“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye, Austrian-Canadian endocrinologist, pioneered existence of biological stress
One of the most common conversations, in my work with high performing executives + CEOs, is about managing the level of responsibility and stress. Everyone thrives at a different stress scale level, and some stress can bring us to higher levels of performance. But the source – and intensity – also affects us differently. It’s a very fine line between maximum performance, and overloaded meltdown.
There’s a way to measure how much is too much. The Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) is a list of 43 stressful life events that can contribute to illness – also known as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, after psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, who first published the list in 1967.
“A condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize…when we feel that things are out of control”. – Richard Lazarus, Behavioural Psychologist
Each life event (in the past year) is given a score, the total of which gives an estimate of how stress can affect health. Score more than 300 and we’re at the highest risk for illness. Under 150, the risk is slight. Predictably, the death of someone close, loss of a job and a move are on the list. Surprisingly, so are vacations. My wife feels the stress, I know, because there’s so much to do to get ready for one.
When we’re absorbed and engaged in managing these things, we don’t take time to notice their effect. But when the smaller things stack up, or a big one hits, the stress becomes destructive rather than constructive. And then we are vulnerable.
Most people can handle higher levels of stress for a week or so. But, stay there too long, and it will impact your health, your sleep, your ability to focus, and your relationships.
And you often can’t tell until it’s too late.
At the very least, you need to make sure you regularly manage the basics: to sleep, exercise and eat well. Beyond that if the stress is too much – for too long – you must find a way to reduce the intensity, and to get back on your feet. That includes seeking professional help.
- Figure out your stress score on the Scale. Click here for the automated version, or manually using the list below.
- If you are in the healthy zone, congratulations
- If you’re not, figure out what you can do to bring it down soon
I’d like to acknowledge Graham Robins, CEO of A&A Customs Broker | Founder at BorderBuddy for sharing this wonderful tool.
Social Readjustment Rating Scale
Add up the number of “Life Change Units” that apply to events that have happened in the past year. The final score will give a rough estimate of how stress affects health.
- Death of a spouse – 100 Life Change Units
- Divorce – 73 Life Change Units
- Marital separation – 65 Life Change Units
- Imprisonment – 63 Life Change Units
- Death of a close family member – 63 Life Change Units
- Personal injury or illness – 53 Life Change Units
- Marriage – 50 Life Change Units
- Dismissal from work – 47 Life Change Units
- Marital reconciliation – 45 Life Change Units
- Retirement – 45 Life Change Units
- Change in health of family member – 44 Life Change Units
- Pregnancy – 40 Life Change Units
- Sexual difficulties -39 Life Change Units
- Gain a new family member – 39 Life Change Units
- Business readjustment – 39 Life Change Units
- Change in financial state – 38 Life Change Units
- Death of a close friend – 37 Life Change Units
- Change to different line of work – 36 Life Change Units
- Change in frequency of arguments – 35 Life Change Units
- Major mortgage – 32 Life Change Units
- Foreclosure of mortgage or loan – 30 Life Change Units
- Change in responsibilities at work – 29 Life Change Units
- Child leaving home – 29 Life Change Units
- Trouble with in-laws – 29 Life Change Units
- Outstanding personal achievement – 28 Life Change Units
- Spouse starts or stops work – 26 Life Change Units
- Beginning or end school – 26 Life Change Units
- Change in living conditions – 25 Life Change Units
- Revision of personal habits – 24 Life Change Units
- Trouble with boss – 23 Life Change Units
- Change in working hours or conditions – 20 Life Change Units
- Change in residence – 20 Life Change Units
- Change in schools – 20 Life Change Units
- Change in recreation – 19 Life Change Units
- Change in church activities – 19 Life Change Units
- Change in social activities – 18 Life Change Units
- Minor mortgage or loan – 17 Life Change Units
- Change in sleeping habits – 16 Life Change Units
- Change in number of family reunions – 15 Life Change Units
- Change in eating habits – 15 Life Change Units
- Vacation – 13 Life Change Units
- Major Holiday – 12 Life Change Units
- Minor violation of law – 11 Life Change Units
- 300+: At risk of illness
- 150-299: Risk of illness is moderate (reduced by 30% from the above risk)
- <150: Only have a slight risk of illness