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!
"Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome."
- Samuel Johnson
One of my friends sent me this lovely quote. It reminded me of the many risks and obstacles we face in life. We often are paralyzed to take the actions to make our lives more fulfilling, energized and joyful. Many of us are scared about the future and the word “change”. If we want to reduce the impact of negative stress in our lives, we have to be aware of how much we tend to take things personally that actually are not personal. We rush through life, meeting deadlines and missing out the fun aspects of our life, our loving relationships and the beauty around us. We literally shape our brain to run in this treadmill of more stress, anxiety and unhappiness.
Our brain is plastic – that means both the function and its structure can be changed quickly and permanently to become positive and joyful. Even a simple act of spending a few minutes with our loved ones, indulging in our favorite art activity or thinking of our last vacation has the ability to energize and relax us. We often wallow in self-pity and self-doubt and don’t fully realize our strengths and our inner resilient nature - having the capacity to bounce back when things go wrong, and ability to enjoy life even when we have pain, stress and challenges.
Science has shown us that these practices can shape our brain and enhance our well-being. Make time for these three important activities on a daily and weekly basis. These practices are as important as healthy eating and hydration in managing stress and building your resilience over time!
Combine these activities. Go to a meditation or yoga class with your best friend. Walking meditation in a local garden or labyrinth may be a beautiful break from your daily stress. Help out with a local 5k race. Most important – don’t just read this article. Share it with a friend or family member and spend time with them! Take Action! Now!
My friend Vicki created the beautiful CORE graphic for us! The acronym CORE serves as a reminder of the components of Resilience:
C – 5 Cs - Compassion, Courage, Collaboration, Creativity and Critical Thinking
O – Optimism and Hope
R – Resilience
E - Energy - healthy eating, meditation and physical activity
R J Davidson, B S McEwen, Social influences on neuroplasticity: Stress and interventions to promote well-being Nat Neurosci. Apr 15, 2012; 15(5): 689–695.doi: 10.1038/nn.3093
Steve Paulson, Richard Davidson, Amishi Jha and Jon Kabat-Zinn Becoming conscious: the science of mindfulness, doi: 10.1111/nyas.12203 Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1303 (2013) 87–104
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.