Most online stress measurement tools use an "life-event" method to determine your stress levels. If you have a divorce, a job loss or major illness; you are considered to have high stress levels. However, the problem with this approach is that it does not measure our daily activities and how we react to this. We may have a boss that we do not like or our stress related to specific relationships may be increasing in small but significant measures.
The best analogy I found for stress assessment is that of RPE - (Rating of Perceived Exertion by Borg) to measure the intensity of your daily exercise routine. Instead of using a heart-monitor or trying to measure your pulse, you can estimate the intensity of your exercise by how hard you feel you are working out. You give yourself a rating of 6-20 - 6 being no exertion at all and 20 being very intense exercise. Typical walking can have RPE levels of 9-12 while intense aerobics may cause you to give a rating 16-19. While this may seem subjective, your mind is pretty good at assessing your exercise intensity. These measures are often as sensitive as heart monitors or pulse counter techniques.
A similar method is used to assess your stress levels. Dr. Sheldon Cohen of Carnegie Mellon University pioneered in a unique self-assessment technique for stress called PSS (Perceived Stress Scale). Similar to RPE above, you are asked to estimate your own level of stress based on the uncertainty, lack of control and overload that exists in various areas of your life. Here are two websites that give help you self-assess your stress levels based on Dr. Cohen's technique.
Try this Stress Vulnerability Self-Test online
You may also have a hard copy printed out from the MindGarden.com website and use it to assess your stress levels during the week.
The University of Minnesota - Twin Cities campus offers an online screening for depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, generalized anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and alcohol.
The bottom line - the few minutes you take to become aware of your stress levels and the causes for it - actually will help you lower your stress levels. These free screenings are taken anonymously. I suggest you use your browser in incognito mode when you do this test, if you wish complete privacy.
Please remember these tests and screenings are not a substitute for a clinical evaluation.
Contact a health professional for more information and a complete exam.
Do you have your own method of assessing your stress levels? I would love to hear about it!
https://vimeo.com/431630745 - check this link for a video of the podcast
Check out https://podcast.cyphercon.com/home-episode-slider/
Explore interviews with hackers involved with CypherCon, Wisconsin’s Hacker Conference. CypherCon attracts over 1000 attendees every Spring in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
We live in times of extreme uncertainty and rapid changes and we also have the art, science and technology of hacking our own minds. By applying simple skills, we have the ability to experience love, peace and joy.
Most of us run away from thoughts or feelings that are painful for us. In some cases, we can benefit by examining and acting on those painful and uncomfortable feelings. Meditation techniques are touted as “stress relaxation” techniques but, actually, we have several focus and awareness exercises along with bio-feedback devices that can help us be in relaxed and empowered mind-states to make us feel love, joy and peace.
As a simple analogy to brain hacking is the process of ethical hacking, a powerful tool used by cybersecurity professionals to protect their organization. The table above shows the five common steps to most ethical hacking processes. The main objective is to find important vulnerabilities in systems and organizations and strengthen them. Brain Hacking is a similar process. We try to find “roots” of our pain and suffering and see if we can remove them. Challenges, difficulties, shocks and pain are inevitable but we can respond to situations and alleviate our suffering. In Brain Hacking 101, we will discuss the first three steps to train our brain to feel love, joy and peace often.
Step 1 – Reconnaissance / Cultivating Awareness
Reconnaissance – an 18th century French word that means recognize or explore. The ethical hacker starts her research about the organization and IT networks and see what information is available in public domain and in the dark web.
The easiest analogy in human self-hacking is to start observing our mind and body – awareness practice. It may be as simple as journaling our life story or talking to a trusted friend about our challenges
Step 2 – Scanning/ Mindfulness – awareness without judgment
In ethical hacking, scanning involves working on the actual IT system or walking around the physical building. Such scanning may help the hacker find obvious vulnerabilities – such as guest account without password or an opening in the fence.
The equivalent in brain hacking is to record our stories with compassion and without judgement. Acknowledging that we are in pain and we suffer.
Step 3 – Gaining Access/ Access to Love, Joy and Peace
Normally, by this time, the ethical hacker gains access to a user account using multiple tools.. Practicing mindfulness (awareness without judgement), similarly, allows us to be aware of the underlying love, joy and peace most of us have. Sometimes, it may be fleeting. Nevertheless, it is there for us to access.
Step 4 – Maintaining Access/ Building our CORE values
Once the ethical hacker gets access into the system, she may try to get to high level users (admin account) or try to access to other user accounts and resources.
A person who practices meditation regularly, often, feels their behaviors and core values align. There is a deeper connection in important relationships, a sense of optimism and resilience and higher energy levels. We get better at understanding our own flaws and challenges and become more compassionate to the struggles of others.
Check this article on more details about CORE - https://www.meditation-magic.com/blog/three-practices-to-a-stronger-and-more-resilient-you
Step 5 – Reporting & Remediation/ Transformation
After the ethical hacker has completed her testing, she will create a formal report and suggest an appropriate remediation and mitigation plan. The hacker takes care not to mess with any valuable data or resources.
Similarly, continued mindfulness practices often helps find a path to purposeful and meaningful life. It is not a perfect life but a life that helps us to understand that we live in an interconnected world and we, often, can thrive through service and dedication to a cause greater than us.
I am interested in exploring more. What do I do next?
Check out these resources and commit to a daily contemplation/meditation practice. Best wishes on your journey! I look forward to your comments, suggestions and questions.
Meditation Basics from Dr K – Vimeo/ Blog Links
Dr K Meditation - Finding Joy in Uncertain Times - https://vimeo.com/415370883
https://vimeo.com/431630745 - check this link for a video of the podcast
Check out these blog articles for more information
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life
Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson, Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body
Sam Harris – great podcasts, books and app - https://samharris.org/books/
a guided finger meditation
Engage your senses with soothing music, guided imagery and a labyrinth tracing activity which leverages the power of touch. Click the album cover to learn more.