Life can be stressful sometimes. Work, family, friends, money… there’s always something to think about.
More than anything, we want to be on top of everything to stop the stress piling up. We believe that we can handle everything by ourselves.
I’ll remember this. I know I need to do that. The truth is, there is only so much your brain can handle.
So it might surprise you to know that something as simple as a daily journal can revolutionise your life and help you live more stress-free.
Why is stress bad?
We’ve all heard that stress is bad for us, but why exactly? Put simply; stress affects our health – both mental and physical.
See, our brains are still wired to live like our ancestors, back when life was a bit more chaotic. And that flight or fight response hasn’t gone away, even if the survival threats have.
Nowadays, our stress is set off by the things we feel out of control of in our lives. From work to family, feeling out of control is a horrible feeling.
And that horrible feeling leaves us with some awful symptoms.
Digestion problems, muscle tension, heart problems, anxiety and migraines are just a few of the many illnesses stress can cause. And the longer it goes on, the worse they get.
That is why it is so vital to build strategies in your life to be able to cope with stress when it comes up. And journaling is one of the best weapons you can have in your stress arsenal.
What are some common causes of stress in everyday life?
Everybody has at least one thing that triggers their stress.
In one American study on stress causes, 40% of people asked identified work as the leading cause of stress in their lives.
And no wonder! With an increase in high expectations, poor work-life balance, poor job satisfaction, worries about salary, and the added stress caused by the pandemic, it makes perfect sense that work is a severe source of stress for the majority of people.
Other stressors may include family problems, health problems and money worries.
Whatever stresses you out, it is important to find ways to cope. Unfortunately, you can’t always change your situation, but you can definitely put steps in place to make stress easier to manage.
How does a journal help reduce stress?
Think of your journal as your pocket confidante. Somewhere you can speak freely. Something you can use as a reference to help you with your day-to-day life.
Journals come in many formats, and finding the one that works for you will ensure you have a stress buddy to help you through the tough times.
Journals are customisable, meaning you can make yours exactly what you need it to be to get through the day.
Of course, to have the best effect, you need to regularly use your journal, which is something many people struggle with.
As such, think about setting an alarm every day where you dedicate time to adding to your journal. Just five minutes a day is more than enough to see a vast reduction in your daily stress levels.
Seven elements to add to your journal to reduce stress
Friends, parties, dates, doctor appointments, work meetings – our days are filled with commitments we need to remember. By having an appointments page, you can ensure you never miss a commitment again.
Even for those with the best of memories, writing it down is always best. After all, why waste your brainpower on trying to remember something when you can just write it down and use the extra thinking space for creative endeavours?
While an appointments page may seem basic, the stress-relief benefits are essential. Have you ever found yourself stressing that you are going to forget something important?
It’s normal to be worried about missing something, which is why having your appointments written down in your journal will give you the confidence to know you can get on with your day, and your journal will be there to back you up.
Think of your journal as a personal assistant, if you will. That’s one weight off your shoulders!
To-do lists are a great way to organise your day. Unlike schedules which ask you to plan your day by the hour, a to-do list ensures you know what you need to get done during the day; it’s then up to you to find the time.
They are also great for those late-night lightbulb moments when you realise there is something important you need to get done the following day.
To-do lists work best when used in a system and sparingly. This means keeping your to-do list under ten items (ideally under five if you can), ranking them by importance, and having a system where you can move unfulfilled tasks to the next day.
There is a common belief amongst those who study productivity that 80% of your success comes from 20% of your work. The rest is fluff and fillers.
You’ll find that there will be tasks you repeatedly move or don’t get done – this will help you prioritise what is actually important and necessary so that you don’t have to stress over the tasks that don’t actually need doing.
Finally, by ranking your tasks by importance, you will get into the habit of doing the big stress-inducing tasks out of the way first thing, allowing you a less stressful rest of the day. This is known as “eating the frog” and will essentially help you manage your stress better.
“Let it go” page
Stress comes in all shapes and sizes. Some of it is significant, and some of it is an instant response to an unpleasant situation.
As such, not everything that causes us stress needs to be addressed or rectified. It is normal for human beings to carry the burden of stress around with us and overthink the ways in which we feel wronged or slighted.
But in doing so, we cause ourselves more harm than good. Some circumstances that cause us stress can’t be changed. Others, though valid, are just a result of high emotions.
By creating a list of stresses that we want to let go of and stop dwelling on, we release some of the pent-up stress in our minds, which allows us a bit more peace and energy to focus on the things that truly matter to us.
Not only this, but the act of writing our feelings down creates closure and makes us feel as though we have acted upon the stress to eliminate it.
An excellent way to decide what should go on your list is to ask yourself the following question: will this still matter in five years time?
If it won’t matter, it’s probably not worth wasting any more time on.
Collections pages are lists made on a specific topic.Common collection pages include favourite tv shows/movies, travel wish lists, and books to-read lists.
You might be wondering how writing about things you like or want to do will help alleviate your stress.
Although being proactive in fighting your stress is a good strategy, indulging in a small bit of escapism can also be beneficial.
You don’t have to think about your stresses all the time or be on a constant crusade to fight them. It’s ok to take a holiday away from them in your mind and focus on things you enjoy.
Not only does creating these lists help you disconnect, but they are also a great place to look back on when you can't cope with your stress. These lists will give you ideas of shows you can watch or books you can read that are proven to bring you joy.
Travel wish lists are a great place to pick a country and plan your ideal trip there. Even if you are unable to actually go, it’s always fun to imagine what you would do. You could even try taking some virtual tours online to immerse yourself in this fantastical getaway.
Good or bad, you have experienced another day of life. And writing down your feelings, experiences, and thoughts at the end of the day is a good way to help you process them.
Getting into the habit of reviewing your day will help you spot patterns in your life that trigger your stress. This information is valuable to help you make the changes necessary to reduce your stress.
It can also help you process your emotions and understand your stress. You may find that writing helps you understand and accept certain situations causing you stress in your life and may even reduce the stress you feel about them moving forward.
Finally, writing down the good events and feelings you experience throughout your day is a unique way to remind yourself that even in stressful times, good things can happen.
It could be remembering a nice comment your co-worker made about you, a warm embrace from a loved one, a delightful walk in the park that allowed you to feel free with nature. All moments count, big or small, and reminding yourself of this will help bring perspective into your life, reducing the overwhelming feelings of stress you may feel under.
Everyone has ambitions. Everyone has dreams. And we all know the difference between a dream and reality is having a plan. Writing a goals list is the first step in helping you make your dreams come true.
Stress occurs when we feel that our outside life doesn’t reflect the life we want for ourselves and have envisioned inside our heads. So getting clear on what we want will ultimately help reduce stress.
Your journal is for your eyes only, so don’t be afraid to dream big. A goals list is for everything you want to achieve, don’t put limitations on yourself. After all, if you put limitations on what you think you are allowed to want for yourself, you subconsciously tell yourself there are limits in your capabilities.
Once you have your goals list started, you can think about creating actionable plans to make your goals come true. And as life moves on, you may have more goals, or they may change – and your list will too.
The liberation of your self-limitations is one of the best ways to reduce unnecessary stress in your life.
Journals don’t have to be all writing. Sometimes a photo says more than words ever could. In times of stress, seeing visual representations of the things that make us happy helps us reduce the stress levels in our systems.
The smile of loved ones staring back at us, places we’ve been that hold importance, events that sparked joy in our lives – memories of happiness show us what is really important in life, allowing us to manage our stress better.
So each time you create a new photo memory, don’t just post it to your Instagram, print it out and stick it into your journal, ready to look at whenever you want. You’d be surprised just how powerful photos in your daily journal can be!
Stress affects everyone in different ways, and it can be challenging to cope with the overwhelming emotions it stirs.
Stress has a negative impact on your health, but there are ways to reduce your stress to live a happier, healthier life. By incorporating a daily journal into your life with the pages suggested above, you will have the tools you need to help manage your stress.
Plus, on your journey of daily journaling, you are bound to learn many new things about yourself that help you thrive and heal from some of the internal thoughts that may be contributing to your stress.
We can’t always control what goes on around us, but with a daily journal, we can always count on understanding and getting through it.