It’s Easy To Say ‘I’m Stressed’ — But What Does That Mean?
You know what stress feels like, right? And if you’re unsure, here’s a reminder:
- No energy
- Avoiding people
- Eating too much
- Not eating at all
- A feeling of inertia; just sitting and worrying
Maybe you’re thinking that you’re a little run down, that’s all. Then you hear:
- “Is everything OK? You look worn out (or frustrated, or sad)?”
- “Aren’t you hungry? You haven’t eaten all day.”
- “Isn’t that overreacting a bit?”
- “Well, aren’t you Grumpy Gus today?!”
Whether you’ve self-diagnosed or listened to friends and coworkers, the result is the same.
So: What to do about it? Meditation? Medication? Vacation? Stress is different for everyone, so what’s the right approach for you? Start by getting a handle on what’s going on:
Assessing your stress
This process is a foundational step in effective stress management. Stress gurus rely on several types of assessments to give them insight as to the kind of stress you have, what type of coping method would best suit your situation and how to help you increase your ability to manage it permanently. There are three types of assessments to use in order to capture the important information necessary to treat your worry levels.
Developed by psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe in 1967, this scientifically accurate stress scale is used universally throughout the medical and mental health fields as a gauge for the stress in a person’s life and their potential for illness and/or accident.
In their scale, Holmes-Rahe assigned each life event (death of a spouse, holidays, criminal charges, family disagreements, etc.) with a “weight” for stress, called a Life Change Unit (LCU). The more LCUs a person has, the higher their score and the more likelihood of illness. For example, if you were to score 225 LCUs you would be at a 50% higher chance of having a major illness within the next two years.
Take the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale at https://jbpartners.com/publications
One factor the Holmes-Rahe scale doesn’t measure is a sense of being overwhelmed or the level of burnout you may be feeling. That is better determined with a Stress Self-Assessment.
Unlike scientific tests, such as the Holmes-Rahe Scale, self-assessments are subjective and highly personal. This is great news! That means for every self-assessment you take, you are getting results meant only for you. You learn a little more about your kind of stress, how you feel when you are feeling this way and suggested tools and resources to help you manage your this distress.
When taking a stress self-assessment, be sure to keep the following hints in mind:
- Think about the last 12 months, as that adds greater evidence and examples.
- If wavering between answers, select the one that measures you when you’re more stressed. You will get results with support, tools, and resources.
- The more stress your result shows, the higher the potential for improvement. Don’t let the end results add to your anxiety.
- Stress self-assessments are tools to be used to create a higher awareness around the issues of being overwhelmed. They are not intended to be diagnostic and you are encouraged to seek medical guidance from your primary physician.
Many self-assessments can be found here or use Google to search for other such assessments.
Daily Stress Test
Carrying around the Holmes-Rahe Scale or accessing a computer to take an online self-assessment isn’t always feasible. It’s the daily, in-the-moment awareness of your anxiety and worry levels that is the most important to make sure you don’t reach and cross your threshold. Having pocket tools — those easy to use tools readily accessible throughout the day — such as the Daily Stress Test can help you gauge how much strain you have and help you wisely choose the coping methods appropriate for your stress level in any situation. To make the most of the test be sure to answer in facts, not feelings. Facts are specifics that people can discuss. Feelings are personal responses that people can validate. Try these questions out:
- On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being not overwhelmed and 10 being fully overwhelmed, what is my stress level?
- What specifically is creating my stress?
- What is my current stress response?
- How is this stress response holding me back in this situation?
- What can I accept, alter, or avoid right now to create a new situation?
- After the execution of Step 5 again ask, “On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being no stress and 10 being overwhelmed, what is my stress level?” If your number hasn’t changed, repeat the process. If the number has decreased, continue with your coping method until your number is 5 or less.
Now with the acknowledgment that you are overwhelmed and the greater understanding of the importance of assessing it, follow these next steps to effective stress management:
- Commit to learning more about your type of stress and how your stress response impacts the way you live. Without the continued discovery of what’s set you off, you will never live the optimal life you so deserve.
- Connect to a stress management coach via social media or in person. You can gain a lot of insight by reading an expert’s blog, taking their webinars, attending seminars or even working with them 1:1.
- Change just one thing. You can start with the easiest or the one that will make the most impact in your life. Regardless, it’s time to change the way to do, think, feel and live if you want your stress to change.
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Interested in keeping your stress at bay?
Note: If you have thoughts of hurting yourself and/or others, please call the national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 immediately.
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