You know when you’re stressed. Duh.
But did you know that there are actual ways to measure your subjective stress level?
The Perceived Stress Scale1 has been around since the 1980s and is still widely used.
Answer ten quick questions and tally your score.
Grab a piece of scratch paper and use the following scale to rate each of the questions below.
0 = never
1 = almost never
2 = sometimes
3 = fairly often
4 = very often
Over the past month, how often have you …
Been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly?
Felt that you were unable to control the important things in your life?
Felt nervous and stressed?
Felt that things were going your way?
Felt confident about your ability to handle your personal problems?
Found that you could not cope with all the things that you had to do?
Been able to control the irritations in your life?
Felt that you were on top of things?
Been angered because of things that were outside of your control?
Felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them?
First, reverse the ratings on questions 4, 5, 7, 8. (In research lingo these four questions were “reverse coded”.) On those questions, make the following changes:
Now add up your total score using your new ratings for 4, 5, 7, 8 and your original ratings for the other questions. You’ll get a number between 0 and 40.
The higher your score, the higher your level of perceived stress.
And if you’d like to compare it to a benchmark, here are some ranges:
Here are some questions to reflect on.
Aside from the insight you get from your current score, tracking your score over time is often revealing. Set a calendar reminder to revisit it on a specific day each month. Here are some questions for reflection.
The PSS-10 is a user-friendly tool to use with clients. Because it is simple to administer and has solid research validity it might quickly become one of your go-to assessments. You can easily administer it verbally, pop it into an onboarding workbook, or configure it into a “quiz” in your learning platform or online form. It’s also been translated into, and validated for, a number of other languages.
1Research Citation: The Perceived Stress Scale was originally published with 14 items and the 10-item version is what is commonly used now.
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