Wouldn't it be nice if you could stop stress in its tracks before it has a chance to muddy up your day? All of us are exposed to stressful situations, but if we can recognize these annoying scenarios and manage them before they become all-consuming, we can stay healthier, happier, and more productive.
Although science and technology haven't made this stride (yet!), there are some tools you can use to monitor stress so that you can address the cause and take charge. Explore the list below to learn about how you can track your stress over time and why it's beneficial.
6 Different Ways to Monitor Stress
Whenever you become overwhelmed, you can think of it as an opportunity for self-discovery. You can gather clues, collect data, and make important connections to help you manage your emotions. Use the stress monitoring tools below to help you put your best foot forward.
Keep a Log
One of the easiest ways to monitor your stress levels is to start an emotions log. You can do this on a piece of paper, in the notes app on your phone, or even type it in a document on your computer. When you check in with yourself, you can evaluate your stress levels and notice patterns.
Some questions you can ask include:
- What is my current stress level? Use a 1-10 scale with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest.
- What event caused me to feel stressed?
- What about this event did I find upsetting? Was I already feeling frustrated beforehand?
- What emotions and physical sensations did I experience?
- How did I respond? How did that response make me feel?
- What can I do to help myself feel calm? How do I feel after using that strategy?
Over time, you can reflect on your emotions log and discover which events are more likely to trigger your stress response, analyze how you typically respond and implement changes for the future that better serve your needs.
In order to monitor your daily stress you need to check in with yourself frequently and consistently. Daily check-ins are optimal. If you only record your emotions once a week, you're not likely to get an accurate idea of your daily stress levels and the triggers that cause them.
To start, you might want to set a small goal of checking in three times a week. Then, try daily check-ins. Over time, you might find it helpful to check in more than once a day to really pin down where your stress comes from and how frequently it impacts you.
I know, I know. It's hard to remember to check in. However, one way to get around this roadblock is to set reminders. You can set up notifications on your phone, add sticky notes around your work area, or keep your emotions log nearby in an easy-to-see spot to serve as a reminder.
You can also choose a friend to be an accountability buddy. Send each other text message reminders or hop on a quick call. Use whatever strategy works for you to collect as much information about your stress levels as possible.
Start a Journal
Another way to track your emotions is to start journaling. You can write down three challenges you faced during the day, how they made you feel, and how you responded to the situation.
Add a 5-minute journaling session to your morning or nighttime routine. However, don't feel trapped by this time restraint. You can take as much time as you want to reflect on your day.
After a couple of weeks, explore what you wrote down. Are there any patterns in your stress triggers? Did you experience similar sensations? Did you respond differently in some situations? Your journal is a tool that can help you put the pieces of the puzzle together.
Use an App
If you consider yourself to be a bit more tech-savvy, you might prefer to use an app to help you track your stress levels. Apps can offer quick and easy ways to track your stress over time, compare high-stress and low-stress days, monitor your reactions to difficult situations, and even offer coping strategies. You can also set notification reminders to give you the extra push you need.
Some apps you may find helpful include:
- Stress Check - Take the stress check assessment to gauge your overall stress levels, examine specific areas of your life that may be contributing factors, and explore tools, such as mindfulness and yoga exercises to help you regain a sense of calm.
- Stress Therapy Management - This app can give you a blood pressure reading by using the LED camera on your phone to shine light through your finger and monitor the rate of blood flow captured in the camera lens. It also allows you to compile your stress history, and practice breathing techniques to help lower your heart rate.
- Thought Diary - Set a daily reminder to check in with your emotions, choose which aspects of your life are contributing to your feelings, and reflect in daily journal entries that use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help you challenge unhelpful thoughts.
There are a lot of apps out there. A lot. It might take a few downloads until you find the right one for you. Note the features you are looking for and do your best to find a good match.
Wear a Stress Tracker
Wearable stress trackers are another option for those who are tech-savvy. Smartwatches and even headbands are available that track the body's physiological response to stress.
Most trackers monitor your heart rate and can give you in-the-moment feedback on your heart rate variability (HRV). HVR measures the time in between heartbeats and is commonly used to measure stress levels. Stress trackers can also notify you when your stress levels rise and help you track your HRV throughout the day.
Some stress trackers to explore include:
- Apple Watch - This device can measure your daily calorie and step counts, measure your heart rate and blood oxygen levels, perform electrocardiogram (ECG) readings, and access calls, texts, and the internet. These watches can be purchased for around $400 for a simple version, while more intricate editions can cost over $700.
- Cubitt Smartwatch - This smartwatch measures blood oxygen levels and heart rate, daily step counts, sleep, and more. It's in the $90 price range for the latest version, but previous editions can be purchased for as little as $40.
- Fitbit - This device tracks stress levels, sleep, heart rate, and more. It can be purchased for about $130 for the latest version.
- FitVII Fitness Tracker - This smartwatch measures blood pressure and heart rate, monitors your sleep cycle, counts the number of calories burned and steps taken, and more. It costs around $50.
You can also mix and match these strategies to find a personalized approach that works for you. For example, maybe you like knowing your HVR and also find it helpful to journal about your day. Life can be stressful, but there are steps you can take to better understand it and make a plan to move forward.