Welcome to the May series on positive and negative stress. I hope you learn a lot from it.

In this series, I will be discussing how stress can sometimes be positive, but what to do if it starts to have a negative impact on your life.

Keeping a Stress Journal

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Any journal can aid you in personal reflection, to help you spot patterns, reveal your feelings, and note down what you’ve discovered along your path to a better you.

For example, studies have shown that people who keep a weight-loss journal are much more successful at losing weight than those who don’t write down what they eat, how they feel, why they eat (such as emotional eating due to stress) and so on. This can be stressful, but it is positive stress because you will be making healthy changes in your life.

Starting Your Journal

All you really need is a small notebook you can carry around with you, and something to write with. If you like, you can buy a nicer journal so you will enjoy keeping it. Other people use colored pencils, crayons, stickers, gold stars and so on in order to liven things up. But you don’t have to spend a lot of money. You just need to be willing to take the time to write in it.

Start by writing down things you know stress you. This could be anything, from speaking publicly in meetings to having to deal with a perfectionist parent. Be honest about how it makes you feel - both physically, mentally and emotionally.

For example, you might write about how embarrassing it is when you speak in public. You get butterflies in your stomach, your palms sweat, and you feel you can’t catch your breath. Your big fear is looking foolish or stupid in front of people. You wish you could be more self-assured compared with your colleagues.

Strategies for Stress Relief

Once you have been honest about your main stressors, consider choosing one or two of them and thinking up ways to relieve the stress. You have many choices, so make a list and then apply each method. Journal about how well each worked for you. You should soon have a list of success strategies to relieve each stressor. Best of all, you should get to the point where you find several strategies that can work for almost any situation.

Common success strategies include:

* Long, deep breathing

* Counting to ten to calm and center yourself and your mind

* Visualizing success, rather than fearing the worst

* Exercising regularly to relieve stress

* Eating healthily

* Getting enough high-quality sleep so you can be at your best each day

* Doing one relaxing thing you enjoy each day

* Taking regular short breaks at work so the stress does not build up

* And so on

In the next article, we will look at one of the best ways to manage stress. Your new stress journal can help.  Until next time …