Targeting Your Strategy
Flip back to the last chapter and record the results of your Personal Stress Profile in your journal. Throughout the chapters in the rest of this book, you'll read about many different stress management techniques. As your read about them, keep in mind the results of your Personal Stress Profile. Each aspect can be targeted with stress management techniques. As you learn about different techniques, experiment with how they can apply to the different areas of your Personal Stress Profile.Recording Your Test Results
To record your test results and reflect on them at the same time in your journal, you might want to use a template something like the one that follows. You can also make several copies of this template to keep in your notebook or binder.
Now, you can easily refer to your test results. Use this template again any time you retake the test.
The following sections will give you some ideas for how to target your stress management strategies according to the results of your Personal Stress Profile.
Before you pop a pill to help you ease into dreamland, try counting back slowly from 100 to 1. Imagine each number and visualize how it looks. In your mind, make it look beautiful, in a tranquil color, perhaps drawn in fancy script, or formed by clouds in a beautiful blue sky. Breathe slowly, allowing long inhale and exhale breaths for each number.
Whether your Stress Tolerance Level was JUST RIGHT LOW or TOO HIGH or a combination of several levels for different areas of your life, your key to managing your stress is to keep it right around a healthy Stress Tolerance Level. If your level was JUST RIGHT LOW, you need to keep making a conscious effort to eliminate excess stress from your life so that you can continue to enjoy your low level of stress. Remember what is working. How are you already able to keep stress low? Then, plan for those times when stress will surely increase. Be prepared!
If your stress level is JUST RIGHT HIGH, you also need to continue to make a conscious effort to keep stress at the level that works for you. While you may be able to handle more stress than some other people, you can still get overstressed. Techniques that help you cultivate mind-body awareness will signal you to when stress is getting out of control in your life. People who can take more stress than average tend to neglect their stress level awareness, thinking they can take anything, but we all have our limits.
If your stress level is TOO HIGH or TOO LOW, you also need a plan. How can you begin to effectively eliminate stress so that you can achieve a healthy Stress Tolerance Level? Or, how can you begin to add stimulation to your life in healthy and productive ways so that you can achieve a healthy Stress Tolerance Level? Remember, too much stress is hard on your body, but not enough stress (not enough for your own personal needs) makes for a pretty dull and unfulfilling life.
Record your Stress Tolerance Level in your journal as a reminder. Then, as you read through the rest of this book, list possible strategies that sound interesting to you. After you've tried them, describe how they work. Finally, record “keeper” strategies to add to your stress management repertoire and daily or weekly routine.
Keeping track of the effectiveness of various techniques is important. While you may remember in the short term that, say, a certain herbal remedy worked well or that a certain relaxation technique was tedious, a month later, you may forget — and you'll be glad you wrote down your experience.
You can format this section in your journal based on the following template, or you can make several copies of these blank templates to keep in a binder.
My Stress Tolerance Level is:
Indigestion is a common reaction to stress because the stress response signals the body to channel blood away from the digestive system. The next time you suffer from an attack of indigestion, rather than popping antacids on the run, try sitting still for five minutes, breathing deeply, and savoring a cup of yogurt. The “friendly” bacteria in yogurt may help to promote healthy digestion.
Whether you get a new roommate, the flu, married, a failing grade, pregnant, or a speeding ticket, stress triggers add to the stress in your life. Managing your Stress Triggers is key to working with your Stress Tolerance Level. Remember, Stress Triggers can come in four categories: Environmental, Personal, Physiological, and Social. The categories in which your Stress Triggers tend to fall can be the key to the stress management strategies you should try.
In your journal, record the categories into which your Stress Triggers tend to fall (see your Personal Stress Profile in the last chapter). Then, you can plan which stress management techniques to try in order to manage (eliminate or ease the stress of) each one of your Stress Triggers.
As you read through the rest of this book, turn back to this section and record Stress Management Techniques that you think might address the Stress Triggers in certain categories. For instance, improving your dietary habits and increasing your daily exercise might address your frequent minor illnesses in the Physiological Stress category. Social anxiety might be effectively addressed by friend therapy or regular self-esteem maintenance. Don't worry about trying to figure out which stress management techniques address which categories. I'll be sure to cue you in each section. You just record the techniques that sound interesting.
Many Stress Triggers are best handled individually, no matter what category they happen to fall into. List your individual Stress Triggers in this section, and the way you decide to tackle each one. Again, you'll be glad to have this record. Not only will you be able to remember later on what worked and what didn't, but you'll be able to see, right here in black and white, how you are proactively managing your own stress rather than letting your Stress Triggers manage you.
Watch the way you hold the phone. Many people hunch up their shoulders and bend their necks to hold phones against their ears, keeping their hands free. This posture can contribute to significant muscle tension and misalignment in your spine. If you spend a lot of time on the phone, invest in a headset. They work great for cellular phones, too.
As you tackle your Stress Triggers one at a time, keep track of what you tried and how well it worked in your journal. You can use the following template as a guideline:
Knowing your Stress Vulnerability Factors, or the specific areas of your life in which you are particularly vulnerable to stress, is a great opportunity to use specific stress management techniques to target these areas. Whether you are vulnerable when it comes to your job, your family, or your self-esteem, you can find techniques individually suited to you. Keep track of them in your journal.
As you read through the rest of this book, keep track of the strategies that interest you as they apply to your Stress Vulnerability Factor. I'll cue you when a certain strategy is particularly effective for a certain area of life. For example, debt management strategies can be highly effective in managing financial stress. That's an obvious one. Not so obvious is the effectiveness of visualization for boosting self-esteem, or the power of prayer and spiritual development for boosting the immune system. Here is a template you can use to keep track of your stress vulnerabilities in your journal:
A warm cup of chamomile tea can help you to unwind before bedtime. Chamomile is thought to have relaxing properties, but how you drink it can be a relaxing experience, too. Focus on the taste, aroma, warmth, steam, the teacup, and how it feels to swallow the tea. This meditation will calm your mind after a busy day and prepare you for sleep.
Here's where you can monitor your natural tendencies to respond to stress. Keep track of the things you tend to do that work and the things you tend to do that are less effective or are destructive to your physical, emotional, or mental health.
In the previous chapter, you grouped your Stress Response Tendencies into four categories: You react to stress, attack it, ignore it, or manage it. You probably respond to stress differently depending on what kind of stress it is. In your journal, you can periodically monitor your stress responses, which will allow you to see your progress. As mentioned previously, you'll be glad you kept track.
You can use the following template in your journal to check your Stress Response Tendencies every week for six weeks. During each week, you'll probably respond to stress in a variety of ways. List them all and describe the kind of stress you were responding to. Staying aware of the ways in which you respond to stress is one of the best ways to help yourself respond to stress in healthy and productive ways. In the second column, for each item, describe the ways you could respond more productively. (If you responded well, congratulate yourself! Who says grownups can't get gold stars?)
Back pain is most often experienced in the lower back. Lower back pain can be a signal from your body that you have too much stress in your life. Listen to your body and let your back pain tell you when it's time to slow down. If back pain is persistent or severe, please see your health care practitioner.