The Stress Monitoring Diary
(By the time you have felt the stress it has already changed you)
How stress affects your attention
Unfortunately, if you find yourself on a sinking ship, or trying to escape from a house fire, or lost in the wilderness or one of any number of genuinely life threatening situations then it is not at all helpful if your attention narrows. Narrowed attention limits your options, it prevents you from seeing possible solutions and it pushes you to fix on one solution and then stick with it even if it proves to be unworkable. Evidence from numerous studies as well as the practical experience of many stress busting experts has taught us that when stress rises fighting the tendency to narrow attention is very worthwhile. It keeps options open longer; it contributes to active problem solving and it generates more creative outcomes.
The problem we face is how to learn to keep attention wide in the face to threat? Lets’ explore how to achieve this. Our first problem is that we don’t always appreciate how much stress we are under. We have become used to stress and can just absorb more and more until we just crumble and admit enough is enough. The second problem is we are often unsure what our cut-off is between ‘I can cope’ and I cannot cope’, this is a genuinely gray area. The third problem is that we often fail to plan what to do if stress gets above acceptable levels.
Stress Monitoring Diary
I have been thinking about this problem for a while and I have devised a solution to the problem of monitoring stress levels which includes also having in place an action plan. The Stress Monitoring Diary is a sheet for you to print out and place on a wall or easily accessible place. It is designed to keep you in a mindful state about your stress levels while also offering you viable options for reducing the stress. I suggest you download the Stress Monitoring Diary HERE NOW
The Stress Monitoring Diary is a tool you can use to recognise when you are straying into dangerous amounts of stress and the list of do’s and don’ts are life savers. In the area of the Stress Monitoring Diary labelled Do’s make a list of things you know are great stress busters for you. It might include things like; take a bath, talk to a friend, go for a walk, watch a DVD, take some time alone, cook a meal, listen to music, take a massage, go to a gym or take a run, make a list, stand back from things, exercise, have sex. It is your list so you can put on there anything you want. This is a list of things you do that always reduce your stress levels and anything that works for you is fair game.
In the list of don’ts make a list of things you definitely should not do. It could include, drive a car, take on more work, work harder, stay late, criticise yourself, feel guilty, drink a lot, make big decisions, operate machinery, take drugs, keep the problem inside, get angry, try to park in a busy place, buy expensive things, undertake risky behaviour. Anything you know is going to make things worse can be put on this list.
How to make this system work for you
The objective is to maintain your stress levels in the green zone. Each day assess your stress level in the morning and afternoon, marked as AM and PM on the Monitoring Diary and in the appropriate space make either a green, amber or red mark. If your stress rises to the amber danger zone then you will need to undertake one of the Do’s activities in order to bring your stress level down, back into the green zone.
I thrive on stress
You may think that you always operate in the amber or even in the red stress zones and that is just how things are. Well your efficiency is going to be impaired in the danger zones of amber and definitely in red, despite what you may think. We are talking about elevated levels of stress that alter your blood chemistry. This has an effect on you. The dangerous thing about narrowed attention is that you do not know it is narrowed. If you recognise it is narrowed then it is unlikely to be. The narrowing process is automatic and therefore it takes you to a place where your survival instincts are starting to dominate you actions. That is okay on the Serengeti but not in human adult life. A core element of any psychological change process is remembering to do the exercises you need to do. This Stress Monitoring Diary will help you on that regard.