Manage Anxiety Tip: Temporary Stress List or Journal

One way to help ourselves manage discomfort, whether chronic pain or anxiety, is to think about it in specific terms.

Words such as pain and stress are umbrella terms for specific feelings. For instance, pain can be sharp, tingly, or achy. Stress may feel like head pressure, stomach butterflies, or mental overwhelm.

When we can think and speak about our discomfort specifically, and accurately pinpoint the cause, it is easier to find solutions to the discomfort.

One way to accomplish this is to keep a stress and anxiety list or journal for a few weeks.

Your Stress List or Journal

If writing is not something you enjoy, think about keeping a list and just record the basic information you need. Those of you who enjoy writing or journaling can make the process as detailed as you wish.

You will want to gather enough information to see the causes of your stress and anxiety, and the feelings associated with each cause. It will help to keep track of the different levels of stress intensity you feel and how that affects your ability to work or play.

When and What To Record

Make notations on your list or in your journal once every hour for at least two weeks, preferably three or four. However, the point is to maintain this record as long as necessary for it to be useful, and you are the best judge of that. Record: Entry’s date and time.

An indication of how you feel at the time of the entry. You could use words to describe your mood or feelings (e.g., tense, panicky, calm, headache) or you could devise a scale from one to ten, such as one representing calm or happy and ten representing extremely stressed or anxious. Record the cause of your stress or anxiety; be specific.

An indication of how well you are able to do whatever it is you need to be doing at that time. Again, you could use words (e.g., efficient, inefficient, paralyzed) or devise a number scale, such as one being “on top of things” and ten beings “barely able to function.”

Using the List or Journal Information

Recording stress information trains you to think about your feelings and experience more specifically. When stress or anxiety arises it is less helpful to think, “I'm so anxious I could puke,” and more helpful to think, “Getting this report done today is impossible with my other workload; I just can’t handle it without making myself sick.”

Thinking about anxiety in general terms makes it seem larger and impossible to handle. Thinking specifically narrows the stress down and reveals how you might address it, such as talking to your supervisor about what he or she prefers you complete today and what can wait.

Your journal or list can help you focus on remedying the situations that stress you out most often. You might be able to make permanent changes that reduce your discomfort or discover that with authority figures you need better communication skills. Maybe the situations that cause you the most stress can be eliminated.

Other things your diary might reveal are workflow problems within your job or home and disorganization or time management issues. You may even realize you need to look for new employment or make specific lifestyle changes that will allow you to feel better and enjoy life more.

Photo: Pexels

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