|English: Unlimited Potential of the Human Mind (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
An interesting thing about the human mind is that it tends to work largely on autopilot. Whether it is showering, driving to work, or making breakfast, there are large parts of our daily routines that occur without needing much conscious thought.
This is a normal, healthy behavior. If we had to stop and consider or manually cause every single action in our lives, we'd be slow moving creatures indeed. That said, there are times that this tendency can give us trouble. It isn't so much a direct problem as an indirect one of allowing stresses to build up without really analyzing them. We go through our lives every day with tiny stresses coming up again and again, and we don't always take the time to consider how we can deal with them or even where they come from, because of our automatic acceptance of the routine.
Today, let's focus on redirecting that routine. Just as the mind can adopt behaviors as automatic, it can be made to think about them and break them down into meaningful pieces of information. To that end, we're going to look at a life-building habit called a Stress Log.
What is a Stress Log?
In short, a stress log is a record of our day and the activities in it. The record begins when we wake up, and takes account of everything we encounter and do throughout the day so that later we can look at the information and make healthy decisions about it. The first step in any process of building a habit is knowledge, after all.
The exact form the stress log takes isn't important. It can be a program in our Smartphone, a document on the computer, or a physical book. What is most important is that it is something we are comfortable using on a regular basis and can easily access.
Stress Log Step 1 - Diary Daily
The first step in building up a good Stress Logging habit is to make sure to do it every day. When we have more information to work with, we have a better grasp on what needs to be done. The most consistent routine in our lives is usually the daily one, and the one we can most immediately affect. That's why the saying, 'one day at a time,' rings so true.
It takes about thirty days to first establish a good solid habit, as we've discussed. We can't get to thirty without first getting to one. So for starters, we'll make our journal one of daily progress.
Stress Log Step 2 - Piece by Piece
Now that we have our stress log, it's time to begin filling it in. We can begin with the elements of our routine. Good things to note include the time we wake up, what we make for breakfast, how and when we went to work, schools, or about our chores, and the like.
Nothing is too immaterial. If we notice it, it should go in the book because our brain considered it important. We shouldn't let this interrupt our work of course; if something is big and needs attention, it should be dealt with, and then after it has been handled it should be noted in the log.
This practice builds information in two ways. First, it creates a steady log of information about our day that we can use as a reference. This will let us look at trends, see patterns, and understand the various elements that make up the complicated picture of our lives. The second thing it does is help us build the habit of observation. As we write down the things we notice, we begin to notice more things, increasing our perception of the world around us and the effects it has on us.
Stress Log Step 3 - Thoughts and Tidbits
As we build up the list of our activities, it is important to note down our thoughts of those activities in the stress log along with them. For example we could record a discussion with a coworker, and whether it made us pleased, indifferent, or more stressed out. We could put down whether the sandwich at lunch was more disappointing than usual, or if getting in late to work caused us problems getting things done.
This piece of information is critical to the process of later analysis. In building a habit of considering and evaluating our world and the stimuli it gives us, we need to know what effect all this information and experience has on our lives.
Stress Log Step 4 - Study and Summary
The important thing at first is to avoid trying to change anything right away. Changing matters at random might not help us, and could cause more stress. Instead, we're just going to journal honestly as we go along.
Then, at the end of each week of logging, we can evaluate our experiences throughout the week and see if we can start identifying the areas that cause us the most stress. This will let us make strong choices to adapt and possibly change things, giving us the ability to reshape our habits into the mold we want, instead of one that happens on autopilot.
About the Author:
Larry Tobin is the co-creator of http://www.HabitChanger.com/, offering effective and empowering solutions for stopping stress. Try our 42-day program that will help you learn proactive habits to beat stress and keep you moving forward in the right direction.
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