFeed put together on how to use a bullet journal for better mental health. And while I can’t say I’m organized enough to put together a full-blown bullet journal for myself every month (WHO HAS THE TIME?!), I’ve tried to keep up with this one technique since writing about it — and doing so has certainly helped me maintain my sanity.

So, I figured I’d share it with you — because I can’t be the only one who feels like they’re losing it sometimes and would like to make it easier to figure out why that’s the case.

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