We are all surrounded by stimuli that trigger stress, anxiety, and a whole lot of negative emotions. Day after day, more and more people are in need of support and different ways to navigate through stress and isolation. One of the most effective techniques is creating a stress diary.
A stress diary is a log or collection of stressful moments in your daily life. The goal is to develop self-awareness, specifically to help you become aware of what triggers your stress. It includes the time and date of stress, identifying the trigger, the duration of stress, and thinking of ways to manage it.
Stress Diary Benefits
Stress diaries may require you to put in additional effort or work daily. But there are many benefits of keeping a stress journal. Here’s what you’ll experience once you create one for yourself.
You’ll Know Your Stress Triggers
You and I have different triggers when it comes to stress. What stresses you out may be mere inconvenience for others. And what stresses them out may be a small thing for you. By knowing what grinds your gear, you’ll develop more self-awareness. You’ll understand yourself better and why you are triggered by those specific things.
For example, I get stressed out and discouraged (at least for a while) when things I do don’t work. Or when I feel like I’m not making any progress. Knowing this, I can plan ahead on what I’ll do when I think of these things. Remember that the first thing to changing or improving anything is having the awareness of the situation. Without it, you’re fighting an invisible enemy.
Think Of Ways To Manage The Triggers To Lessen Your Stress
Once your stress journal shows you your triggers, you can think of ways to manage your stress. For example, you can:
- Plan on how to prevent those triggers;
- Think of what you’ll do when you experience stress; or
- Ask for help and support when you can’t prevent experiencing the triggers
Going back to my example, I can plan for when I don’t feel like making progress. When I work, I try to do more than what I target daily (e.g. 2 articles per day instead of 1). This way, I have a buffer when I get stressed or discouraged.
Aside from that, I keep my expectations in check. I remind myself that daily consistent action may not feel like progress, but it is. After all, the only thing you and I can control during our day is our input (i.e. the work we do), not the outcome.
When you create a stress diary, even without a template, it empowers you to plan ahead. This way, it becomes easier to overcome stress. Instead of completely shutting down and stopping, you take control back to your hands.
Helps You Become More Productive
Not all stress is bad. In fact, you need some stress to be productive; but only up to a certain point. You see, in life, there are three zones: comfort, stretch, and panic zone. They all have a level of stress but you grow and perform your best in your stretch zone. Additional stress only causes you to panic and feel overwhelmed.
This is called the Yerkes-Dodson Law. Keeping a journal that logs your stresses allows you to monitor if you’re in your stretch zone or panic zone.
See Your Progress
Keeping a stress diary shows you your progress in life. When you grow, the things that stress you out before don’t affect you now. At work, the first time you do a new project, there’s always a certain level of uncertainty and stress you experience. But once you go through and finish that project, you grow. Doing the same project won’t affect you as much.
Same goes with life. If you’ve gone through a break up and overcame it, chances are you can do it again. It may not be easier, and it may still hurt as heck, but you’re stronger. You know you can survive.
Keeping a record of your progress and reviewing them regularly makes you feel proud of yourself.
Improves Overall Mental Health
Probably one of the biggest benefits of making and keeping a stress journal is improving your mental health. In a recent study, mental health and obesity is one of the most common problems among young adults. And only 37.3% of them seek any help (as of 2014).
Keeping a written journal allows us to pour our heart out without thinking of being judged. It helps us get out of our head and think on paper. Most of the time, we get overwhelmed because we stay inside our minds. We talk to ourselves negatively. And sometimes, we make things worse when thinking about them. But putting them on paper lifts the mental burden we carry and it helps us analyze them.
How To Use A Stress Diary
Creating a stress diary is really simple. Though at first, you need to put in some effort into making it work and making it a habit, it’s well worth doing.
Step 1: Grab a notebook and pen and start writing the date and time when you feel stressed. (I recommend doing this as soon as you feel stressed because one, it will prevent you from doing something uncool. And two, you’ll be able to step back and analyze your situation before doing anything.)
Step 2: Describe how you experience your stress. Be as specific as possible. Jot down your feelings, your thoughts, physical reaction, and so on.
Step 3: Think about what happened before you felt stressed. This is important because we’ll analyze why this event triggered you.
Step 4: Gauge the level of your stress and the duration. If you’re still feeling stressed out, leave the duration blank for the meantime.
Step 5: Think of ways to manage this stress. What can you do immediately after writing that will lower your emotions and get you out of that negative state? You could exercise, pray, meditate, read a book, make coffee, or sleep. Think of other ways. Once that’s done, close your journal and do that. Then come back and take note of how you’re feeling now.
How To Analyze Your Stresses
Thinking about what preceded your stress is critical because it shows your stress triggers. More often than not, we get preoccupied by what’s happening. We rarely evaluate what led to these events because we’re caught up in our emotions and negative thoughts. But once you start to evaluate what happened before, you’ll see some patterns.
You can evaluate them based on these things:
- Which aspect of your life is it connected to (e.g. career, finances, physical health, relationships, etc.)?
- What about it, specifically, triggered your stress?
- What does that mean for you?
For example, let’s say that it’s your relationship. You had an argument with your partner and because of that, you feel anxious and stressed. You can’t focus on anything because you fixate on your arguments and are experiencing mixed emotions. Step back a moment and analyze that stress.
What about that argument triggered your stress? Is it something they said, the tone of their voice, the subject of the argument? Is it the frequency of your arguments or how petty you think it was? Identify the specific thing that triggered your stress.
Once you do that, ask yourself, “What does this mean for me?” Say it was their tone of voice that made the argument stressful. What does it mean for you when they raise their voice? Does it mean they don’t respect you or that they don’t love you anymore?
The meaning we attach to events affect how we feel about them. We call these internal rules (i.e. if they did ‘X’, then it means ‘Y’). When these rules are “struck,” we feel negative emotions such as anger, resentment, and so on.
Stress Diary Template
You can download a PDF copy of the Stress Diary Template by clicking on the button below. It’s a printable template you can use (although I suggest you create your own) to start today.