Any change in your life can lead to stress. This includes even pleasurable activities,
such as vacations or new forms of recreation. You can also be in a stressful situation
such as a difficult job or a long-term illness of a spouse. If you think you might
be experiencing stress, this assessment may help you identify its effects on you.
You probably know some of the common signs of stress. They include a pounding heart,
sweaty palms, and feeling anxious. But you may respond to stress in many other ways
too, from feeling irritable to driving recklessly. Recognizing how you react to stress
is an important step toward managing it.
Everyone responds to stress differently. This assessment will help you identify your
particular stress profile. Listed below are the kinds of physical, mental, and emotional
responses people may have to stress—some of which you may not have considered before.
Review these lists and think about which reactions apply to you when you’re under
stress. Check all the reactions you have experienced in stressful situations.
In each category, check any symptoms you’ve had in the past month. Remember, the
reactions you choose may be indicators of stress. But stress is only one of the possible
causes of these symptoms. Talk with your health care provider if you have questions
or concerns about the items you check.
About Your Stress Profile
Because everyone responds to stress differently, it's important to recognize your
own stress profile. Recognizing when you're under stress is an important step toward
learning to manage it. Review the items you checked below. Some or all of these reactions
may make up your stress profile.
You have not selected any of the common symptoms of stress from the list. Since you
did not check any reactions to stress, stress level is probably low. However, any
event has the potential of causing stress. You might want to review the ways to decrease
reactions to stress in the 'Minimize Stress' section below. That way, when you do
have a stress response, you'll have tools to help you cope with it.
Your physical reactions
- Tightness in the chest
- Muscle aches (neck, shoulders, back, or legs)
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Problems with digestive system
- Change in appetite (increase or decrease)
- Tense muscles and muscle cramps
- Sleep problems (too much or too little)
- Nervous habits (nail biting, tongue clucking)
- Dry mouth or throat
- High blood pressure
- Excessive sweating
- Pounding heart
- Grinding teeth
- Nervous tic
- Difficulty breathing
- Frequent colds
Your thoughts and feelings
- Wanting to cry, or crying easily
- Getting upset about little annoyances
- Feeling low self-esteem
- Feeling fearful and anxious
- Feeling tired most of the time
- Always feeling rushed
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Being forgetful
- Feeling confused
- Feeling impatient
- Feeling irritable
- Feeling like nobody likes you
- Lacking joy
- Feeling helpless
- Not getting along with people
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Not trusting people
- Lowered sex drive
- Being more or less active than usual
- Driving recklessly
- Lashing out
- Getting angry easily
- Making errors
- Turning to alcohol, tobacco, or drugs for relief
The items you checked may be responses to the stress in your life. The more items
you checked, the more likely stress is having an impact on your life. Stress can affect
your body, mind, emotions, and behavior. Although a little stress isn't harmful, persistent,
long-term stress can raise your risk for illnesses, including obesity, heart disease,
peptic ulcers, and asthma. Long-term stress can cause digestive problems and weaken
your immune system.
The first step to managing stress is to recognize when you are under stress and find
out what triggers it. Look over the symptoms you've checked. Keep these symptoms in
mind as you go through each day. If you notice one of these symptoms, ask yourself
what may have triggered it.
Keeping a stress log can help you recognize when you are under stress and identify
what caused it. For a week, keep track of anything, big or small, that triggers feelings
of stress. Note the date and time. Also record your response. What were your stress
symptoms? By the end of the week, you’ll know your stressors and how you react to
them. Once you understand your stress response, you’ll be able to handle stress better.
The symptoms you checked may be indicators of stress. But stress is only one of the
possible causes of these symptoms. Talk to your health care provider if you have questions
or concerns about your symptoms.
You can't eliminate all the stress in your life, but you can reduce it. Here are some
ideas on how to do that:
- Realize that you can't control everything. Take responsibility for what you can and
learn to let go of those things that are beyond your control. Focus on managing stressful
situations and understand that the cause of your stress may never be completely eliminated.
- Don't be afraid to say "no." If additional responsibilities or commitments will make
you feel stressed, turn them down. Stand up for yourself; don't let others' desires
or demands take precedent.
- Plan ahead for stressful events. If you need to give a speech, for instance, give
yourself time to prepare for it.
- Approach changes in your life as challenges or opportunities instead of threats.
- Be realistic about goals you set for yourself.
- Exercise most days of the week. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity
exercise each day.
- Get enough sleep.
- Follow a healthy diet.
- Get involved in hobbies or social events that are pleasurable.
- Meditate or practice stress-reduction techniques.
- Practice deep breathing. When you are stressed, you take shallow breaths.
This shallow breathing triggers an increase in stress hormones. To calm down, breathe
deeply. Deep breathing puts a break on your heart rate, brings down your blood pressure,
and boosts the amount of oxygen you take in. Deep breathing also helps you feel in