Stress Assessment

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Symptoms of Stress

How frequently do you find yourself experiencing such problems as headaches, problems going to sleep or staying asleep, unexplained muscle pain, jaw pain, uncontrolled anger, and frustration? Using the table below, assess the frequency that you experience these common symptoms of stress.

The following are a series of self-assessment scales to help us determine the degree and type of stress we are experiencing and how well our stress coping skills are working.

Tense muscles, sore neck & backs
Anxiety, worry, phobias
Difficulty falling asleep
Bouts of anger/ hostility
Boredom depression
Eating too much / too little
Diarrhea, cramps, gas constipation
Restlessness, itching, tics

· Impact ·

The more often you experience these symptoms of stress, the more likely stress is having a negative impact on your life. You may be so used to feeling a certain way that you assume this is normal. Look back over the Symptoms of Stress Table. Are there symptoms of stress that you would like to eliminate or change?

Perceived Stress scale

A more precise measure of personal stress can be determined by using a variety of instruments that have been designed to help measure individual stress levels. The first of these is called the Perceived Stress Scale.

The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) is a classic stress assessment instrument. This tool, while originally developed in 1983, remains a popular choice for helping us understand how different situations affect our feelings and our perceived stress. The questions in this scale ask about your feelings and thoughts during the last month. In each case, you will be asked to indicate how often you felt or thought a certain way. Although some of the questions are similar, there are differences between them and you should treat each one as a separate question. The best approach is to answer fairly quickly. That is, don’t try to count up the number of times you felt a particular way; rather indicate the alternative that seems like a reasonable estimate.

In the last month, how often have you been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly?
In the last month, how often have you felt that you were unable to control the important things in your life?
In the last month, how often have you felt nervous and stressed?
In the last month, how often have you felt confident about your ability to handle your personal problems?
In the last month, how often have you felt that things were going your way?
In the last month, how often have you found that you could not cope with all the things that you had to do?
In the last month, how often have you been able to control irritations in your life?
In the last month, how often have you felt that you were on top of things?
In the last month, how often have you been angered because of things that happened that were outside of your control?
In the last month, how often have you felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them?

The Ardell Wellness Stress Test

Don Ardell developed a stress assessment that is unique in its holistic approach to stress. In chapter one, you learned about the importance of incorporating all dimensions of health in your understanding of stress. The Ardell Wellness Stress Test incorporates physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social aspects of health for a balanced assessment.

Choice of career
Present job/ business/ school
Marital status
Primary relationships
Capacity to have fun
Amount of fun experienced in last month
Financial prospects
Current income level
Level of self-esteem
Prospects for having impact on those who know you and possibly others
Sex life
Body, how it looks and performs
Home life
Life skills and knowledge of issues and facts unrelated to your job or profession
Learned stress management capacities
Nutritional knowledge, attitudes, and choices
Ability to recover from disappointment, hurts, setbacks, and tragedies
Confidence that you currently are, or will in the future be, reasonably close to your highest potential.
Achievement of a rounded or balanced quality in your life
Sense that life for you is on an upward curve, getting better and fuller all the time
Level of participation in issues and concerns beyond your immediate interests
Choice whether to parent or not and with the consequences or results of that choice
Role in some kind of network of friends, relatives, and/or others about whom you care deeply and who reciprocate that commitment to you.
Emotional acceptance of the inescapable reality of aging

Ardell Wellness Stress Test Interpretation

+ 51 to + 75 You are a self-actualized person, nearly immune from the ravages of stress. There are few, if any, challenges likely to untrack you from a sense of near total well-being.

+ 25 to + 50 You have mastered the wellness approach to life and have the capacity to deal creatively and efficiently with events and circumstances.

+ 1 to + 24 You are a wellness-oriented person, with an ability to prosper as a whole person, but you should give a bit more attention to optimal health concepts and skill building.

0 to – 24 You are a candidate for additional training in how to deal with stress. A sudden increase in potentially negative events and circumstances could cause a severe emotional setback.

-25 to – 50 You are a candidate for counseling. You are either too pessimistic or have severe problems in dealing with stress.

-51 to – 75 You are a candidate for major psychological care with virtually no capacity for coping with life’s problems.

*Adapted from High Level Wellness: An Alternative to Doc, Drugs and Disease by Don Ardell

Look back at the items in the Ardell Wellness Stress Test. Identify which items related more to physical health, to mental health, to emotional health, to spiritual health, and to social health. Do you see any patterns develop? For instance, are more areas of disappointment related to physical health than to social health? Remember, for holistic health we are seeking a balance in all dimensions of health.


Stress Coping Resources Inventory: A Self-Assessment

People differ remarkably in their responses to potentially stressful events. For instance, about one in ten hostages comes out of captivity a mentally healthier person that when entering, while the others may face extreme emotional difficulty. What are the factors associated with coping success? The questions below relate to factors most closely associated with the capacity to cope successfully with stress. Circle the letter which lists the option that you choose. Answer each question as honestly as possible.

How frequently do you moderately exercise?
How often do you get a full, restful night of sleep?
To what extent is your energy sufficient for our work and daily activities?
How closely does your weight approach the ideal level?
To what extent do you eat a nutritious diet?
Which of the following best describes your use of tobacco?
To what extent do you believe that you have a history of coping well with highly stressful situations?
How confident are you of being able to control your emotions in stressful situations?
When things are not going well, how likely are you to view the situation as being temporary rather than permanent?
When something bad happens to you, how likely are you to exaggerate its importance?
When stressed by a complex situation, how likely are you to focus your attention on those aspects of the situation that you can manage?
When highly stressed, how capable are you of changing your thinking to calm down?
When confronted with a stressful situation, how likely are you to wait passively for events to develop rather than to take charge?
Which of the following courses of action are you most likely to take when you have become thoroughly frustrated?
If you had worn an article of clothing one day and then found it to be flawed, how likely would you be to return it and ask for a refund?
When an unexpected, negative event happens to you, how likely are you to actively seek information about the event and how to cope with it?
How much decision-making power so you have in your family?
How much decision-making power do you have in your working environment? (if not working outside the home at present, use your last job as a basis for answering this question.)
To what extent do you believe that events in your life are merely the result of luck, fate, or chance?
What is your best guess as to the extent and quality of contact you had with your parent(s) shortly after birth?
During your early childhood, to what extent was your mother both calm and generally permissive?
How easily do you make friends in a strange situation?
When highly stressed, how likely are you to ask friends or relatives for help?
In comparison with other people, how likely are you to see others as threatening, uncooperative, or exploitative?
How often are you confused about the intentions of others toward you?
To what extent are you frequently aware of practical, healthy ways of relaxing?
How frequently do you pursue some highly relaxing practice?
How often do you engage in a spiritual practice such as prayer, meditation, or inspirational reading to enrich your interior life?
How connected do you feel to your conception of a higher power or to a worthy cause?
To what extent do you believe your life has purpose?
How much contact do you have with what you would consider a spiritual community?


Interpreting Your Score
A perfect score on each scale would be 4. With this in mind, we might construct the following interpretive key:
An overall score of 3.5+ suggests you may be a superior stresscoper.

An overall score of 2.5-3.4 suggests you may be an above average stresscoper.

An overall score of 1.5-2.4 suggests you may be an average stresscoper.

An overall score of less than 1.5 suggests you may be a below average stresscoper.

Please note that the scoring legend has been derived rationally, not empirically.