Step 3 - Measure Your Stress Levels With An Individual Stress Test (30 min)

SUMMARY POINTS

> Stress levels can be measured using the Holmes-Rahe scale or the hassles scale
> Holmes-Rahe scale only takes major life events into account
> Daily hassles scale reflects a more accurate measurement

In order to see if you’re making progress in managing your stress, we’ll need to establish a baseline of what your current stress levels are like today.

We’ll do this by taking two variations of stress tests of your current life.

Then, after applying a few strategies over a preset amount of time (weeks, months, years) we can then, retake the same stress tests and see if you’ve made progress.

The most commonly known stress test is called the Holmes-Rahe stress test.

Holmes-Rahe Individual Stress Test

In 1967, two psychiatrists, Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, surveyed 5,000 medical patients with a list of 43 life event stressors. The results of this study showed that those who had experienced life stressors were more likely to suffer from illness or ailments than those that did not.

These findings and list of events were called the “Social Readjustment Rating Scale” or SRRS for short. However, it’s more widely known as the Holmes-Rahe stress scale.

Print out the Holmes-Rahe stress scale here and see how your stress ranks and the possibility of illness that may arise from it.

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Print out the stress scale
2. Review each of the items listed
3a. If you experienced the event this year, copy the number in the “My Score” column
3b. If the event has happened more than once, then multiply the score by its frequency
4. Total your score and check ranking on the table below

Select the range where your stress fall into:

Life Change Units

Probability of Illness

300 or more

80%

150 - 299

50%

Less than 150

30%

According to the Holmes-Rahe scale, the higher the score, the greater the chance that you’ll get sick during the year.

While this stress test was good in its early days, it doesn’t accurately reflect today’s world. The two issues we have with this study are the following:

First, the Holmes-Rahe study doesn’t distinguish whether or not the life event was a good or bad thing.

For example, a “change in responsibilities at work” can have different outcomes based on the person’s situation. Either could be good or bad, right? Think about Bob and Jen earlier. If Bob got reassigned to work in the research department, he’d be much happier.

Second, the Holmes-Rahe study doesn’t take our day-to-day stresses into account. It only measures the life events. Daily stresses, especially those that are ongoing, can have just as much negative impact as those big life stressors.

It’s like that one spot of the daily drive commute that is always soul-crushing.

So, here's another more modern alternative to an individual stress test.

"Daily Hassles" Individual Stress Test

In 1981, the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, published this Berkeley study that addresses the two points above and others with an updated and revised methodology.

Rather than life events, this Berkeley study uses a list of daily hassles that we’d encounter more often. Some of the daily hassles include things like losing items, job dissatisfaction, waiting in line, coworker issues, etc. Next, this list only counts stressors that have negatively impacted you.

The results of the study prove that daily hassles (stressors) are a much better indicator of a person’s current stress levels and chances for stress related problems.

So, let’s do this stress test too. It’s a better, more updated way to measure your stress.

Print out this stress test worksheet and follow the instructions below.

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Read the hassle listed
2a. If it’s negatively impacting you, check the box then circle the severity from 1 to 3
2b. If the stressor is not negatively impacting you, leave it blank
3. Add up the total number of hassles (checkmarks)
4. Add up the total severity ratings

On average, most people will have about 30 daily hassles (give or take a few) that affect them in a negative way. If you experience significantly more than 30 negative hassles daily, you are more apt to experience stress related illnesses.

Next, if your total severity score is more than twice the number of hassles, then you are really going through some stressful days. For example, if your total number of hassles is 40 and the total severity of those hassles exceeds 80, you’re going through some big time stress.

If it’s really bad, you may want to consider getting help soon.

Now that you have this baseline, save the results and file it away. We’ll compare this baseline against other future stress checks. And, hopefully, both numbers will gradually go down.