What’s Your Stress Load?

Are you feeling a bit stressed? There are so many responsibilities and pressures we feel on a daily basis that come from work, home, school, and our community.  These stressors all compound and create a type of “stress load”.  Stress can help to motivate us to achieve, but when the stress becomes too great for us to handle, it can take a toll on our mental and physical well-being.

In 1967, two psychiatrists, Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, set out to create a way to empirically measure stress in adults and then correlate that number with the likelihood of developing physical illness.  A list of 43 life stressors was compiled and each stressor was assigned a number based on the perceived negative severity of the event in one’s life.  This scale was called the Social Readjustment Rating Scale.    Later, a list of 39 stressors was compiled and used to measure stress levels in children/youth (non-adults).

The adult stress level scale with the assigned number of points or Life Change Units (LCU) assigned to each life event:

The non-adult stress scale:

In order to calculate your stress score, you must take into account all events that have happened within the last year.  If an event(s) occurred, add the allotted points to determine your cumulative score.

Like most things, this scale has its limitations.  However, its development gave a voice to concrete life events that create stress in our lives and furthermore show that the higher our score, the higher our chances of experiencing physical health issues.  Later research showed that the number scored on this scale correlates to mental health as well. 

  • Scores lower than 150 are considered to carry a low risk of illness with a low susceptibility to stress induced health breakdown in the following 24 months after assessment.
  • Scores between 150 and 299 carry a moderate risk with a 50% chanceof adverse health outcome.
  • Scores equal to or greater than 300 carry a high risk of illness with an 80% chance of major health breakdown.

So, how do you rate?

The link below allows you to check the items that apply to the last year of your life and calculate your Holmes and Rahe stress score.

Stress Scale Calculator

Last year was a doozy for me!  I experienced big life events that included a divorce, after 17 years of marriage, and returning to work, after staying home with my children for over 11 years.  My calculated score took into consideration these events and others and I had a whopping score of 444!

Although a higher number on the scale predicts a greater likelihood of experiencing a major health breakdown, be it physical or mental, there are proactive steps you can take to prevent, or at least lessen, the chances of such breakdowns occurring.

I’ve found these things to be very helpful in helping me to manage stress and maintain overall health:

  1. Find purpose.
  2. Spiritual connection through meditation or prayer.
  3. Social connection.  Create a network of support.  Find people who you trust and want the best for you.
  4. Exercise.
  5. Get enough sleep.
  6. Set goals. Both long term and short term.
  7. Work hard.
  8. Seek to be your best self every day.  No one is perfect, but that’s no excuse not to try to be a little better each day.
  9. Hope and believe that there are better days ahead!
  10. Fill your world with positive and uplifting content.
  11. Be grateful.
  12. Do something nice for someone else.
  13. Do something nice for yourself. Treat yourself.

I’m sure there are other helpful ideas out there for managing stress.  I found this website full of many resources and you may want to check it out.


To end, I want to remind you that if the burden of the stress you are bearing becomes too much, please remember that there are people around you willing and able to help.  Family, friends, neighbors, physicians, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists can all be a great resource to help you successfully manage your stress, improving your physical and mental health and well-being.  You are not alone in your struggle to bear your “stress load” and there are always options available. 

Keep on keeping on!  You got this!


  1. Holmes TH, Rahe RH. The Social Readjustment Rating Scale. J Psychosom Res. 1967; 11(2):213-8.
  2. Rahe RH, Arthur RJ. Life change and illness studies: past history and future directions. J Human Stress. 1978; 4(1):3-15.
  3.  Rahe RH, Mahan JL Jr, Arthur RJ. Prediction of near-future health change from subjects’ preceding life changes. J Psychosom Res. 1970; 14(4):401-6.
  4. Bell, JM Stressful life events and coping methods in mental-illness and –wellness behaviors.Nurs Res. 1977 Mar-Apr, 26(2):136-41
  5. Morote Rios R, Hjemdal O, Martinez Uribe P, Corveleyn J. Life stress as a determinant of emotional well-being. 2014 Jan 1;2(1):390-411. Epub 2014 Apr 4.

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