Stress is not always caused by significant events. Other contributing factors include mental models, daily habits, relational dynamics, and environmental factors. Whatever the cause, it’s important to understand the scope of the problem. Last week we looked at a stressful event scale. This week, we present a stressful symptom scale so you can see how much stress is manifesting in your life. It’s neither healthy nor productive to be stressed out; this Provision will help you to know where you stand.
Whether or not this may itself be an indicator of stress, I have started to tweet on Twitter. If you don’t know what that means, then you’re not up on the Internet craze to post 140-character messages on Twitter.com. I figure if it’s good enough for Jack Welch, it’s good enough for me. If you’d like to follow my occasional tweet, whether it be an update on my travels or my thoughts, I’m at www.twitter.com/LifeTrekBob. You can reply publicly to my posts by using the @LifeTrekBob format.
Today’s we’re continuing our journey into understanding how much stress we are under by looking at stressful symptoms. Last week we reviewed events that cause significant stress (all events cause some stress if we have to deal with them, significant events cause significant stress which takes a toll over time). Whether or not you scored 300 points or more on the Social Readjustment Scale, you may still be living with a significant amount of stress.
How could that be? Stress takes many forms and comes from many places. External events are only part of the equation. Internal processing, daily habits, relational dynamics, and environmental factors also influence how much stress we experience and cope with on a day-to-day basis. People who “have no time” to exercise or meditate, for example, tend to be much more stressed out than those who do take time for such self-care activities. Those who tend to beat themselves up about setbacks and mistakes experience more stress than those who are forgiving and compassionate. So, too, with those who lack vital, life-giving connections with other people or contend with toxic environments. No one can be in such places without stress.
So if you passed last week’s assessment regarding stressful events, but you still feel stressed out all the time, it probably has to do with those other items. To get a sense of how much stress you are carrying, you may want to look at how frequently you experience the following stress symptoms. Adapted from the work of Thomas Yarnell, Clinical Psychologist, the following table lists 33 symptoms that may indicate a serious problem depending upon how seriously and frequently you experience them. Mark down your experience with each item according to the following rating scale: 0 = Not a Problem, 1 = Mild and Occasional, 2 = Mild and Often, 4 = Severe but Occasional, 5 = Severe and Often.
|Unusual heart beat (fast, pounding, irregular, etc.)|
|Unusual breathing (fast, shallow)|
|Restless feeling (feels like you have to move)|
|Feels warm or hot when it isn’t|
|Sweat more than normal|
|Muscles feel tight or tense|
|Nervous stomach (gas, diarrhea, constipation)|
|Urinate more than normal for you|
|Tired more than normal for you|
|Often have colds|
|Often get the flu|
|Loss of appetite|
|Increase in appetite|
|Sexual problems (any kind)|
|Unhappy when there is no apparent reason|
|Dissatisfied with where you are in your life|
|Weighted Total of Each Column|
|Grand Total of All Weighted Totals|
Note that the total of each column is a weighted total. That means you do not just add up the number of items checked in each column. You add up the number of items checked and multiply by the rating scale. If you marked three items as being Severe and Often, for example, then your total for column five is fifteen (3 x 5) not three. And if you marked twenty-five items as being Not a Problem, then your total for column one is zero (25 x 0) not twenty-five. The grand total is the sum of the five weighted totals.
How much is too much when it comes to your stress symptoms? According to Dr. Yarnell, that’s just 20 or more. At that point, stress is starting to take a toll on your happiness, health, and functionality. But then I probably didn’t have to tell you that. If you have severe and frequent panic attacks, for example, sending you to the emergency room for treatment, then you’re probably pretty debilitated on that count alone (even if your total number is less than 20). Throw in a few others and it’s time to address all five of the underlying causes of stress: mental models, daily habits, relational dynamics, environmental factors, and significant events.
We’ll be spending a lot of time on the antidotes to stress in the weeks ahead. For now, I just want you to gain an awareness of the stress you are experiencing. Most of us dismiss stress as an inevitable part of life; it is what it is, we think, and we just have to tough it out until it passes. We do not always appreciate that stress comes in degrees, that high stress can be as life threatening as any other malady, and that we have the ability to ameliorate stress if we choose to do so. If we find ourselves scoring high on one or more of the stress index scales, it’s time to STOP:
- Step back
- Organize our thoughts
If you find it challenging to STOP on your own, then it’s time to call a friend, hire a coach, see a doctor, and/or try other approaches until you find one that works for you. I know many of my clients appreciate the STOP that coaching conversations represent in their lives. They might not take that time on their own, but they will talk things through over the phone or on Skype when they put those appointments on their calendar. If nothing else, such conversations quench the flames of stress at which point it becomes possible to engage more happily and productively with life.
Coaching Inquiries: How many symptoms of stress do you experience on a regular basis? How much of a toll do you think they are taking on your life? What would enable you to manage them better? Who could you talk with to sort this through before proceeding?
To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation. To learn more about LifeTrek Coaching programs, Click Here.
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..
I continue to enjoy your weekly Provisions! I am thinking about becoming a certified wellness Coach so I think I will follow the recommendation you made to get training through Wellcoaches.
I noticed you added my book to your recent newsletter. Thanks! I appreciate you and your support.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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