Stress Diary - Finding Your Optimum Stress Levels

How to use tool:

Keeping a stress diary is an effective way of finding out what causes you stress, the level of stress you prefer, and your effectiveness under pressure.


In this diary note down your stress levels and how you feel throughout the day. In particular, note down stressful events. Record the following information:

  • At a regular interval, for example every hour, record routine stress. Note:
    • the time
    • the amount of stress that you feel (perhaps on a scale of 1 to 10)
    • how happy you feel
    • how efficiently you are working
  • When stressful events occur, write down:
    • What the event was
    • When and where did it occur?
    • What important factors made the event stressful?
    • How stressful was the event?
    • How did you handle the event?
    • Did you tackle the cause or the symptom?
    • Did you deal with the stress correctly?

Analyzing the Diary

After a few weeks you should be able to analyze this information. It may be interesting as you carry out the analysis to note down the outcomes of the jobs you were doing when you were under stress.


This should give you two types of information:

  1. You should be able to understand the level of stress you are happiest with, and the level of stress at which you work most effectively. You may find that your performance is good even when you feel upset by stress.
  2. You should know what the main sources of unpleasant stress in your life are. You should understand what circumstances make stresses particularly unpleasant, and should be able to see whether your strategies for handling the stresses are effective or not.

You will get the real benefits of having a stress diary in the first few weeks. After this the benefit you get of keeping it each additional day will reduce. If, however, your lifestyle changes or you begin to suffer from stress again in the future, then it may be worth using the diary approach again. You will probably find that the stresses you face have changed. If this is the case, then keeping a diary again will help you to develop a different approach to deal with them.


Once you have discovered the stress level you are happiest with, and understand what triggers unpleasant stress, make an Action Plan to control it. Some elements of this action plan will be actions you are going to take to contain, control or eliminate problems that are causing you stress. Other parts may be health related such as taking more exercise, changing your diet, or improving the quality of your environment. It may also cover stress management techniques that you will employ when stress levels begin to build.

Key points

Keeping a stress diary helps you to learn how you handle stress. It helps you:

  • find out the stress levels you prefer
  • to know how effectively you operate under pressure
  • understand the things that cause you stress
  • to see how effective your stress control strategies are

Once you have kept a stress diary for a number of weeks, you will be in a position to analyze it and develop an action plan to control stress.