What's Your Stress Score?

There's an old expression "if you can't measure it, you can't manage it" -- and while that expression probably isn't universally true (as pointed out in this interesting article), I think having a way to quantify your stress could be useful.

I recently read an interesting article about the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory, which assigns numeric values to various sources of stress. You sum up your score for the stress you've experienced in the past year, and you can then determine the likelihood of having a major health breakdown based on that score.

The information in their table was interesting, but I thought it was a bit awkward to work with. The numeric values of the stress events were on the far right, so your eye had to follow all the way across the page to find them. They also numbered each item along the left (I'm not sure why), and these numbers could be confused with the score values. And showing the numeric ranges as text at the bottom of the table just didn't seem intuitive.

I looked around a bit, and found a graphical version on statpedia. I had high hopes, but it had even more problems than the original text table. The bars were too tightly packed to show all the text labels, so they just arbitrarily 'thinned out' many of the labels (who does that with this kind of data?!?) And for the longer text, they just arbitrarily truncated those labels, replacing the text with '...'. Their graph didn't tell you to total up your score, and it didn't show you what the ranges were for the total values once you got them.

Here's what I did to (hopefully) fix all the problems ...

I created a chart representing the numeric ranges of the results as colored bands -- I think this is much more intuitive than just describing the ranges in text. I show this chart first (before the list of stress sources), to give the user an idea of what the stress values (in the bar chart) will be used for.


Here's my bar chart. Note that I show every bar label -- no thinning of labels in my bar charts! And rather than arbitrarily truncating long text, I shortened the text by removing the ( )'d explanatory portion, and then I show that extra info as mouseover-text. Also, rather than showing the numeric values on the right side of the page, I show them on the left side of each bar (so your eye can find the values much more quickly and easily). Click the bar chart image below, to see the full-size interactive version with the mouseover-text.


So, what was your stress score, and what's your advice for dealing with stress? My friend Trena has a fairly high score right now, and she uses this stress ball to help deal with it:

This content was reposted from the SAS Learning Post. Go there to read the original.

Robert Allison, The Graph Guy!, SAS

Robert Allison has worked at SAS for more than 20 years and is perhaps the foremost expert in creating custom graphs using SAS/GRAPH. His educational background is in computer science, and he holds a BS, MS, and PhD from North Carolina State University. He is the author of several conference papers, has won a few graphic competitions, and has written a book calledSAS/GRAPH: Beyond the Basics.

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Re: Stress for some, relief for others
  • 8/23/2016 7:40:55 AM

Sounds like good advice!

Re: Stress for some, relief for others
  • 8/22/2016 10:54:46 PM

@kq4ym, that's a great fine line we have to walk with work --- a goldilocks job! One thing I've read that seems to help with work situations is friendship. Have true friends and confidants at work --- people you can trust --- and you are more likely to survive the stress, and stick around longer.

  • 8/22/2016 9:48:53 PM

Between a move -- and all the stresses that go with it -- plus a number of other major life changes, as well as a severely ill family member, I found myself at the high end of the middle spectrum here.

...Oh well.  :|

Re: Stress for some, relief for others
  • 8/22/2016 11:23:45 AM

@Kq4ym, excellently put. The key to this and most is balance. The level of stress is best managed by preparedness. Actionable response relieves stress, but frozen by lack options feeds stress.

Re: Stress for some, relief for others
  • 8/22/2016 10:32:09 AM

Stress can certainly light a fire under us to get us moviing. The danger point would be not being able to relieve or manage the tasks at hand if they become intolerable. It's said that we are most comfortable (if not even happy) when the job is slightly above our skill level. Not too easy, which would be boring, and not too hard which will make us prefer to give up (or give us heart disease over time, as we're seeing more and more)

Re: Stress for some, relief for others
  • 8/20/2016 10:21:45 PM

@James That's certainly a stress factor that's off the charts! Wading through the call center to get the right department is another.

Re: Stress for some, relief for others
  • 8/19/2016 12:23:58 PM

@tinym, I completely agree. Some people strive on stress. It puts you in heightened alert and gives urgency. It's a good barometer of your level of commitment. You don't stress over things that you can care less about.

Re: Stress for some, relief for others
  • 8/19/2016 12:15:05 PM

When dealing with stress generators as the cable company, government agencies and the like. Best to lower your expectations and be predisposed for the eventual journey into the mindless zone. The stress becomes manageable.

Re: Stress for some, relief for others
  • 8/19/2016 7:40:04 AM

James - yes, they definitely need to add a new stress category, for things like calling a cable/Internet/phone/etc provider to tray and get tech support or the silly game where you have to call in to "re-negotiate" a contract when your price goes up, etc.

The Art of Walking Zen
  • 8/18/2016 10:55:36 PM

"....what's your advice for dealing with stress?"

Taking a deep breathe is key when intense stress hits me. I believe in the benefits of meditation, but only recently had I heard of "Walking Zen" so to speak, which if I understand it correctly is the ability to find inner peace while in motion.

The ability to find inner peace while in the mist of stress without necessarily taking the traditional approach to meditation.

I wasn't really aware of this until a colleague caught me practicing it one day.

She was right.

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