Sunday, November 7, 2010

Reflection.

Through this project, I’ve learned that managing stress is a really difficult task to tackle. There is no set way that works— as seen by my first failed meditating, my journaling, and then a renewal of meditation— and it is really a day by day thing. I started the project thinking that stress levels were easy to control, that I just wasn’t taking the right precautions, and it would all be quickly solved. How wrong I was—stress levels depend on what happen each day (or over a period of time, depending on big projects, etc) and managing stress is about learning to think through things before freaking out and about learning to clear your head when you’re troubled. There’s no way to prevent things from happening to you, you have to prevent your overreactions!

Elizabeth Scott in The Benefits of Journaling for Stress Management writes that “Journaling allows people to clarify their thoughts and feelings, thereby gaining valuable self-knowledge” and that it “helps one process [events] by fully exploring and releasing the emotions involved… allowing the experience to become fully integrated in one’s mind.” After this project, I completely agree with these statements. Journaling in itself isn’t some magical way to clear all your troubles; it’s the reflection of your problems that helps relax yourself. My problem going into the OLE was that I had a fixed mindset—I believed that it would be very straightforward and that could help myself by a simple formula. Instead, I changed my views to a growth mindset—I had to pay attention to my own needs and my own feedback to truly understand how to gain “valuable self-knowledge”.

Looking at my journal, I’ve realized some trends and correlations between my writing and stress levels. On the days in which I did not face too much trouble (and was therefore less stressed), I wrote a lot less and the whole entry had a lot less self-berating, and a more hopeful and thankful tone. On the days that I was stressed however, multiple pages were filled, there were lots of capitalized words, and each page was much more indented by my handwriting—proof of the emotion and stress behind the rants. There were also days in which I was stressed for no reason or had no want to write down my feelings, and so there were also pages filled with doodles that I have found are extremely cathartic to me (as I love art). Looking at the correlation between my journal writings and my blog data-journal, I’ve found that these exercises really have helped me become a better managed person. Every week I would make another discovery about myself and I how I take care of myself like on Day 24 where I wrote “I know it's really difficult to keep a smile on the entire day (and it shouldn't be there if it's not genuine!) but if you look at life like a Pollyanna, and take joy in more things, it's much easier to have a lower stress level. Maybe it's lower expectations, but maybe it's just learning to be happier with what you have.” Looking back at this observation, I realized that I have come a long way from the beginning of the OLE project where I was struggling to figure out what I needed to stay calm. Back then I was trying meditation and it alone just wasn’t working for me—I would get distracted and I would still have the burdens of my stresses. Moving further along in the project, I started up journaling instead, which was a really helpful way for me to analyze my problems and just vent about them. As I felt more and more confident about myself through journaling, I began to meditate and doodle in addition to my journaling—all of which helped relieve stress after I had examined the roots of my unhappiness.

The ending of this OLE project will definitely not stop me from journaling. I take my journal everywhere I go (whether it is in my backpack or purse) because I never know when I might need to take a minute and write down my emotions at a certain time. All in all, I am so incredibly grateful for this learning experience—I learned so much about how I think and react as a person and how I can use my knowledge of my personality to keep myself in better health.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 42.

Today's my last day journaling about my journaling/meditation/doodling experience, but it's certainly not the last time I will do those things. This OLE project has helped me learn so much about myself, and I'm so grateful that- even though I'm constantly stressed- I can learn to deal with that stress and know that these stressors aren't the most important things in life.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 39.

Today my journal was just about how grateful I am for my family.
Today's my brother's birthday, and although we had orchestra rehearsal, we all just took the time to show how much we love each other, and that really means a lot to me. This journal not only is written completely with stress and pressure, it's also a reminder to me of my family and nice things in life and things that I try to keep in mind every day.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day 38.

Journaling was accompanied by meditation again today.
Sometimes when I get headaches from too much work, or just need a break from the non-stop busy of the day, I find that meditation is really helpful. It helps me center myself (not on work, but just in general) and really clears my head to put me in a better mood for the work ahead.
It doesn't hurt that I also had soccer practice today and I get really happy after that!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 37.

I had another good day today.
School wasn't too bad (especially as I got to sleep in) and journaling was more a pleasure than a need. To be more specific- some days when I'm so completely stressed out that I can't speak to someone else without the fear of bursting out crying are the perfect days for "need" journaling. Because I can't talk to anyone else, the journal is the only way I can write out my frustrations.
Today was a "pleasure" journal day in which I wrote down all the nice things I did for people and that I saw. I've found that it's really nice to have journal entries like that to look back on for the bad days.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 36.

Today I wasn't really swamped with pressure or anything, and I didn't have too much to write about, so I focused most of my energy into meditating today.
I've learned to really appreciate meditating in addition to my journaling- now that I know how it can help, it's really improving how I manage my stress levels and I'm so thankful I didn't give up on it after the first week!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 35.

I'm proud of myself- for the past two days, I've been able to have a sunny outlook on life and not to let little things get me down... and it's all with the help of my journal.
If ever I'm feeling a little iffy about a situation or something amazing happens, my journal is there for me to write in and almost always do I come away with a realization about myself. I've been reading through my past entries and I noticed how many times I rant in it. That really just shows to me how much this journal has helped me- even though sometimes I've had bad days/moments, I've been able to overlook them with the help of my journal and just have a better outlook on life.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day 33.

Funnily enough, I think that weekends sometimes can be the most stressful times of the week for me. I mean, I love the fact that we don't have the stress of school, but there's so much going on! I have meetings and soccer games and piano lessons and on top of that there are college applications, too!
My journal today was really just a rant on my so-busy life. I have so many things going on at once that it's really nice to be able to take 20 minutes by myself to just reflect and relax. And mostly be by myself without other pressures (like college applications, homework, etc)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Day 32.

And we're back to normal again.
After a lot more quality time and reflection with my journal, followed by some random doodling, I came to the conclusion that I can't control anyone but myself and it's perfectly natural to get emotional sometimes. I got mad not only at the teacher, but at myself for reacting how I did- but it's really okay.
Today's journal was a huge relief for me, not just stress-wise, but just in knowing who I am and that I don't have to restrict myself for other people.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 31.

And in response to my question yesterday- "what does the absence of emotion mean?"- I think it all has to do with sleep levels.
At least for me.
I hadn't slept too much the day before, and that really led to me being like a zombie being. Today I'm feeling again, and journaling up a storm. This time it's because I was publicly humiliated during class by a teacher. And here's another question- what do I do to control myself when my situation is uncontrollable? I did whip out my journal after the incident and wrote furiously in it while trying to stop tears, but that doesn't stop what happened! And I can't control my feelings when I'm berated!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 30.

It's my birthday!
Unfortunately, the stress of school doesn't really seem to stop for those "holidays". I felt like I should've been happier or something today because it's my special day, but I really just feel TIRED. My journal entry today was full of blah- there was nothing special or rant-y or any kind of tone about it- it just was.
This seems to be a new complication... what does the absence of emotion mean?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day 29.

I repeated my journaling and meditation duo today, and I really think I'm finding a happy medium between the two.
When I first tried meditation, it was hard for me to concentrate because I had so many things weighing on my mind- and that's where the journal comes in! Now that I can journal, it's like I can release all my frustrations from the day into writing, and then meditate with a clear mind.
Today was a little bit better- still a packed day with piano lessons and bible study, but the music and socialness (of the youth group get-together) really helped lower my head-pressure.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day 27.

Inhale. Exhale.
Today I did some meditation again (even though I haven't done it since the very first week of this project!) and it really helped me to center myself and allow myself to think with a clear head about all my projects/work/etc. I journaled in church, too, and today was kind of like a cool cloth to yesterday's headache.
I was able to bring myself back down from the stressful high, think more clearly about what I should/shouldn't be worried about, and concentrate instead of freaking out about mundane things!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day 26.

And- I'm possibly back to more stress.
How do I fix it? With such huge projects looming over my head, I feel like I'm drowning in all my work. I wrote in my journal today about how incompetent I feel when it comes to learning/being smart sometimes. I've noticed that the more stressed I am, the more apt I am to get mad at myself or find personal flaws- and that's not good.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day 25.

I've been doing constant journaling for almost a month now, and I really think I've found a lot more about myself through it.
I've learned that it's partially the attitude that can keep (me) happier, that doodling may seem frivolous but actually makes me a less stressed person, that going back and reading my previous journal entries lets me think with a clearer head and (possibly) help myself refrain from making the same mistakes...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 24.

Things have been going much more swimmingly.
There has been less venting in my journal, less personal berating, and just a more hopeful tone throughout the journal. I think a huge thing to being less stressed is attitude. I know it's really difficult to keep a smile on the entire day (and it shouldn't be there if it's not genuine!) but if you look at life like a Pollyanna, and take joy in more things, it's much easier to have a lower stress level. Maybe it's lower expectations, but maybe it's just learning to be happier with what you have.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day 22.

I've made a discovery again through my journal.
A huge reason that I think I'm stressed is because I feel like I'm not living up to my potential. In my journal, I write how lazy I feel like I am. While I might not actually be that, it's the feeling that I'm not good enough or that I'm not trying hard enough that pressures me.
Maybe I need to stop being so tough on myself?
Maybe I need to try harder?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day 21.

Today I filled two pages of my journal full with doodles of inanimate objects that I had put smiley faces on.
It may seem like a childish, silly thing to do but it was actually really fun and cathartic for me! It allowed me to concentrate on something that wasn't school work, and the smiles made me happy, too!
I find a certain satisfaction in making things cute, and I think that's another key to my journaling. I'm always very neat in precise in my writing (and creative in my drawing) and I think it helps me access the sides of myself that I don't use in school all the time.
It's like I'm pushing myself, but in a direction that I enjoy being pushed.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Day 20.

Today was my journaling-during-church day, and again, I felt like I'm just less stressed when I do it! Before I took notes during the sermon, I would get really frustrated with myself for not being able to concentrate. I would mentally berate myself, which is not good for my stress levels.
Taking notes allowed me to stop the mental pressures that I was putting on myself, concentrate on the sermon (which always has an uplifting message to help me through the week), and relax.
I think I'm finding that words really help me express myself and feel better.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Day 18.

Today was a non-crying, yes-doodling and joking in my journal type of day- and I'm proud of myself for it. No venting, just letting myself relax and be creative.
It was nice for today because I had lots of homework (and teaching piano lessons, and orchestra), and journaling was a break from that work so that I could just get over the pressures of the week, get ready for the weekend, etc.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Day 17.

Today I got creative and wrote a story in my journal.
It made me cry (sigh, again) to write it, but I feel like it helped me explain my feelings and stress levels. Maybe it's a weird thing to do, but it was a personification of the lump in my throat- how it sometimes hides, but comes back up to choke me every once in a while, and also makes me cry even if I don't want to.
I don't know what writing that story did for me, but it feels like now that I know what's wrong I can work to fix it somehow. I don't know how I'll fix it, but finding the problem's always the first step, right?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day 16.

Okay, so I may have been overreacting yesterday.
I guess I'm still overwhelmed, though, knowing that I'm not as de-stressed as I thought I was. It's kind of frustrating. Yes, journaling helps a lot- it lets me vent, or doodle, or reflect on my day- but I'm still having these stressors that are negatively affecting me.
It's like I'm stressed out but I try not to be... which only succeeds in making me break down at very small things each day.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day 15.

Annndd... I just made a horrible discovery.
Reading back through my journal, I realized that I cry almost every day. That is not normal or healthy at all. I try to be happy each day so much so that I don't realize/remember being sad, but looking back I find that I break down really often.
What can I do to stop it? What is journaling even helping me to do?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Day 14.

Stress levels: Still at a moderate low.
For the first time, I wrote in my journal/took notes during the sermon at church, and surprisingly it helped a LOT. Not because I was stressed or anything, but sometimes I get sleepy and my attention gets diverted during the Sunday lesson. I guess there is truth in taking notes while teachers are talking!
This also helps relieve my stress because I could look over what I wrote (yesterday) and reflect on the lessons I learned in church, especially if I'm stressed out on a school day.
There's something about being reminded of better things in life (or the bigger picture) that helps me keep my stress in check.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Day 11.

Today, thankfully, was not a stressful day.
It was my mom's birthday, and maybe it's the excitement of the month of birthdays (all my family's birthdays are in October), or just that my day wasn't too stressful, but my journaling was more reflecting than venting.
Which is good!
Also, maybe the fact that tomorrow's the weekend and my stress can be temporarily relieved helps my moodiness. Journaling was definitely a pleasure (not a frantic, must write down everything because I'll break if I don't-need).

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 10.

And... more doodling today.
Maybe all the de-stressing yesterday allowed me to have a clear mind today, but nothing really jumped into my head when I opened my journal. And that means, I think, that journaling is helping! Huzzah!
Journaling also lets me take a break from my homework and think about things that may be more important- my health, for example. However important the homework may be at the time, my stress levels and emotional health is way more important to me, and I'm glad that journaling is helping relieve my tension.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 9.

I've been having a lot on my mind recently, so I wrote a humongous post in my journal- 6 pages to be exact. I usually don't try to write so much, but today I just had so much on my mind that I had to get it all out somehow.
Perhaps the reason I wrote so much is because I didn't really talk about this issue with my friends today, and because I had a lack of venting there, I needed it pour it all out into writing.


Also- is it just me, or is it kind of strange that I'm both journaling my thoughts into a book and my progress onto a blog? I'm, like, double blogging each day.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 8.

Today I tried something different, and instead of venting I just drew. It was incredibly relaxing for me, let me be creative, and instead of working to solve my problems, it let me take my mind off of everything for a while.
I think it's important to have doodling days because I shouldn't constantly be worrying, and doodling really allows me that.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 6.

More journaling today.
Even though today wasn't really filled with anything stressful or energy-consuming (probably because it's a Saturday), I used today's journal page to express some of my overall concerns with my life rather than the day-to-day stressors.
Unfortunately, journaling about them seems to make me even more stressed out. When I journal about things that are stressing me in a moment, it helps because I can write out my frustrations. With this kind of journaling, however, it's more like bringing up all my stresses that I keep hidden- and that worries me.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I have yet to see....

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 5.

I lied, and started journaling today.
It was actually very helpful- I saw results today which is good, because I'm an "instant gratification" kind of person. I've previously been a very bad journaler- I would write for a couple of days and then stow it away somewhere never to be found again... so I used an old journal that I had made last year.
I enjoyed this much more than the meditation, probably because I feel like I always need to be doing something and writing fits the bill (more than meditation). It also allowed me to think about my problems and vent about them, something really cathartic for me.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 3.

After three days of meditation, I'm trying to figure out whether or not it's really helping my stress levels. So far, it seems as though I have something distracting me from truly concentrating on meditation, whether it be work or sleep or fun, and that's impeding my stress-relieving progress!
However, in a discussion with one of my friends, she mentioned journaling as a great stress reliever- instead of just trying to clear your mind for a bit through meditation, you can put your thoughts and distractions (and stresses) onto paper and that helps you cope with your problems.
I think, maybe this weekend after Week 1 of this OLE is over, I will begin to journal in addition to my meditation.
That way I can fight my stresses by voicing them and figuring out ways to avoid them (or even just letting them out- that always helps!) and then meditating after I've put out everything that was previously holding my mind.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 2.

Things are still a little hazy.
Today was an incredibly hectic day- I had piano lessons for an hour after school, and then went to record music for a college CD at church just an hour after. My mind was so hyped up for these events that I was really emotionally tired afterward. I was exhausted from the hour and a half of performing and recording, and when I got home I still had a bunch of homework left.
Today's problem for meditation wasn't so much distraction as it was the want for sleep. I can't say that I get 9 or 10 hours of sleep each day, so the lack of full sleep combined with my hectic schedule really made it hard to sit for 20 minutes with my eyes closed, concentrating.
I just wanted to sleep, and several times I found myself drifting off and I would jerk awake, only to remember I was supposed to be concentrating on my breath.
This hasn't happened before while I was meditating, so I'll have to work on doing this stress reliever at a different time of the day, preferably when I'm not so tired!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 1.

Meditation is hard.
I enjoyed it during our block period's practice, but I'm not even sure how long that was. For someone who is constantly out and about, working, being distracted, doing things- twenty minutes is a long time.
I tried so hard to center myself, to concentrate on just my breath, but my mind kept wandering to the time and my work. The first five minutes I really felt in control of myself, but twenty minutes of "just sitting" was disconcerting for my body; it had no idea what I was doing.
However, it did help me to calm myself down, clear my head from the stress of school (even if just for a short time), and let me take a deep breath before starting the rest of my work.
I'm going to continue meditating each day for this amount of time in the hopes that my body will get used to that relaxation and will look forward to the time I have for myself each day.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Game Plan.

Life is stressful, everyone knows that.
You go through periods of life that are less stressful, some that are more, but unfortunately, that stress will always be there. And even more unfortunately, this school year is the most stressful year I've experienced in my life. There are college applications, loads of homework each night, not to mention trying to keep up with friends and family!
This project should (hopefully) help me find outlets for that stress and find successful ways to keep myself and my mind healthy.

PLAN 9/19: Meditate for 20 minutes each day.