How to measure stress? What is stress measured in?

Stressed Man

Stress can be defined as events or situations that put pressure on you – and your reaction to being placed under that pressure. If you often become overwhelmed by stress it can start to cause problems. You may develop mental health problems such as anxiety or depression. And these issues can result in more stress – triggering a vicious circle.

Unfortunately, stress is difficult to measure as different events will cause dissimilar reactions on different people. Some people are able to ignore it whilst for others amounts of stress makes it difficult to recover and repair. Find out how to measure stress and what is stress measured in here…

Symptoms of Stress

Excessive stress can affect how you feel and think. Making it hard to formulate rational decisions, and get through normal daily responsibilities. It can also affect your appetite – causing you to over or under eat. And it can reduce any motivation you have for exercise and keeping fit.

Other signs that you may experience are:

  • Problems with concentration or memory
  • Anger and irritability
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Sleeping too much
  • Constantly worrying
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Making bad decisions
  • Restlessness and racing thoughts

Stress Measurement

Stress measurement techniques are divided into two categories – psychological questionnaires and physiological measurements. The results of the questionnaires can provide information to the level of stress. And getting accurate data from monitoring and comparing stress levels when combined with a self-assessment offers the most precise results.

What is stress measured in? Physiological stress is measured by monitoring heart rate variability, breath frequency, blood pressure, and different stress hormones.

Doctor Check-up

Stress Scales

How to measure stress level can be done in several ways. The first test that can be carried out is blood tests that measure elevated markers of inflammation and stress hormones. These blood tests would include the amounts of:

  • Cortisol
  • C-Reactive protein
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
  • Other immune or inflammatory markers

The disadvantage of blood tests is that they may not give an accurate picture of your overall stress levels – only the exact moment that the tests were taken. Some raised inflammation results may be due to a temporary and normal responses to a stressful situation.

The other test that has proven to be a good measurement of overall stress is heart rate variability. This reflects the sympathetic nervous system – known as the fight or flight response. This is activated when you’re under psychological or physical stress. Heart, muscles, and blood pressure all respond as digestion and immunity functions are lessened.

Levels of low variability means more stress. That equates to your heartbeats being more similar. Levels of high variability indicate less stress – the variation in the length of your heartbeats is greater. Heart rate variability is measured with a heart rate monitor and can calculate small fluctuations in stress – and it can be done daily.

Stress Hormones

The best-known stress hormone is cortisol – and when production of this hormone is ongoing it leads to chronic stress. It reacts extremely quickly to stress – and is a reliable indicator. It follows a daily cycle – highest in the morning and lowest at bedtime. Best results come from early morning monitoring.

Cortisol is found in blood, urine, saliva and hair. And salivary cortisol is one of the best biomarkers of stress. Benefits of this testing are sampling is non-invasive and reliable. And as cortisol is released into the body within seconds the results are real-time.

When done accurately measuring salivary cortisol can provide immediate information about physical stress levels. Stress is a clinical diagnosis. And all tests need to be interpreted properly.

Evaluating Stress

Your perceived stress scale is based on symptoms and stress you may be experiencing – anxiety, sleep deprivation, financial difficulties, bereavement, and starting a new job all add to changes that can increase stress levels.

A range of physical signs that indicate your stress levels are too high are:

  • Digestive issues – diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, and vomiting – stress can affect how your intestines absorb nutrients
  • Tension – muscles tense when you’re stressed resulting in pains in your head, chest, or stomach
  • Changes in heart rate – making your heart best faster and your blood pressure rise

Emotional symptoms include:

  • Your work or school performance is suffering
  • Eating or sleeping habits change significantly
  • You're experiencing irrational fears and anxiety
  • Withdrawing from friends and family

Tolerance for stress varies greatly from person to person. Your feelings and overall perception of your mental health are the most accurate guide to your stress levels. Mental health experts will help to determine if you have an anxiety disorder.

Woman lying on massage table

Stress Management

Balancing your health and stress levels is a way to manage. This can take many forms and includes:

  • Spending time with the people that care about you – and making new friends is an ideal way to become more connected and happier
  • Getting involved with your community – this can improve your mental health and well-being by simply helping others
  • Regularly exercising – helping to keep depression at bay and lifting your mood – just a few minutes each day is all you need
  • Meditating – an hour each week will offer peace and contentment – making it easier for you to feel happiness
  • Having a massage – naturally reducing stress hormones, lowering anxiety, and raising your immunity as your body releases endorphins
  • Listening to music – this can have a profound effect on your emotional state – providing you with a feel-good ambiance
  • Sleeping enough – get into a routine that provides you with maximum deep sleep to ensure you can cope with everyday ordeals
  • Booking a session with a trained counsellor to discuss how you feel – and get help and advice on dealing with your stress issues
  • Investing in merchandise designed to help relieve stress.

Stress relief products include:

  • Meditation apps and aids that provide accurate real-time feedback on the activity in your brain while you meditate. Devices teach you how to take control and improve your mental and physical wellbeing
  • Touchpoints that work to calm anxiety and stress – gently stimulating alternate sides of your body to alter the function of your brain with calming sensations.
  • Sensate gadgets that regulate bodily functions such as heart rate and blood pressure – enabling you to relax and meditate within just 10 minutes of use

Henry Warren I am a professional writer and health & wellness enthusiast.