Medically reviewed by Jill Johnson, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 6/30/2021
Are you stressed?
The answer to that question may be simple. Some people are stressed out by the very question itself. But stress is a more complicated emotion and condition than we give it credit for.
Stress is a collective human experience — we all experience it sometime, to some degree. But for some people, stress isn’t a motivator or the precursor to an adrenaline high.
To some people, stress is simply debilitating.
Maybe you already know you’re one of those people—maybe you have no idea how much stress contributes to your health, your wellbeing, or your state of mind.
Whether you’re stressed about your stress or stressing over unanswered stress questions, we’ve got you covered.
We’ve put together some important information on stress and a helpful quiz to help you get a reading on your own stress levels.
Before you take the test though, let’s do a refresher on some basics about this buzzword, so that the test doesn’t, well, stress you out.
Put simply, stress is your physical and mental response to changes — specifically, challenging ones.
Stress can come from upcoming and expected performance (work, school, social). It can also come from relationship pressures, traumas (past or present) or any part of your daily routine that might cause unneeded challenge or anxiety.
Everyone will experience stress at some point(s) in their life, but from individual to individual it can be short or long term, once or repetitive.
Stress can be a good thing — or at least it was designed to be, biologically. Stress heightens awareness and facilitates fight or flight responses, increases brain activity, increases blood flow and tenses muscles.
Maybe that’s good if you’re about to be mauled by a prehistoric beast, but it can cause problems in the modern era of morning meetings, class presentations and Tinder dates.
And some people are more effective at coping with stress than others.
It’s helpful to think about stress as two categories of experience: short-term and chronic or long-term. In short-term stress situations, the signals will dissipate and things will return to normal once the “threat” is gone.
But chronic stress doesn’t go away, or takes much longer to dissipate.
However, for clinical purposes, there are actually three official “types” of stress: acute, episodic acute and chronic.
Acute stress accounts for those short-term stress events, like deadlines and unexpected bad news.
Chronic stress includes the long term, grinding stress that can wear us down over time.
Acute episodic stress is somewhat of a hybrid stress type. It is generally defined as a regular pattern of acute stress episodes, which can happen to people who find themselves taking on too much at work or attempting to perform their jobs under poor management.
Over time, repeated episodes of acute stress can have the same wear-you-down effects as chronic stress.
And while the timeframe of the stress response is going, it can have a negative effect on organs, the immune system, digestion and sleep.
Stress can have some positively gnarly side effects on your body — physical and mental. They can include digestive disorders, headaches, sleep disorders, worsened asthma, depression and anxiety.
And what’s worse, stress can lead to other conditions that might not initially seem related. Stress can cause or worsen inflammation, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and diabetes.
It can weaken the immune system, cause urinary problems and even contribute to functional decline.
Are you a candidate for any of these issues? Is your stress barreling you toward functional decline? If so, it may be time to take a stress test.
Put simply, a stress test is typically a way for an individual to quantify the amount of stress they perceive themselves to be under around the time of the test.
Perception and the perspective it gives are important tools in understanding stress.
Often, people fighting chronic stress may have been experiencing those feelings for so long that they’ve lost track of what it feels like not to be stressed.
This is when an objective test will help.
Stress tests measure the level of stress in a person’s life by asking them questions about particular feelings — and the frequency of those feelings in their day-to-day life.
The goal is to determine how erratic, encumbered or unmanageable your life feels, which is an indication of stress.
Common topics will include how often you feel angered, emotional or overwhelmed, and how often you feel in control, able to cope and how confident you are in your ability to succeed or survive the collective weight of your stressors.
The feedback from questions on those topics will give a reading of some kind, which is determined by the particular test you take (they’re not all the same).
Stress tests will all vary in how they are conducted and how they determine an outcome, but generally speaking, they look for the same types of information.
A typical stress test, stress assessment or stress quiz may include some or all of the following topics, asking you to say how often in the past month you have felt a particular way:
Been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly?
Felt that you were unable to control important things in your life?
Felt nervous and stressed?
Felt confident about your ability to handle your personal problems?
Felt that things were going your way?
Found that you could NOT cope with all the things you had to do?
Been able to control irritations in your life?
Felt that you were on top of things?
Been angered because of things that happened that were out of your control?
Felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them?
Depending on your rating (on a one to four scale), you receive a final grade of stress, from low to high.
Whether you’re already sure you’re dealing with stress or still unsure, taking a stress test might be the most effective way for you to get some initial readings.
But more importantly, a stress test shouldn’t be your only work in addressing the stress.
If you feel like you’re already experiencing any of the symptoms of stress, it’s probably a good time to check with a healthcare professional and get some readings from them.
This would be a good time to talk about what’s stressing you out, share any details about how that stress is affecting your life (work, sleep, sex, etc.) and get some feedback.
A healthcare professional may also check things like blood pressure and other measurements to give you an idea of how stress may affect you.
If it turns out you are indeed stressed, and that stress is leading to anxiety or other mood disorders, you might want to consider exploring some of hims’ other tools and resources.
Our online psychiatry resources are available for anyone looking to take the next step in addressing these problems, and likewise our mental health treatment resources can provide support if you’re ready to address the problems at hand.
If you’re not quite there yet, consider some additional reading, like our guide to How to Cope with Anxiety.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore problems like this. Stress may be a passing irritation, but it can wreak havoc if it becomes persistent, severe or leads to other conditions.
Take care of yourself now. A future version of you will thank you.