Start a stress journal
A stress journal can help you identify the regular stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. Each time you feel stressed; keep track of it in your journal. As you keep a daily log, you will begin to see patterns and common themes. Write down:
- What caused your stress (make a guess if you’re unsure)
- How you felt, both physically and emotionally
- How you acted in response
- What you did to make yourself feel better
Stress Diaries are important for understanding the causes of short-term stress in your life. They also give you an important insight into how you react to stress, and they help you to identify the levels of pressure at which you prefer to operate.
The idea behind Stress diaries is that, on a regular basis, you record information about the stresses you’re experiencing, so that you can analyse these stresses and then manage them. This is important because often these stresses flit in and out of our minds without getting the attention and focus that they deserve.
Every time you make an entry, record the following information:
- The date and time of the entry.
- The most recent stressful event you experienced.
- How happy you feel now, using a subjective assessment on a scale of -10 (the most unhappy you’ve ever been) to +10 (the happiest you’ve been). As well as this, write down the mood you’re feeling.
- How effectively you’re working now (a subjective assessment, on a scale of 0 to 10). A 0 here would show complete ineffectiveness, while a 10 would show the greatest effectiveness you have ever achieved.
- The fundamental cause of the stress (being as honest and objective as possible).
You may also want to note:
- The symptoms you felt (for example, “butterflies in the stomach,” anger, headache, raised pulse rate, sweaty palms, and so on.).
- How well you handled the event (How did you respond?): Did your reaction help solve the problem, or did it actually make things worse? Rate the event from 1 (“not effective at all”) to 10 (“extremely effective”). This rating will give you an idea of whether you want to improve on the way that you react to stress.
Analysing the Diary
Once you’ve kept a Stress Diary for a number of days, you can analyse it and take action on it:
- First, look at the different stresses you experienced during the time you kept your diary. Highlight the most frequent stresses, and also the ones that were most unpleasant.
- Working through the stresses you’ve highlighted, look at your assessments of their underlying causes, and your appraisal of how well you handled the stressful event. Do these highlight problems that need to be fixed? If so, list these areas.
- Next, look through your diary at the situations that cause you stress. List ways in which you can change these situations for the better.
- Finally, look at how you felt when you were under pressure, and explore how it affected your happiness and your effectiveness. Was there a middle level of pressure at which you were happiest and performed best?
Having analysed your diary, you should fully understand what the most important and frequent sources of stress are in your life, and you should appreciate the levels of pressure at which you are happiest. You should also know the sort of situations that cause you stress, so that you can prepare for them and manage them well.