2.1 Individual responses
Patricia (in the video in the previous section) talks about resilience in individuals’ responses to stress; different people are affected by stress and anxiety in different ways and are resilient or able to cope with these feelings to differing extents. This suggests that any consideration of stress should be contextualised within the specifics of the individual. This is what you will do in the next activity, by measuring your own levels of stress and assessing your resilience.
You might wonder how abstract things like stress levels and resilience can be quantified accurately. To complete this part of the activity, you will be using a ‘stress scale’ developed by psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe. Holmes and Rahe surveyed a large sample of participants to help determine the stress impact of certain major life events. In 1967, they developed the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) – more commonly known as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale – a list of 43 of what they deemed to be life’s most stressful events, each with a score to indicate the level of impact. The most stressful event on this scale has a score of 100, while the least stressful event has a score of 11. In the following activity, you will go through the inventory for yourself to get an idea of the level of stress that you may have encountered.
Activity 3 Stress and resilience
Use an internet search engine (e.g. Google or Bing) to locate an online version of the Holmes and Rahe inventory (Holmes and Rahe, 1967), and use it to measure your stress levels.
Simply go through each of the events that have happened to you in the last year and add up the score for each one. If you experienced the same event more than once, add the score again for each extra occurrence of the event to improve the accuracy of your score. For guidance, see the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale information on the Mind Tools website [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . Once you have completed this, make a note of your results.
Answers will vary, because all our circumstances are different. For illustrative purposes two colleagues completed the Holmes and Rahe inventory. Colleague A had a score of 136, the change with the ‘most weight’ (i.e. item closest to the top of the list) was ‘Death of a close family member’, which is a stressful event. Given that these colleagues completed the inventory during the COVID-19 global pandemic it was not surprising that both had a ‘change in work hours or conditions’ and ‘change in number of family get together’. Colleague B scored 145 and noted ‘Marital separation’ was a significant stress for them. Both had scores in the ‘low’ stress range, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, with total scores below 150. Scores up to this threshold of 150 are still indicative of potential challenges that might require further support or assistance from others, even if this is informal from friends and family members.
There is advice for those using the inventory who wish to quantify their chances of experiencing stress. For example:
- if a person has fewer than 150 life change units they have a low risk of illness.
- 150–299 life change units equates to a moderate risk of illness.
- over 300 life change units means a person has a high risk of illness.
As you will have found, measuring stress is not a science and people vary in their responses to the same situation. In helping others to develop their resilience, we should lead by example by being self-aware and emotionally intelligent in our relationships with others. Others’ wellbeing can be supported by adopting an honest, open manner and acknowledging the very personal way we all deal with stress and anxiety.
How resilient are you?
Complete the simple resilience test we have devised. Select the tick box next to any of the following statements that you feel apply to you. Completing the resilience test should give you a very rough estimate of how well you cope – being dependent, of course, on the honesty of your responses!
Part A and Part B are both based on surveys, and while it is interesting to do them, you will appreciate that there is a subjective element in both and they may produce conflicting results leading to further questions! For example, you may have scored high in the first survey and high in the second, indicating that even though you may have had a number of major life events that are considered stressful, you perceive yourself as being resilient. This brings into question Holmes and Rahe’s estimates of your chances of suffering from stress and stress-related illness.
Whatever the differences between people – as discussed in the sections of the reading you read in Activity 1 – anyone can suffer from stress and anxiety because of personal and organisational factors. You will now look at these factors in Sections 3 and 4.