These journals are sort of like diaries or time-lines, if you will. However, since it is for your eyes only, it can take on any form that works best for you. Journaling is an excellent tool to consider if you are looking for healthy ways to manage stress.
Your Stress Management Journal can be your main tool for recording your thoughts or it can be a simple record-keeper for your stress management notes. It can also come in handy if you choose to talk to your doctor about your stress related symptoms.
Beginning your journal is a piece of cake. Just grab a notebook and start recording your thoughts. However, if you want your journal to really work for you, here are some main guidelines:
Always start each entry with the current date and time of entry.
The time can become very helpful if you record more than one entry per day. Especially if you notice a pattern of being more stressed out during a certain time of day versus being less stressed at another. This could give you big clues that you never saw before about what may be causing your stress.
Keep your Stress Management Journal together.
As opposed to using loose pieces of paper, it would be best to use a notebook or purchase a journal (see the journals above for some really great and inexpensive options). However, if you do not have access to these things, it's better to go ahead and use whatever you have available instead of putting off starting your journal until you can get an actual journal or notebook.
If you begin using loose pieces of paper, you may find it easier to transition to a three-ring binder where you can add your previously written pages and also include future ones. And of course, another good option if it is available to you at home, is to use your computer. If you don't have a computer at home that is available to you at any time you need, then use paper instead. I would not recommend using a public computer or your work computer, especially if it means you don't have access to write in your journal whenever you need it most.
One of the best ways to manage stress and get a handle on what is going on in your life is to write about it on a regular basis. If you have a hectic schedule (which wouldn't be abnormal if you have a stressful life), try to make entries in your Stress Management Journal at the same time each day. This will help you to avoid forgetting to write. For example, you may decide that the best time for you to write in your journal is at the end of the day after the kids are in bed. Then, hold yourself to that time, but don't beat yourself up if you skip a day or two.
Write during quiet time.
Do not try to write in your journal during dinner time when you're also trying to juggle other needs for yourself or others. Do not try to write when you're watching TV (even during commercials, unless you actually turn the TV off). If you do not have complete quiet time, you will find that your Stress Management Journal is simply ineffective. Your thoughts won't be precise and you will not get a good, clear picture of what is or isn't going on in your life. Trust me on this one. Many of us are stressed because we have a hard time giving ourselves a moment of quiet clarity. So if you are serious about keeping your Stress Management Journal, make it a priority.
If you like journaling and/or find that writing works to help relieve your stress, you should also try letter writing which is another excellent way to use writing to cope with stress and your feelings.
Whether you are just beginning to focus on managing your stress or you are seeking new ways to continue your journey to a less stressful life, making the decision to keep a journal specifically designed to record your stressful life has many benefits.
Not only will your doctor be impressed by your commitment to living a less stressful life, he or she will find the information you are able to provide more useful than any single recollection or thought. Have you ever had a moment when someone asked you to "give an example" and you were unable to come up with any viable examples on the spot? If you have been diligent with your Stress Management Journal, you will be able to provide your doctor or counselor exact details and dates without having the awkward silence while trying to drum up some random example that has no details.
You will be prepared and you will find that you have just given yourself a huge leap forward when seeking treatment. As an added bonus, you will make the visit itself less stressful.
And finally, to make sure you have those details when you need them most, make sure each entry includes as much descriptive information as possible. Your entries don't need to go on forever as long as you get a few key ingredients in each entry.
Piece of cake, right? Well, it should be. There is no reason why your Stress Management Journal needs to be elaborate and cause you additional stress. So keep it simple. You will feel better and you will be prepared for visiting with a professional if that is what you choose to do.
So what are you waiting for? Form a new habit and start journaling today!