Self Care Journal Prompts For When Times Are Tough

A collection of self-care journal prompts that will help you create ease, treat yourself with compassion, and better understand your needs. 

Regular readers will know that I’m passionate about journaling. I committed to the daily habit a few years ago and since then, I’ve been delighted by all the ways it has improved my life. 

Writing helps me stay true to my minimalist lifestyle, it empowers me to live intentionally, and—as an added bonus—it’s a beautiful act of self-care

And who couldn’t use some extra self-care right now? 

I know that these are tough times, which is why I decided to put together this list of self-care prompts and resources. These are a mix of my own prompts as well as some favourites from around the web. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy these as much as I do!

"Self Care Journal Prompts For When Times Are Tough" in a white box with a woman sitting at a desk writing in a journal in the background.

How Does Journaling For Self-Care Work?

If you’re new to journaling, the most important thing to know is that you don’t have to be perfect. 

This isn’t a school assignment and you don’t have to write “well”. All that matters is that you’re open and honest with yourself. 

This is an opportunity to clear your mind, observe your thoughts, and explore your feelings. It’s about looking at things from new angles and it’s supposed to be fun! 

Give yourself permission to be messy and remember—no one else is going to read what you write unless you allow them to. 

So don’t overthink it, just get started. You might be surprised by what you learn about yourself.

My Favourite Self-Care Journal Prompts

Let’s begin with some of my personal favourites. The following five journal prompts are on regular rotation in my own self-care practice.

Where does ease come from?

I like to answer this question using the format: I feel at ease when _____. 

Here are a few of my responses, direct from my journal:

  • I feel at ease when I speak from the heart.
  • I feel at ease when I do one thing at a time. 
  • I feel at ease when I’m well-rested. 

This activity is helpful because we often lose sight of what makes us feel better, especially when we’re anxious or overwhelmed. This prompt reminds me of the simple things I can do to ground myself and, of course, to feel more at ease.

List five opportunities to treat yourself with compassion.

Most of us are quick to treat others with compassion but find it hard to give ourselves the same grace. Instead, we obsess about mistakes and the things we wish we could have done better. 

We carry these thoughts and regrets with us all the time, often stumbling under the weight of our own expectations. This journal prompt is an invitation to let go. Be kind to yourself and move on.

In what ways am I putting the needs of others before my own?

A few years ago, I came to the realisation that I was willing to make my life incredibly challenging in order to avoid creating even the slightest inconvenience in the lives of others. 

In other words, I have a habit for people-pleasing—and this journal prompt helps me keep it in check. 

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you never put the needs of others above your own. Of course, it’s OK to make sacrifices for the people you love but it is about finding balance

You can only give so much of yourself to others so make sure you have firm boundaries in place. You can’t help anyone if you’re suffering from burnout.

List your doubts and insecurities. Then look for evidence to the contrary.

This is a prompt I turn to whenever I’m full of self-doubt. It’s especially helpful when I catch myself spending too much time comparing my life to others. 

Turn to a blank page in your journal and draw a line down the centre. In the left-hand column, list your doubts and insecurities. Write down all the ways you think you’re not good enough …

Then in the right-hand column, prove yourself wrong. Reflect on your life and your accomplishments. Can you find any specific examples that negate your doubts? 

(I do this exercise to overcome my fears about writing ALL the time—it’s what keeps me going!)

What are my expectations of myself? Are they realistic?

In today’s busy world, we internalise a lot of expectations and it’s not surprising. All around us are photos and stories of people “doing it all” … juggling career, home, family, and more. 

Of course, what we see online and in the media is usually just an illusion—a heavily edited snippet of someone’s life—but our subconscious brains tend to ignore the facts. Instead, we place incredible pressure on ourselves to do more and more, often without realising the extent of what we’re asking. 

It’s not until we write these expectations down and see them in black and white that we realise we’re trying to achieve the impossible. We all have limits and honouring them is an act of self-care.

A woman sitting at a desk writing in a journal.

More Self-Care Journal Ideas

Looking for more self-care journal ideas and prompts? Here are a few more lists and resources to inspire you.

SELF DISCOVERY = SELF CARE

Self-awareness is an essential part of self-care. After all, you can’t cater for your needs and desires if you’re not even sure what they are. 

Can you articulate what makes you feel alive? What drains your energy? What’s weighing on your heart right now and most importantly, what do you need to feel better? 

These questions might sound silly or obvious at first but once you start exploring them, you might be surprised by what you discover. This has definitely been my experience—often, what I think I need and what I really need turn out to be two entirely different things. 

100 JOURNAL PROMPTS FOR INCREASED SELF-AWARENESS

LOVE YOURSELF, FIRST

Self-love is about cultivating self-acceptance and treating ourselves with the kindness we too often reserve for others. 

It’s not easy and I know all too well how hard it is to tune out the critical voice within but it’s worth trying. It’s hard to treat yourself with care when you don’t genuinely love who you are inside. 

It’s a long journey but this list of 31 Self-Love Journal Prompts via Proud Happy Brave is a lovely place to begin.

GUIDED SELF-CARE JOURNALS

Another way you can practice self-care is by treating yourself to a lovely guided journal. These are some of my personal favourites.

Today I Affirm: A Journal that Nurtures Self-Care by Alexandra Elle – I love, love, love this journal. The prompts are thought provoking and I especially love how the author encourages us to examine the duality of life. You can, for example, be independent and still ask for help. 

A Book That Takes Its Time: An Unhurried Adventure in Creative Mindfulness by Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst – This one is part book, part journal and entirely gorgeous. I recently bought two copies (one for myself and another for a friend) and we’re both finding it inspiring. A wonderful reminder to slow down and enjoy the present moment.

"7 Simple Days Kickstart Your Simple + Intentional Living Journey" in a white box with a woman writing in the background.

7 Simple Days is a short online course that I teach about simple and intentional living with lots of in-depth journaling! You’ll find clarity about what truly matters and finish feeling empowered to live a life you love. 

Over 2,500 like-minded souls have already taken 7 Simple Days—and here’s what they’re saying:

I absolutely loved this! I do really well with interactive journal prompts and challenges. Personally, I would have never thought of these questions to ask myself. So having them set up already is perfect for me! It was so clarifying and refreshing.” – Morgan

I always find journal prompts incredibly helpful and some of the prompts you listed (especially the one about getting back into alignment) really struck a chord with me as I had been thinking a lot about that lately.

I also think the course was incredibly professionally and beautifully written. It was light hearted despite talking about serious stuff and was simple and easy to follow. It is so clear how passionate you are about this kind of thing and it is clear that you really care.” – Ash

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