Your personal wellbeing diary to help reduce stress
Research shows that people who experience the most stress seem to take less care of themselves compared to those who do not generally live with the condition.
Some people living with stress may avoid seeing friends and family, or make little time to enjoy themselves. Others may feel that their stress symptoms take over, resulting in them feeling physically unable to do certain activities that could actually help reduce their stress levels.
The mental health charity Mind emphasises how important it is for anyone experiencing stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions, to find a balance between the demands of each day, and dedicate time to look after themselves. Many cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) practitioners recommend that a person experiencing stress (or a related condition such as anxiety or depression) should record all the activities they do each day so they can take better care of themselves, focussing on four areas: Body care, Achievements, Connection and Enjoyment. We’ve created a one-page, weekly Wellbeing Diary for you to download and print off, to record all the things you do each day in these four key areas of self-care and below you’ll find more details about the types of things each area encourages you to think about as part of your daily routine.
How have you looked after your body today? This could include activities such as:
- Eating a healthy breakfast/eating regular meals/eating ‘5 a day’ fruit and vegetables
- Drinking lots of water/cutting down on alcohol
- Physical activity/exercise, e.g. going for a walk, doing yoga, gardening
- Pampering yourself/having a massage
- Taking time to relax/having a nap
- Going to bed earlier
- Practicing deep breathing
The body is an amazing machine, but when we experience stress, the machine functions slightly differently, and so it’s really important to make changes to fix it. Food, exercise, water, relaxation and sleep are vital to the wellbeing of our bodies and minds, but sometimes we can forget to look after our basic needs when we are experiencing stress.
It can be difficult to see all the good things we achieve each day when feeling stressed, and we often concentrate on all the things we didn’t manage to do! Writing achievements down, no matter how small they may seem, can feel really positive. Achievements can be any activity that has been completed successfully (or even just completed appropriately) which tick things off your ‘to-do’ list or are something to be proud of, for example:
- Getting the kids to school on time
- Preparing dinner for the family
- Finishing a report/making a sale at work
- Cleaning the house
- Booking the car in for a service
- Hanging the pictures on the wall
Even the mundane stuff counts because it’s something you have accomplished, and this helps prove to yourself that you do get jobs done. Seeing these daily accomplishments written down can offer a really rewarding sense of achievement.
When a person is stressed, they may feel anti-social or that spending time with other people is difficult. However, connecting with others is crucial as it helps us feel calmer and promotes the release of oxytocin – a neurotransmitter that boosts feelings of wellbeing and love. Connecting with other people is an important step for self-care, and may include:
- Meeting up with friends
- Talking/messaging a friend
- Calling your mum
- Catching up with an old friend
- Talking to/smiling at a stranger in the shop
- Meeting someone new
- Eating dinner with the family
- Chatting with your partner
- Doing something to help someone else
Spending time with other people helps us develop more compassion for others, which can assist in reducing stress levels and, as humans, we need this connection in our lives.
It’s easy to get caught up in the ‘getting things done’ mindset of everyday life, and people living with stress often fail to do things they enjoy or used to enjoy before their stress symptoms took effect. Some people feel they have no time to enjoy life, or that even making an effort to plan something they enjoy doing is too pressured and overwhelming. However, having fun or doing something you find pleasurable is proven to help reduce stress levels and change your mindset, making it easier to deal with stress. Here’s some ideas of things you may enjoy:
- Crossword puzzle/jigsaw puzzle
- Bowling with the family
- Watercolour painting
- Visiting a theme park
- Cinema/watching a film
- Catching up with friends
- Watching a band/play/comedy gig
We all enjoy different activities, and sometimes it is easy to forget what you used to find pleasurable before stress became a factor in your everyday life. Write a list of things you used to enjoy – it can be anything that puts a smile on your face or that makes you feel calm and relaxed.
How to use your wellbeing diary to reduce stress
Download and print off your own Wellbeing Diary – stick it on the fridge, pop it in your bag or leave it on your bedside table, and use it each day to note down how you have cared for your body, things you have achieved, ways you have connected with others, and activities you have done for your own enjoyment.
To start with, you should aim to get a good balance of activities across the week. You may start to notice some gaps where you have found it difficult to make time for a certain type of activity. That’s fine and to be expected, so don’t feel pressured, but use the diary to help see where those gaps are and try to find ways to do something in that neglected area of wellbeing.
You could also use the diary as a planner, and jot down something you will do each day in the four self-care areas, then tick them off at the end of the day. Whatever works for you is great. The wellbeing diary can be used by anyone of any age, and is a great activity for children and young people who may be experiencing high levels of stress.
Over time, using the diary should help encourage you to feel more in control of your life and wellbeing, and to see the positive parts of each day, rather than just the pressures, problems and negatives.
We would love to hear how you get on with the wellbeing diary, so feel free to leave any comments below. Have a go at it – you have nothing to lose, and it’s easy to share with your friends and family who may also benefit!
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