Pinning Down Stress

Reflecting on stressful encounters can help reduce their impact in the future.

Reflecting on stressful encounters can help reduce their impact in the future.

Stress affects us all in different ways. From the physical stress of working out or competing in sport, to psychological demands at work and everything in between. The cumulative effects can often become overwhelming, sometimes even a small hiccup leaves you feeling like a whole day or week has been ruined. Many people say they would like to reduce their stress but list a reel of excuses that makes it sound as if it’s just a way of life and out of their control. Now let's think for a second, could it be because you are unable to pinpoint exactly where the stress comes from. Maybe there are a few stressors in the day but they happen so quickly that by the time you come to relax in the evening, it just feels like a stressful day rather than a day impacted by a few stressful moments.

There is an abundance of information online about how to manage stress but it often sounds complicated, causing more stress or anxiety. So how, without taking up much more time in your day, can you start to increase your self awareness and start taking steps towards a more balanced future?

We believe that you cannot change what you can't measure. Our clients often use objective measurements, such as heart rate variability to view their total load for each day. This is the most effective way of shedding light on the impact stress has on your body, but for those that are just looking for a quick first step, a stress diary can be extremely useful.

You can use the note pad on your smart phone, a voice memo app or a trusty notebook. What ever you use to record, just ensure it is easily accessible as you will need to revisit the log later. There are 5 simple steps to setting up and using a stress diary, these are:

  1. Decide on which recording device is the best fit for you.

  2. Each time you encounter a stressor in the day, no matter where it is, record what is was and how it made you feel.

  3. Give each stressor a score out of 5, the higher number representing a higher level of stress.

  4. At the end of each day, reflect on the stressful moments using your recordings and ask yourself, 'Was that really that stressful’,or if it was,‘How can I manage it better next time'.

  5. Total up your scores each day, week and month to view your stress level over time.

Over time you will see trends. You can use these trends to form strategies around how to better deal with specific stressors, using the scoring and feelings to monitor your progress. In a given week, month or year you may have certain events that cause a large impact. It is good practice to keep these in mind and look to see if there is a knock on effect into the following days or weeks.

Managing your stress is crucial to living a more balanced lifestyle. We could sit here all day talking about the health risks linked to chronic stress but the news and internet keep us well informed. You also don't need me adding more stress to your day making you think about them. The simple 5 step process outlined above will help you become more aware of what causes you to feel stressed, anxious or overwhelmed. Everyone is unique and the strategies that work to help one person will not always help another, so becoming more self aware is key in being able to find what works for you. Once you have found what works, there is a sense of achievement that comes with it, which can only help you further.

If you would like help with actioning the steps above or interested in taking things a little further by monitoring your lifestyle through heart rate variability, visit our contact page and get in touch.

It’s not the load that breaks you, it’s how you carry it
— Lou Holtz
Kieran Blay