Even Buddhist monks who practice the art of mindfulness experience stress. Their secret is that they carefully examine how stress enters their minds and accept the realities of it. However, this practice takes years of contemplative meditation, something you might not have the time to devote to just to keep stress from boiling over.
There are many ways to examine stress. One of the easiest and most constructive is journaling. Keeping a journal can help you get to the cause of your stress. It's an ever-ready, non-judgmental source of relief. It's a friend who's always ready to listen. It's there for you whenever you need it, whether that means writing down what you're feeling now, or examining what you wrote the day before. It can help you track when you get most stressed, exactly how you feel, and what you can do about it. Here are some pointers to getting started keeping a stress journal.
1. Choose Your Canvas
You don't have to buy a fancy leather-bound piece of personal stationery to start a journal. You could use the same type of spiral-bound notebook you used in high school, or even a stack of napkins. If it can hold ink, you can use it. You could even use the computer you're on right now.
2. Find Your Space
The act of journaling is just as important as where you write. An ideal spot is somewhere secluded and quiet so you can be alone with your thoughts. But, as we all know, that isn't always possible. A coffee shop, a bus stop, or anywhere else you feel comfortable will work.
3. Dump Your Brain
You don't have to draft whimsical prose in the style of Henry David Thoreau or William Faulkner to express how you feel. These are your words, your feelings, and they don't have to be shared with anyone. The simpler language you use in your journal, the easier you'll be able to understand your feelings and what is causing your problems.
Don't pay attention to your handwriting. Don't judge yourself. Just put the pen to the paper and start writing down what you're going through. You should, however, avoid name-calling or blaming anyone, especially yourself. You want to use the experience to vent, but in a constructive way.
4. Make the Intangible Tangible
Writing down your frustrations, stresses, and anxieties gives them another dimension. It gives the emotions a tangible sense, making them easier to handle.
For example, if you have an upcoming speech to make, you can write down the words, "I am afraid of making a fool of myself."
Then you should stop and look at the words. Your stress was stated in simple words on paper, thus making them less ominous and sinister. Fears and anxieties can build into something larger if you don't identify them. Writing these feelings down in your notebook gives them a name and a chance for you to take another look at them.
Think of it as taking the Boogie Man out from under the bed, putting bows in his hair, and renaming him Cuddles. He's not so scary after that.
5. Make It a Reminder
When you journal your stresses, they're there for you to see whenever you want. When your stress has diminished, read through what you've written. Look for patterns. If work is always a stressor, you could examine your expectations of work and see if they're realistic. Recording your stress can help you sort through it and see what's the most important task to tackle.
6. Make It a Routine
Journal every day -- even when you're relaxed. The more you write down, the more you'll understand what you're going through. Every time you sit down to write, think of these words from William Wordsworth: Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.