Checking Your Stress Level: How to Measure It Yourself and When to Seek Help

by | Apr 2, 2024 | Medical Wellness

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, stress can often feel like an unavoidable companion. Stress is a natural response, but when left unchecked, chronic stress can take a toll on our health. So how can stress be measured accurately and when should we seek help? 

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Methods for Measuring Stress

1. Self-report Questionnaires for Chronic Stress

  • Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) is a popular tool for measuring how stressed we feel. It consists of 10 statements that evaluate how we perceive the stressfulness of situations in our lives over the past month. Because it focuses on the perception of stressors rather than specific events, the PSS is well-suited for capturing chronic stress experienced over an extended period. Higher scores indicate higher perceived stress.
  • Trier Inventory for Chronic Stress (TICS) assesses chronic stress experienced over the past three months. It has 57 items evaluating domains such as work-related stress, social stress, and chronic worrying. The results from TICS can also be used to help customize interventions for specific domains affected by stress.

Stress is not considered a mental health condition, but chronic stress may cause mental health problems. These questionnaires below serve as screening tools for stress-related mental health problems. 

2. Screening Tools

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  • General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) is a screening tool used to detect individuals experiencing psychological distress, including stress-related symptoms such as anxiety, depression, social dysfunction, and physical symptoms. It doesn’t diagnose specific mental health problems, but it helps identify people who might need further assessment and help from a doctor or therapist.
  • Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS) is another screening tool to measure the severity of symptoms related to depression, anxiety, and stress and to identify individuals at risk of mental health disorder. What’s unique about the DASS is that it can tell apart the different kinds of emotional problems someone might be having: whether the main source of distress is from depression, anxiety, or stress.

3. Physiological measures

Objective parameters for assessment include heart rate variability and stress hormone levels in blood tests. However, note that no single biomarker can accurately report stress levels because these parameters can fluctuate due to factors outside of stress.

My test results indicate a high level of stress. What should I do next?

If the results of the screening test indicate that you have high levels of distress or symptoms consistent with depression, anxiety, or stress, it may be wise to seek medical help promptly. This could include persistent feelings of sadness, overwhelming worry, changes in sleep or appetite, or thoughts of self-harm. Additionally, if these symptoms significantly interfere with your daily activities, work, relationships, or overall quality of life, seeking medical help is crucial.

While taking a screening test can provide valuable insights into one’s emotional well-being, it is not a substitute for professional evaluation. Remember, seeking help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a show of wisdom and courage to take care of our own well-being.

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