The goal of stress management

The importance of change stressors

Just how important change stressors can be has been proved by two US researchers, Thomas Holmes, a psychiatrist, and Richard Rahe, a psychologist. During the course of their work, which was to explore the likelihood of illness developing in individuals as a direct result of stress, they found the event consistently reported as being the most stressful was the death of a spouse.

From this they compiled what they called a ‘Life Stress Inventory’. They assigned bereavement a value of 100 and then established a sliding scale for over 40 more life events.

Take a look at the Holmes and Rahe values in the chart below. Then, using their values as a guide, put your own score against the events you have experienced in the past year. If, for example, your son going away to university was a happy occasion, you might decide to give the event less than the 29 points that Holmes and Rahe have awarded it. If it was a very traumatic occasion, you can give it a higher score.

After filling in the chart, add up your scores. This total will give you an idea of the amount of stress you have experienced in the last year. The higher your score, the greater the likelihood is of you becoming ill in the next year.

Holmes and Rahe Inventory

The values listed in the chart are indicators. Opposite events that you have experienced in the last year, enter your own scores. These may be more or less than the indicators.

Life Event Value Your Score
Death of a spouse 100
Divorce 73
Marital separation 65
Jail term 64
Death of a close family member 63
Personal injury or illness 53
Marriage 50
Fired at work 47
Retirement 45
Marital reconciliation 45
Change in health of a family member 44
Pregnancy 40
Sex difficulties 39
Gain of a new family member 39
Change in financial state 38
Death of a close friend 37
Change to a different line of work 36
Change in number of arguments with spouse 35
Mortgage over one year's net salary 31
Foreclosure of mortgage or loan 30
Change in responsibilities at work 29
Son or daughter leaving home 29
Trouble with in-laws 29
Outstanding personal achievement 28
Spouse begins or stops work 26
Begin or end school 26
Change in living conditions 25
Revision in personal habits 24
Trouble with boss 23
Change in work hours or conditions 20
Change in residence 20
Change in schools 20
Change in recreation 19
Change in church activities 19
Change in social activites 18
Mortgage or loan less than one year's net salary 17
Change in sleeping habits 16
Change in number of family get-togethers 15
Change in eating habits 15
Vacation 13
Christmas 13
Minor violation of the law 11

Your results

If you scored more than 151 units you should see your doctor for regular medical checkups. In this way you will be able to monitor any signs of illness that may be developing and will be able to receive appropriate treatment.   

It must be remembered, though, that lifestyle changes alone are not enough to cause illness. As you have already learnt, it is your perception of these changes that makes the difference.

The goal of stress management

The Holmes and Rahe Inventory deals mainly with major events, but seemingly minor stressors that occur day in, day out, can be just as stressful. Dr. Richard Lazarus, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, has determined that everyday hassles, like getting stuck in a traffic jam, waiting for a bus, losing your house keys, and disagreements at work, have a greater impact on your wellbeing than you might think.

It is when hassles build up over time that they become a problem. Unlike change stressors that are often isolated from one another with a gap between during which you can adjust to the change, hassles constantly nag and irritate.

Just how stressful these hassles become depends on a variety of factors - your coping styles, your personality, what the rest of the day was like, and the nature of the hassle itself. The ultimate aim of this section is to show you how you can manage the hassles and the changes, along with all the other stressors in your life.   

First, however, you have to know when you are suffering from stress. This is not as silly as it might sound, as you will discover when you read through the next article "Symptoms of stress".

Symptoms of stress >>

Text Copyright © Alix Needham
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