According to the Canadian Mental Health Association’s useful little publication called Coping With Stress, it is sometimes easier to recognize the damaging effects of chronic stress in others than in yourself.
“You may have learned to endure rather than overcome emotional chaos caused by stress. And your problems may already have begun to feel familiar and “normal”. This can negatively impact your physical health – sometimes drastically. Yet many of us are unaware or unwilling to admit that we are under stress.”
Does this sound familiar? It sure did for me. In fact, it was only after my heart attack that I was able to accurately assess the more-or-less chronic state of stress that had somehow become normalized for me. We now know that this kind of stress can have deadly consequences as a risk factor for both heart disease and stroke. People who are having problems dealing with extreme ongoing stress may live with high blood pressure, elevated levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, obesity, diabetes and perhaps most deadly of all – stickier blood platelets that are more likely to clot inside coronary arteries.
Take this quiz to help you rate your own stress index – just answer YES or NO to each of these questions, and give yourself one point for each YES:
Do you frequently:
- neglect your diet?
- try to do everything yourself?
- feel easily irritated or tend to blow up easily?
- seek unrealistic goals?
- fail to see the humour in situations that others find funny?
- behave rudely towards people you consider to be annoying?
- make a ‘big deal’ of most things?
- expect other people to make things happen?
- have difficulty making decisions?
- complain that you are disorganized?
- avoid people whose ideas contradict your own?
- bottle up most things inside?
- avoid or neglect physical activity?
- have few supportive relationships?
- use sleeping pills, tranquilizers, alcohol or cigarettes to help you cope?
- not get enough rest?
- get angry in traffic or when you are kept waiting?
- ignore stress symptoms in your habits and attitudes?
- put things off until later?
- think there is only one right way to do things?
- fail to include recuperation/relaxation time in the average day?
- gossip or criticize?
- impatiently try to race through your day?
- spend a lot of time complaining?
- fail to get a break from noise or crowds of other people?
What Your Score Means:
1-6: You have few hassles, and generally lead a low-stress life. But don’t spend so much energy avoiding problems that you shy away from challenges.
7-13: You’ve got a handle on your life. Though you’re in adequate control, try to improve choices and habits that might still cause some unnecessary stress.
14-20: Warning! You’re in the danger zone. Even now, you’re probably suffering stress-related symptoms. Take time out of every day to look at choices you’ve made today and reflect on outcomes
Above 20: Red flag emergency! Stop. Re-think. Change your lifestyle. Improve your diet. Make physical activity a regular routine every day, and above all, try to find ways to relax. Is it running? Knitting? Spending time with family or friends? Try to positively alter your attitudes. You may have to speak to your health care provider for some additional help.
© 2009 Canadian Mental Health Association National Office
Find out more about coping with stress.
- Women’s Heart Disease and Chronic Stress
- How Flexible Hours Can Lower Your Blood Pressure
- Got A Minute? Try This Mini-Relaxation For Your Heart Health
- A Heart Patient’s Guide To The Three Stages of Chronic Stress
- In Praise Of Slowness: How ‘La Dolce Vita’ Can Help Your Heart
- Is Family Stress Hurting Your Heart?
- Poor Marriage = Poor Heart Health for Women
- How two cardiologists discovered Type A (and the surprising reasons Big Tobacco helped fund them for decades)