Everyone feels stress from time to time, but how do you know how much stress is normal? And how can you tell if you’re feeling stressed too often? In order to find out, we have constructed a stress test. Beneath are three separate stress tests that involve both physical and psychological prompts to determine your level of stress, with some stress management tips to get you feeling at the top of your game.
To begin, we will look into the ‘Perceived Stress Test’ which requires you to think about your feelings and thoughts throughout the last month. Then there is ‘Assess Stress Test’ which involves recording your heartbeat, breathing pattern and respiration rate, and finally, the ‘Symptoms of Stress’ test, which looks at the physical symptoms of stress such as headache, muscle tension, mood, and sleep. After taking all three stress tests, you will be able to determine your stress level and be well on your way to correcting some of the damage done to your body by stress.
0 = Never; 1 = Almost Never; 2 = Sometimes; 3 = Fairly Often; 4 = Very Often
|In the last month, how often have you been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly?||0||1||2||3||4|
|In the last month, how often have you felt that you were unable to control the important things in your life?||0||1||2||3||4|
|In the last month, how often have you felt nervous and “stressed”?||0||1||2||3||4|
|In the last month, how often have you felt confident about your ability to handle your personal problems?||0||1||2||3||4|
|In the last month, how often have you felt that things were going your way?||0||1||2||3||4|
|In the last month, how often have you found that you could not cope with all the things that you had to do?||0||1||2||3||4|
|In the last month, how often have you been able to control irritations in your life?||0||1||2||3||4|
|In the last month, how often have you felt that you were on top of things?||0||1||2||3||4|
|In the last month, how often have you been angered because of things that were outside of your control?||0||1||2||3||4|
|In the last month, how often have you felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them?||0||1||2||3||4|
You can determine your PSS score by following these directions:
First, reverse your scores for questions 4, 5, 7, & 8 and change your scores like this: 0 = 4, 1 = 3, 2 = 2, 3 = 1, 4 = 0.
Now add up your scores to get a total. My total score is ______.
Individual scores on the PSS can range from 0 to 40 with higher scores indicating higher perceived stress.
- Scores ranging from 0-13 would be considered low stress.
- Scores ranging from 14-26 would be considered moderate stress.
- Scores ranging from 27-40 would be considered high perceived stress.
The Perceived Stress Scale is interesting because your perception of what is happening in your life is different to those around you. Some people may perceive that they have higher stress in their life than others experiencing the exact same events, so it is always important to know that no matter your situation, comparing your stress with others will never benefit anyone.
Just consider the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”
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Assess Stress Test
Many factors are involved in determining a general level of stress. Physiological measures such as increased heart rate and increased respiration rate are easy ways of measuring your stress levels and while there are many factors that affect these rates, these physical factors help determine stress in a far more obvious way.
Resting Heart Rate
Check your resting heart rate after you have been sitting or relaxing for a period of time. You will need a clock with a second hand or digital watch. You can find your radial pulse on the thumb side of your wrist or your carotid pulse on your neck just under the jaw.
For sixty seconds count the number of beats that you feel. Place this number in the first line of the Assess Stress Table below.
To measure your breathing rate, sit in a chair with your back pressed against the backrest. Place one hand on your abdomen with your palm covering your navel and place your other hand on the upper part of your chest with the palm just above the heart. While sitting straight up, notice your breath as it goes in and comes back out. Is it your abdominal hand or your chest hand? Or do they both move equally? If you felt your chest moving more than your abdomen, then you are a chest breather and vice versa for an abdominal breather.
Now you can record your results on the Assess Your Stress Table.
Now, for about a minute, become aware of your breathing again. This time, just count how many natural, effortless breaths you take in a minute. Be sure to breathe as normally and naturally as possible. Each inhalation and exhalation cycle is considered one breath. The number of breaths in one minute is your respiration rate.
Record the number of breaths you take per minute in the Assess Your Stress table.
Another self-assessment is the Stress-o-meter. Think back over this last month and give yourself a rating according to the following scale. A score of 1 would indicate that you feel your life has been relatively stress-free, restful and calm during this period. A 10 score would mean that you felt very high anxiety most of the time with periods bordering on neurosis, suicidal or very depressed feelings. A score of 10 would mean that this was a month packed with high levels of stress.
Considering the last month as one single period of time, it is most likely that you would rank yourself somewhere between these two extremes. If you were to average the month (we all have highs and lows), what number would you give yourself on this scale from 1 to 10? Make a note of this number on the Assess Your Stress Table as we will refer to this number again later.
Assess Your Stress Table
|Resting Heart Rate||___ beats per minute|
|Breathing Pattern||___ abdomen ___ chest ___ both|
|Respiration Rate||___ breaths per minute|
|Stress-o-meter||1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10|
The average pulse rate for an adult is approximately 70-80 beats per minute. The average respiration rate is about 12-16 breaths per minute. A faster heartbeat or breathing rate than these may be an indication of higher stress levels, though of course this may easily be challenged during periods of exercise or calm.
Your perception of stress primarily determines how your body responds. The Stress-o-meter is there to help you perceive the stress in your life in order to manage stress effectively.
Now you can look back over your results recorded in the Assess Your Stress Table. What does this information tell you about your stress level?
Symptoms of Stress
This test is to see your physiological responses to stress and the frequency at which you have felt these symptoms. This test is particularly useful for those who would like to talk to a medical professional, as it will allow them to fully gauge the stress management tips and techniques that will aid you the most.
Frequency of Symptoms
|Symptoms||Almost all day, every day||Once or twice, daily||Every night or day||2-3 times a week||Once a week||Once a month||Never|
|Tense muscles, sore neck and/ or back|
|Anxiety, worry, phobias|
|Difficulty falling asleep|
|Bouts of anger/ hostility|
|Eating too much/ not enough|
|Diarrhoea, cramps, gas, constipation|
|Restlessness, itching, tics|
These are just a few of the stress management tests that you can try. There are plenty more available and even more you can do with the help of a medical professional. Now that you have completed these, you will be more capable of understanding your stress levels, your symptoms and how you perceive stress in your life.
When looking for stress tips, it is important to focus on the natural rather than pharmaceutical options first, as pharmaceutical options rarely target the root of your stress. Looking after yourself can be easy. There are plenty of natural stress remedies and a huge range of natural stress management tips out there to try, before relying on drugs that will only patch rather than ease symptoms of stress.