Stress Management with a Stress Journal

By: Olivia Matthaei – Alternative Therapist

“What a stressful week!”, I keep on telling that to myself – week, after week, after week. Come end of year we start all over again. During holidays, we try to relax, but when it hits January again and we are 2 weeks back at work, we start stressing all over again.

At the same time, we all know that stress is unhealthy for us, but the days are just not long enough! Deadlines approach faster than we can manage, the pile of work we need to go through grows by the day. Finally, once we’re home, we need to wash dirty clothes, tidy up the house, clean the kitchen, cook a meal and take the dog for a walk. There are days where I just want to scream to de-stress a little bit, but I know I cannot do it because what would my neighbours, colleagues or family say about me screaming?

We need to break the stigma that coping with stress is mandatory. IT IS NOT! Stress is unhealthy if we are in a state of stress for a long period of time. It even affects your brain. We start to struggle with memory loss, inability to concentrate, irritability, anxiety, frustration and depression just to state a few. It also affects our physical health such as increasing blood pressure and sugar levels. So to maintain a healthy lifestyle we need to find a way to manage our stress. One simple way can be a stress journal. I know one can say, “that’s one more task on my to-do list!”, “How should I be able to manage that?” Here is the thing: writing a stress journal is a personal way for me to de-stress immediately. So, my advice is try it just for a few days and you will feel the difference.

So how does this stress journal look like?

So first start off with what causes the stress. Try to really dig deep here. Was it really just this one stupid comment that your boss made this morning in the meeting or is he always putting unnecessary pressure on you?

The next step is to write down what emotionally happened to you in that moment that caused the stress. Did you feel anxious, sad, angry or maybe alone? Here it is important to write down all the emotions you had in that moment. Remember a stress journal is a personal thing and there is no need to share it, so you can really vent about which ever feeling you had in the situation.

Step number three is, your reaction in response. Write down how you reacted in that moment and how you want to react the next time something similar happens to you.  So, if you reacted in that moment anxious and may have withdrawn yourself from the situation, but the next time you want to react confident and hold your head up high – write this down.

Lastly, jot down what you can do to make yourself feel better. What’s important here is that aggression is not an option; no punching or aggressive behaviour is allowed. Rather, try a short breathing exercise or keep a stress-ball in your drawer. Go for a walk or do 20 jumping squads and 20 jumping jacks right there and then, if space allows for that, or try imagining a small mental picture. Give the stress a colour. Mine always is purple. When I am stressed I close my eyes and take a deep breath. When breathing in, I imagine that all the purple colour that is in my body gathers in my tummy. When breathing out, I let out the entire purple colour out of my body. I really try to imagine that the stress is leaving my bones, muscles and my brain in detail.

After that I can go on more relaxed than I felt before.

I know that in the beginning it does take some time to write this stress journal but with practice it gets easier every time so go ahead a give it a try!