Updated: Dec 22, 2021
Feeling more stressed lately? Thinking of writing out your thoughts and emotions to clear your mind, but you aren't quite sure where or how to begin? In this blog post, you will learn how writing a Stress Journal can help you to understand yourself better and reduce your stress levels. It is also a simple and low cost way that can help you improve your mental health.
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What is a Stress Journal?
A Stress Journal is your personal record of stressful experiences and how you deal with them.
Stress is normal and can be good when it motivates us to do better, encourages us be more creative and gives us the adrenaline rush of enthusiasm, etc.
However when there is too much stress, our productivity, health and wellbeing start to decline.
Writing a Stress Journal helps you to become more aware of the causes of stress in your life and how you react to them.
Reflecting on your Stress Journal entries can help you to reduce stress and improve the way you manage stress.
What will I need?
Choose a convenient and comfortable mode, hand-written or type-written, that allows you to freely express your thoughts and feelings.
If it's handwritten, a notebook is better than loose pieces of paper as it easily keeps all your entries in one place.
If it's type-written, you can use a note-taking app or MS Word/Google document.
Find or create a safe and quiet place where you can write in peace without being disturbed.
When to write?
Each time you feel stressed, make a note in your journal as soon as you can.
Write freely as it comes to your mind; don't worry about whether you're using correct grammar or spelling.
What to write?
Note down the Date, Time and Mood Rating on a scale from 0 (unhappiest) to 10 (happiest).
Describe the situation or event that was causing you stress. Make a guess if you’re unsure.
Describe how you feel, both physically & emotionally.
If there were negative thoughts were going through your mind, list them down.
Describe how you reacted to the situation or event.
If you did something to make yourself feel better, note it down.
If you did something to improve the situation or event, note it down.
If there is something that you can be thankful for, despite this stressful situation or event, note it down.
Click here to see an example of a Stress Journal entry.
How can my writing help me deal better with stress?
Take your time to read through what you have written and reflect on how you are dealing with stress. Consider the following:
Could you have prevented the stressful experience?
Were there other ways to make it less stressful?
Was the situation or event that unfolded within your control?
If you had negative thoughts, do you still feel the same way about them now?
Did your attempt to make yourself better work? If not, how do you think you can improve on it?
Reflection takes practice. With each one, you gain a better understanding of
how to prepare yourself in potentially stressful situations and events
how to manage your emotions when in distress
how to reduce stress by taking action, if it is within your control, in a calm and clear manner
We all react differently to stressful events—what causes us to feel stressed would depend on how we view the situation.
Keeping a Stress Journal can help you to learn more about yourself and improve the way you manage stress.
However, journaling alone might not solve your problems and does not replace psychological therapy and medical treatments.
Working with a mental health practitioner can help you to better understand yourself and your issues, learn more ways to overcome your challenges and live a more fulfilling life.
Related Article: "Should I go for counselling?"
If you're going to counselling/therapy, consider sharing your journal entries with your counsellor/therapist, at your comfort level.
Example of a Stress Journal entry
17/8/21, Tuesday, 10am, Mood Rating: 4
I was stressed because I was rushing for an appointment. Then there was a long traffic jam because of road construction, making me even more stressed!
Angry and worried—because I didn't like to be late and I couldn't tell how long it would take to clear the traffic jam. I could feel my heart beating faster and my body tensing up.
"This is just my unlucky day!", "I don't want to be judged as a latecomer", "I should have woken up earlier; it is all my fault."
I told the taxi driver to drive faster. I called to inform that I would be half an hour late due to the traffic jam and apologised many times.
After the phone call, I took a few deep breaths to calm myself down and drank some water.
I reminded myself that the road construction was something unexpected and outside of my control. I felt less embarrassed afterwards and also bought coffee as a form of apology.
I am thankful that the person whom I met seemed understanding. The café which we had visited served great coffee too!
Disclaimer: This post does not constitute medical advice. Please seek professional mental help or medical attention if you are facing overwhelming stress with thoughts of self-harm or harming others.
About the Author
Hi, I'm Janet Gay and I offer individual therapy to adolescents, adults and mothers, either in-person or online via Zoom.
As a certified counsellor, teacher and mother of three, I can relate to the desires, pressures and issues of many people living in multi-cultural Singapore.
I have worked with clients looking for help in self-development, stress, self-esteem, anxiety, depression and relationship issues.
If you wish to talk to someone without feeling judged, gain new insights into issues that are standing in your way, and take action to live a more fulfilling life, get in touch with me today.