Stressed Out? What's Your Stress Score ?

Stressed Out? What's Your Stress Score ?

Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
—Viktor Frankl

Stress is a natural part of life. In physics, stress is a force that acts on a specific object and causes deformation or strain. In its application to health and wellness, stress is seen as a force that causes mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual strain.

Endocrinologist Hans Selye is considered by many to be the scientific father of the modern idea that stress has a significant effect on living organisms. He was the first to determine that stress affects us whether it’s considered good or bad, positive or negative.

"Good" Stress vs. "Bad" Stress

He defined eustress (pronounced “you-stress”) as healthy stress that gives one a feeling of fulfillment and enjoyment or enhances physical and mental functions in some way. The Greek root eu means “well” or “good”; thus, eu-stress is good stress.

Examples of eustress include strength training, challenging work, getting married, riding a roller coaster, and experiencing the holidays. Eustress includes positive, healthy gains such as increasing enjoyment and capacity for life, and making meaningful connections with yourself and others.

Distress, on the other hand, is persistent stress that goes beyond our ability to respond. This word originated from the Latin districtus, meaning “divided in mind.” Distress can’t be resolved through coping or adapting. This chronic, unresolved stress can lead to anxiety, withdrawal, and many other physical and emotional problems.

Examples include repeated and irreconcilable challenges at work, at home, or in other relationships.

Measuring Your Stress with the Social Readjustment Rating Scale

Scientists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe took these ideas further and developed the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, now called the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. Their scale lists stressful life events and gives them a numerical score. Higher scores predict a greater chance that stress will lead to disease. The scale includes examples of positive eustress as well as negative distress. It demonstrates that mind, body, and spirit do not differentiate between positive and negative stress.

Stressed Out? What's Your Stress Score ? Here is the scale for your review. Use it as a way to focus your awareness on these types of events and the areas of your life they are affecting. To measure stress using this scale, add the number of “Life Change Units” that apply to events within the past year of your life. The final score gives a rough estimate of how stress influences the risk of developing an illness.

If your score is very high, it’s important to realize that it doesn’t sentence you to illness. Basically, this scale points out that any change is stressful and can throw us out of balance, especially if we are not aware. This is why it’s so important to meet change when we are calm and at rest. It’s vital to stop and cultivate awareness as much as possible so we are aware of how our life is being influenced.

Change is inevitable, and balance is possible through awareness. Small, well-matched tools used intentionally can promote balance and prevent illness and disease.

Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale:

Life Event

Life Change Units

Death of a spouse




Marital separation




Death of a close family member


Personal injury or illness




Dismissal from work


Marital reconciliation




Change in health of family member




Sexual difficulties


Gain a new family member


Business readjustment


Change in financial state


Death of a close friend


Change to different line of work


Change in frequency of arguments


Major mortgage


Foreclosure of mortgage or loan


Change in responsibilities at work


Child leaving home


Trouble with in-laws


Outstanding personal achievement


Spouse starts or stops work


Begin or end school


Change in living conditions


Revision of personal habits


Trouble with boss


Change in working hours or conditions


Change in residence


Change in schools


Change in recreation


Change in church activities


Change in social activities


Minor mortgage or loan


Change in sleeping habits


Change in number of family reunions


Change in eating habits






Minor violation of law


Score of 300+: At risk of illness

Score of 150–299+: Risk of illness is moderate (reduced by 30% from the above risk)

Score of 150 or less: Slight risk of illness

Don't Get Stressed Out About Stress!

Further scientific studies began to define exactly how stress causes illness. For example, the immune system functions poorly after periods of severe stress. Most of us would agree that chronic, unrelenting stress can lead to dis-stress, or bad stress. This can lead to continued unaddressed imbalances, which can then lead to illness and dis-ease.

We can easily identify the major events listed in the Holmes and Rahe scale, but what about the small events that stress us out during the day? The red traffic light that seems ridiculously long, small affronts from others, distressing thoughts and feelings — these are everyday occurrences that also add up in time. In short, we know that:

  • Stress is a natural and often beneficial part of life.
  • Making positive health changes is stressful at first.
  • Our reactions to stressful events play an important role in how they affect us.

Questions to ponder:

  • How much stress is too much for you?
  • How can you adapt to change and stressful events, using eustress to help you grow, while reducing the accumulation of chronic distress that leads to illness?
  • How do you keep a healthy balance?

©2012 by Matt Mumber & Heather Reed.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

Published by New Page Books a division of Career Press,
Pompton Plains, NJ. 800-227-3371. All rights reserved.

This article was adapted with permission from the book:

Sustainable Wellness: An Integrative Approach to Transform Your Mind, Body, and Spirit
by Matt Mumber, MD and Heather Reed.

Stressed Out? What's Your Stress Score ? Sustainable Wellness combines modern scientific research with ancient methods that benefit the individual on all levels. The authors share tested techniques, personal stories of triumph, and daily exercises that will guide you on the path to sustainable wellness.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book on Amazon.

About the Authors

Stressed Out? What's Your Stress Score ? Dr. Matthew Mumber is an award-winning, board-certified radiation oncologist and co-director of the MD Ambassador Program and Integrative Oncology Program at Harbin Clinic in Rome, Georgia. He gives talks, leads workshops nationally, and writes extensively on integrative approaches to oncology, health, and wellness. Dr. Mumber is the founder of the nonprofit organization, Cancer Navigators Inc. He was named a Health Care Hero by Georgia Trend Magazine.

Stressed Out? What's Your Stress Score ? Heather Reed has been teaching yoga since 1996. She specializes in using yoga and meditation techniques for people living with cancer, post-polio syndrome, and other chronic illnesses. Heather currently facilitates Cancer Navigators residential retreats and support groups in person and online from Austin, Texas.

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