So, is stress taking over?

Think about it. How stressed ARE you? If you are someone who has had the “wow, I’m stressed” exchange with a friend, do you think you’re experiencing it at the level you describe, or are you actually well beyond casual bragging rights and into very negative territory?

Maybe you don’t actually know. But here’s something to think about: how can you take steps to reduce your stress level if you don’t actually know the level of stress you are feeling? There is a huge difference in having *that* kind of day or week and in experiencing chronic stress. A great big difference.

Learning how to deal with stress is great. Finding the actions that relieve you of negativity, of the anxious feelings, of the physical issues that stem from stress levels? Super! Consider also, though, the benefit of determining exactly WHAT is stressing you.

And I really hope you don’t say “EVERYTHING!”

So, now. Consider a stress chart. This is for the folks who are not just having a difficult day or a challenging week. This is for those of you who live a stressful life. It’s all around. It permeates your surroundings. You take it on to such an extent that it becomes natural. That the aches or the emotions or the shortness with others becomes natural.

You don’t want to be that person. And believe me, the folks who are around you don’t want that, either.

If this might be you, consider trying a little chart. Just to determine, you know, what is really going on. Because your life, your reaction to stress, would improve with some stress relievers…but it will really improve if you can find the source and work to correct what is happening.

We’re looking for patterns. Stress patterns.

Get yourself some paper. A journal if you want, or a spiral notebook or a composition book or some blank pages you staple together. Whatever.

Divide each page into sections. Going down the left side, you’ll have categories. You can make them hourly categories, or periods of several hours. You can make them more general…breakfast, morning, lunch, afternoon, dinner, evening. Then across the top you have seven categories…the days of the week.

Pretty easy. So you start on Monday during your first time category. Monday from 7-10 AM, maybe. Or Monday breakfast, followed by Monday morning. Got it?

Jot down notes in the corresponding section about when you feel stressed. And if you can, make a note also about what was happening right before you started to feel stressed. At the end of the week, look for patterns.

Simple, yes? Very simple. But not to be discounted. People complain about stress all the time. All the time! We all do it. And I am pretty sure that some of us don’t want to give up the complaining. It’s trendy to be stressed.

But if you are really looking to do something nice for yourself, if you are really seeking some sort of mindful balance in your life, you must consider the source of your stress and decide what you can do to change that pattern. The best way to do that is charting your reactions and what might have been the prompt.

Keep in mind that you are looking at the physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms of stress. Try to be honest. After all, you’re the only one who needs to see this chart and you are the main beneficiary of any positive actions based on the results. You aren’t the only beneficiary, though. The people you love will thank you. The people you like will also thank you. The people you work with will thank you.

See? It’ll be a regular festival of happiness.

So. Go ahead and give this a try if you feel that you are experiencing stress responses more than just occasionally. You might even give this a try if you think you do fall into the occasional stress category. Sometimes we get a little surprise when we actually contemplate our daily lives in depth.

That’s not always comfortable, is it? Interesting, informative, but not necessarily comfortable. Let’s give it a try anyway.

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