Your own personal “Stress-ometer”

Monday is the toughest workday of the weeks.  We have songs written about how much people hate Mondays (thanks to Sir Bob Geldof)

Staff call in sick Mondays, and even traffic seems to frustrate your commute on Mondays.  It may simply be the start of a week and that it takes time for you to get into a groove, or it may actually be stress.

In 2006 almost ½ of the 30 million sick days in the UK were attributed to stress/anxiety/depression[1].  Stress can cut your life short (heart attacks, arrhythmias and even sudden death) or extend your life (every one-point increase in positive affect on a five-point scale decreases the rate of heart disease by 22 percent)[2].

So how do you know if it is stress or not?  Each of us have personal signs.  Mine are:

  • Yawning during important meetings/conversations at work
  • Waking up in the middle of the night thinking about work
  • Skin blemishes (I’m deep into my 40’s—I shouldn’t be looking like I’m 15!!)
  • Bad food choices (“Just this once”)
  • Bad lifestyle choices (vegetate in front of the TV, procrastination, go to bed early to ignore the family)

Other signs of harmful stress include digestive problems, insomnia, increased blood pressure, excessive weight loss or gain, an inability to relax.  Stress in and of itself is not bad.  Helpful levels of stress keep us alert, productive on the job and help us maintain better muscle tone (Don’t I wish!).  However, when the amount of stress in your life drifts into harmful stress, things break down[3].


Figure 1: STRESS-O-METER.  From

I’ve given you some of my personal Stress-ometer signs, and I know that when I drift into those behaviours that my body is telling me I’m stressed.  So, what can you do about it?

  • Exercise.  Get out of the house and go for a walk even if it is only a block or two.
  • Relax. Sit on your porch with a cup of coffee and slow down your breathing.
  • Build up relationships.  Relationships serve as stress buffers.
  • Lock up the food.  Walk away from the ice cream and nachos.  As hard as it is grab a piece of fruit and eat that instead.
  • Help someone else out.  Helping someone else decreases your stress.
  • Read the Bible and pray.  My day is better when started in prayer.
  • Laugh.  Tomorrow will probably be a lot better.
  • Get help.  If you feel overwhelmed, go see someone and get help.

Start paying attention and follow your personal Stress-ometer.  It may save your life.

[1] Cooper C., Dewe P. Well-being—absenteeism, presenteeism, costs and challenges. Occupational Medicine 58 (8) 522-524.  Accessed at: on 09 September 2013.

[2] Krantz, David S. Thorn, Beverly. Kiecolt-Glaser, Janice. How stress affects your health. American Psychological Association.  Accessed at: on 09 September 2013.

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