We all experienced stress before. Some of us may feel stressed when dealing with tight deadlines. Some may get stressed when preparing for an important interview. But what we don’t clearly know is how stressed we were at that moment. For example, do we get more stressed when preparing for public speaking compared to preparing for an essential examination? You may not know which one is more stressful.
I am sure that some of us have wondered how to measure stress level before. Yes, me too. I also want to know if there are some ways to check my stress level so that I can understand how stressed I am. So, I spend some time on searching for any ways to measure stress level. Here are some approaches to check our stress level, which can save you some time to sort these out!
The first approach is to observe yourself and look for any stress symptoms. If you want to have a quick check on your current stress level such as checking whether you are stressed or not, you could try to look for any stress signs on yourself first. You can first refer to UK National Health Service (NHS) for an overview of common stress signs. According to NHS, the common signs of stress are sleeping problems, sweating, loss of appetite and difficulty concentrating (1). As stated by NHS, you may also have following symptoms (1).
- Experience anxious, irritable or low in self-esteem
- Racing thoughts, worry constantly or go over things in your head
- Easily lose your temper, drink more or act unreasonably
- Have headaches, muscle tension or pain, or dizziness
You may not have the above signs even if you are stressed. Because different people may have different signs and there are much more stress signs apart from the above signs. As reported by The American Institute of Stress (AIS), there are now 50 common signs and symptoms of stress (2). If you want to know more about different types of stress sign, you could refer to AIS because it provides a detailed version of stress sign types when compared to NHS one. These 50 stress signs identified by AIS are shown below (2).
The second approach is to complete a stress questionnaire. The above approach can only give you a rough idea on your current stress level, which is you are stressed or not, but doesn’t give you any clues on how stress you are. That’s why you may consider completing this kind of questionnaire. Because this type of questionnaire can assess how stressed you are.
There are many different questionnaires on the internet. You should always refer to the ones that are from either governments or professional bodies. Because these are scientific-based, which means the questionnaires are proven by scientific research that they can estimate or measure your stress level. Other online questionnaires may be just made up by some random guys and could not measure accurately the stress level.
Some of you may not know where you can find these questionnaires. Don’t worry! I am going to show you two online questionnaires that I find useful.
The first one is from Canadian Mental Health Association, a nation-wide voluntary organization in Canada. From this questionnaire, you need to complete 25 yes-no questions first and then it will generate a score and suggestion indicating what your stress level is.
The second one is from The Stress Management Society, a non-profit organization in the UK. From this stress test, you have to first answer 25 statements from 1 (always applies to you) to 5 (never applies to you), according to how accurate each statement is in describing your current lifestyle. Then, it will give you a score indicating what your stress level is.
Check stress level by using apps
The third approach is to use apps to measure stress level. There are some apps from both android and ios system that may serve this purpose. Do you notice that I mentioned “may”? The reason why I say “may” is some of them may not be based on scientific research while some may not be user-friendly enough. After searching for any helpful apps from Google Play and Apple App Store, I find that very few of them may be able to monitor your stress. I am now going to show you one app that may be helpful but not perfect.
The one that I am going to show you is “Stress Check by Azumio“, developed by Azumio Inc. You can find it on both Google Play and Apple App Store. This app checks your stress level by measuring and analyzing your heart rate variability (HRV).
So, how does it works? HRV is the variation in the time interval between your heartbeats and is measured by the variation in the beat-to-beat interval. According to a research review on HRV by Department of Psychology at The Ohio State University, it seems that HRV may inversely correlate to stress level (3). In other words, if your HRV is low, then your stress level could be high.
So, this app measures your HRV by asking you to put your finger on your phone camera and LED light after you entered your sexuality and age. After that, you will receive a result of your current stress level.
Is this really accurate? I will say it may not be as accurate as the developer claim. Because measuring your HRV accurately require clinical equipment and proper calibration. I doubt that an ordinary smartphone can provide an accurate measurement because there is no way to do a proper calibration on your phone. That’s why some users complained about the app’s accuracy.
I started the app expecting it to give me instructions. The phone was resting on the DESK. The app explained how it was detecting my heart rate and conluded that I have a low level of stress. What it should have inicated was that I had no pulse since the desk is definately not alive !
Although it’s accuracy is not that good, you can still use it to measure stress level. Because it can still give you some clues on your current stress level. Also, you can download it free from Google Play and Apple App Store although you have to pay for advanced functions.
If you want to measure your stress level, you should consider following the second approach, completing an online stress questionnaire. Because it is the most accurate approach. You should consult with professionals like medical doctor, clinical psychologist, and social workers if you think your stress heavily affect your daily performance.
1 National Health Service Choices. Struggling with stress?. Stress, anxiety and depression. National Health Service Choices. 2014. Access: 24/05/2016
2 The American Institute of Stress. Stress Effects. The American Institute of Stress. Access: 24/05/2016
3 Berntson GG, Cacioppo JT. Heart rate variability: Stress and psychiatric conditions. Dynamic electrocardiography. 2004 Apr 23:57-64.