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Getting To the Realities of Stress — How Journaling Can Help

Journaling for stress relief is a powerful way to make life easier.

If you’ve never been stressed, you’re a rare human being indeed. Caregivers, with all you do, know this well. So in this post, I’ll help you define what stress is, learn how to identify it in your life, and give you a few suggestions to manage it.

I’ll start by sharing two insights:

  • If you don’t identify the problem, you can’t find a solution.
  • While most people easily recognize the bigger negative stressors in their lives, they may overlook both positive events that lead to stress, and the more common “mundane” chronic stressors.

Defining Stress

Stress is defined in the dictionary as “the reaction to a stimulus that disrupts or interferes with a person’s normal physiological equilibrium; any physical, mental, or emotional apprehension or unease”.

Basically, stress is anything that triggers your flight or fight response — your natural reaction to either escape the situation or stand fast and deal with it. It’s your ability to resolve stress-inducing challenges that determines your health in relation to stress management. If your body is constantly confronting unresolved challenges, you will begin to suffer from the effects to both your emotional and physical well-being.

Some Examples of Stress Triggers

  • Any negative apprehensions you have about the day to come. Do you wake up dreading your work day, rush hour, anything else? Do you engage in negative self-talk? If so, you’re courting stress.
  • Social interactions that can be positive or negative.
  • Daily hassles such as what to wear and eat, how to deal with your kids, co-workers, boss, family and/or friends, and your lifestyle choices.
  • Life events. Even “good” events like births and weddings can be stressors.
  • False expectations.  Expecting everything to happen instantly and be wonderful creates a big gap between expectation and reality. When reality doesn’t match up with your expectations, the only outcome is disappointment — and stress.

Journaling can Help You Manage Stress

Tips to get you started:

  • Start to record all the stressors you encounter throughout each day.
  • At the end of each week, go back and identify any patterns for the stressors you noticed.
  • Note how they made you feel (angry, happy, guilty, etc.), whether there was any resolution (did you actually confront and deal with it or simply let it go?), and how you managed each stressful stimulus (did you cope by eating, drinking, sleeping, exercising or “other”?).
  • Finally, summarize your observations in a journal entry.

Sometimes the best way to learn about journaling for stress relief is to dive right in and start a site.

Join the Conversation

If you’ve tried journaling to combat stress, we’d love to hear about your experience. Why did it work for you, or why didn’t it work? What else did you try? Please share your experiences and observations by leaving a comment below.

This is the second post in a series by stress and workplace conflict expert, Gregory Jones. His first post is titled “Three New Ways to Think About Stress.”

About the Author:

Gregory Jones is the Patient Care Supervisor of Emergency Services and Heart Safe Coordinator at St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Shakopee, MN. He is a certified Forensic-Nurse Examiner who specializes in sexual assaults, has an A.A. seminary degree from Southwestern University of California, a B.S. degree in Nursing Science from Purdue University, and his Masters in Theological Studies from Northwestern University of St. Paul, MN. Greg is a Certified psychological First Aid Responder. He also has a 5 year history as a Naval Aircrewman, and served one tour in Iraq. He has published several articles on stress and work place conflict. Greg was featured on The Learning Channel’s “Trauma Life in the ER,” and was recently named one of Minnesota’s Outstanding Nurses by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine. He is an integral member of the Allina Health Systems Crisis Intervention team (i.e. Code Green) and considered a clinical expert in the field crisis intervention.

Comments

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3 Replies

  • By John J. Garnand

    Gregory,

    Great suggestions here! As a caregiver, I know how easily (and often) I tend to overlook my own health. I will have to give this a shot. Definitely will be sharing this with others, thanks for your advice!

  • By Dean

    The Care Team at our church (100 or so members) is looking for a system like yours to help take care of each other as an extended family. Same type of help- dog sitting, errands, rides etc. Is this possible with your organization? If not, could you recommend an organization?

    • By Sally D.

      Hi Dean,

      It sounds like your Care Team could benefit from starting a SupportPlanner. You could start a planner for each family you’re helping, or have a master calendar that contains all of the tasks for various people in need.

      To get started, please visit this page: http://supportplanner.caringbridge.org/

      If you have any questions along the way, please contact our Customer Care team- http://caringbridge.custhelp.com/

      Thanks,

      Sally, CaringBridge Customer Care