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Stress diary

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Stress diary

If the problem can be solved why worry? If the problem cannot be solved worrying will do you no good. ― Śāntideva

  • 30 minutes
  • Serves 1
  • Easy


A diary to log your stress episodes.

Most of us experience stress in some form every now and then, which may be caused by a poor night’s sleep, rush-hour traffic, an argument with a colleague, etc. However, because of the emotional burden of their work, many changemakers experience excessive amounts of stress. Their brains are always on the alerted fight-or-flight mode which, if sustained for long periods of time without rest, can affect their productivity and morale, but also their mental and physical wellbeing.

The following activity invites you to keep a stress diary to note down when you are feeling anxious and worried so you may: 1. Explore some of the causes and conditions behind your experience of stress; 2. Understand what are your “stress limits” under which you can still perform effectively; and 3. Gain a balanced perspective to learn ways to manage your stress levels. The diary has been adapted from MindTools.

This is an individual self-reflection activity which could also be adapted for teams, e.g. you could keep a team stress diary where team members can log in their stressful episodes and share them during a team wellbeing check-in/check-out.

*Image © Alessia Rossi




Preparing the diary

Take a blank A4 sheet of paper (or smaller if you prefer) and divide it into 8 columns using a pen or pencil:

1. Date & Time.
2. What happened? Briefly describe the stressful event.
3. Happiness Level (0-10).
4. Performance Level (0-10).
5. Stress Level (0-10).
6. What was the cause of the event?
7. What physical sensations did you experience?
8. How did you respond?

You can then photocopy the template so you don't have to create it every time.


Logging entries

You could start by making regular entries in your diaries throughout the week (e.g. every afternoon), or after any stressful situations. Record the following:

1. The date and time.
2. What happened? Briefly describe the stressful event.
3. Happiness Level (0-10): How happy you feel now, using a subjective assessment on a scale of 0 (the most unhappy you've ever been) to 10 (the happiest you've been).
4. Performance Level (0-10): How effectively you're working now (a subjective assessment, on a scale of 0 to 10). A zero here would show complete ineffectiveness, while a 10 would show the greatest effectiveness you have ever achieved.
5. Stress Level (0-10): Similarly, your level of stress.
6. What was the cause of the event? The fundamental cause of the stress (be as honest and objective as possible).
7. What physical sensations did you experience? The symptoms you felt (for example, "butterflies in the stomach," anger, headache, raised pulse rate, sweaty palms, and so on.).
8. How did you respond? How well you handled the event: did your reaction help to solve the problem, or did it make things worse?


Analysing your diary

At the end of the week, or whenever you have enough entries logged, take some time to analyse your diary and take action.

1. First, look at the different stresses that you experienced during the time you kept your diary. Highlight the most frequent stresses, and the ones that were the most unpleasant. Look at your assessments of their underlying causes, and your appraisal of how well you handled the stressful events. Do they highlight problems that need to be fixed? If so, list these issues.
2. Next, look through your diary at the situations that cause you stress. List ways in which you can change these situations for the better.
3. Finally, look at how you felt when you were under pressure, and explore how it affected your happiness and your effectiveness. Was there a middle level of pressure at which you were happiest and performed best?


Taking action

Once you have analysed your diary, you might have a better understanding of the stressors in your life, as well as when stress becomes too much and hinders performance and effectiveness. Now it is time to take action to avoid stressful situations or develop coping mechanisms to manage them.

Greta Rossi

Chief Empathy Officer at Akasha Innovation. Co-founder of ImpactAimers and Recipes for Wellbeing. Regional Coordinator for Ashoka's ChangemakerXchange. Youth coach and FRSA.

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