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.