Forty three years have passed since Rodale Press published the first
popular work on the subject of wellness. The title, “High Level Wellness: An Alternative to Doctors, Drugs and Disease,” paid homage to Halbert L. Dunn, a physician who coined the phrase “high level wellness” and used it to advance personal responsibility for health and happiness, including daily attention to sufficient exercise, scientific nutrition, exuberant living and environment sensitivity. As far back as the 1950’s and early 60’s, Dr. Dunn promoted a shift of emphasis from continued reliance on medical care for chronic illnesses and diseases occasioned largely by poor lifestyle choices and hazardous environments.
Despite the growth of a wellness movement, the emphasis is still upon treatment and cure, rather than prevention and wellness. This fact is one of many principal reasons why the U.S. health care system now costs $3.2 trillion annually. In my view, the focus on chronic disease and attendant neglect of life enrichment is the single greatest reason for this astonishing level of medical spending, unequalled anywhere else in the world.
A simple version of my stress test self-assessment appeared in that 1977 book noted above. I have expanded upon it over the years. The test has always been designed to give a broad sense of a range of factors that can lead to emotional and mental strains of an unpleasant nature, which is basically the meaning of stress, though the term has also been interpreted to include such strains occasional by positive factors, such as over-excitability caused by sudden, extreme good fortune. (Personally, I always welcomed such stress and still do.)
Basically, however, too many stress factors positive or negative not managed well will cause health and other troubles ranging from misery to ruin. My stress test, still a self-assessment tool after many expansions over the years, remains a self-report instrument intended for personal insights. It is not a test in any technical sense. Unless validated under controlled conditions over time with scientific rigor, it will serve only for purposes of self-awareness and insights on areas deserving attention. Which, by the way, always was and remains the intention.
Many books have been written about the phenomenon of stress. It is a popular term in our culture and receives much attention in varied worksite health promotion programs. Among humans, there are major individual differences in how people respond to and manage stressors at different times under varied circumstances. What stresses you might, paradoxically, delight me, and vice-versa. People thrive with and also suffer from stress in their lives in a wide range of ways. Thus, any stress self-assessment that raises awareness should lead to less suffering and more thriving. That seems like a very good thing.
If effective stress management is as health-enhancing as claimed by experts in this field of specialty, the benefits of mastery are considerable. A partial list of benefits include less brain shrinkage (!), improved emotional health, better management of distressful events, aid in concentration, sharper focus, less presentism, expanded potentials, lower risk of dementia and improved sleep cycles.
In summary, the following stress test is a consciousness-raising, self-
assessment or life satisfaction-to-date survey. It should help you embark upon or add to a wellness mindset and lifestyle.
We can all improve upon our ability to manage stress. This test should be useful for exploring issues and concerns leading to positive resolutions of many challenging situations.
The Rating Scale
The Ardell Wellness Stress Test, updated and expanded many times since the small chapter in “High Level Wellness,” now incorporates physical, mental, emotional, spiritual (i.e., meaning and purpose) and social aspects of well being. This is one reason many users report finding the test useful-it offers a balanced assessment of varied stress sources based on a six-point scale, plus a neutral choice that indicates no positive or negative emotions associated with any given item. Simply rate your satisfaction in degrees positive or negative for each item.
- Enter “+3” if your satisfaction with how life is currently going regarding the category listed is “exuberant to ecstatic” — as good or positive as it could reasonably be expected or hoped for.
- Enter “+2” if your satisfaction level in the category is “very happy to quite pleased.”
- Enter “+1” if your satisfaction is “OK to mildly satisfying.”
- Enter “0” if your most accurate sense is “not sure” to “no problem.”
- Enter “-1” if the most accurate response seems to be “mildly disappointed” to “not quite right.”
- Enter “-2” if the most/best answer is “very disappointed” to “quite unhappy about this.”
- Enter “-3” if you’re feeling about the issue at hand is “I’m on the road to Nowhere” to “I think I’m about to go over a cliff.”
With this scoring system, enter a number to the left of each factor regarding how much positive or negative stress it engenders. When you have completed all 25, add your score and read the assessment of your stress situation.
The bottom line recommendation when the test and scoring is complete, no matter what your score, is to become familiar with and committed to a REAL wellness mindset/lifestyle. REAL wellness means lifestyles and mindsets guided by reason, inspired by exuberance, supported with
athleticism and enabled by liberty.
The Self-Assessment Test
_____ 1. Choice of profession or career
_____ 2. Present job or capacity to make a satisfactory living
_____ 3. Marital or partner status
_____ 4. Primary relationships (family and best friends)
_____ 5. Ability to have fun and the extent to which you experience good times regularly
_____ 6. Amount of recent occasions when you felt exuberant, filled with a sense that “life is good”
_____ 7. Financial situation and future prospects
_____ 8. Sense of who you are and how evolving (self-respect and confidence)
_____ 9. Meaning and purpose in life (includes “spirituality”)
_____ 10. Level of self-worth and estimation of how others view you
_____ 11. Prospects for having impact on those who know you and possibly others
_____ 12. Sex life
_____ 13. Body, how it looks and performs
_____ 14. Home life, including range of interests and passions
_____ 15. Life skills and education – awareness of issues and facts unrelated to your job or profession
_____ 16. Capacities for dealing with change, crises, setbacks and all manner of unexpected situations
_____ 17. Nutritional knowledge, attitudes and consumption patterns
_____ 18. Ability to recover from disappointments, hurts and tragedies
_____ 19. Potentials
_____ 20. A range of interests and a balanced quality in your life
_____ 21. Sense that life for you is on an upward curve, getting better and fuller all the time
_____ 22. Level of participation in issues and concerns beyond your immediate interests
_____ 23. Choices about parenting and styles/principles for the
guidance of children
_____ 24. Role with network of friends, relatives and/or others
_____ 25. Emotional acceptance of the inescapable reality of aging, decline and death
Add the plus number and subtract the minus numbers. Write the total in this space: ______
+ 60 to + 75 – You are in a very good place overall, and unlikely to be significantly troubled by stressors on a consistent basis. You have a lot of positive factors in your life which, more than any stress management
technique (e.g., deep breathing, meditation and so on), will render you largely immune from the adverse effects of negative emotions in dealing with what life serves up. There are few challenges likely to untrack you from a continuing sense of near well-being so long as your satisfaction
level remains as high as indicated in this assessment.
- 36 to + 59 – You are doing well, much better than most. You should find the information available about the wellness concept attractive and consistent with your movement toward effective and healthy living. You already have a well-tuned capacity to deal creatively and efficiently with events and circumstances. Additional advances should come easily for you. All good wishes in moving forward while learning new skills, particularly in areas of critical thinking, the experience of exuberant living, physical fitness and expanding your personal freedoms and choices.
- 20 to + 35 – You have a well-founded appreciation for the importance of lifestyle choices in affecting the quality of your life. You know the value of personal responsibility, a supportive environment and the cumulative positive effects of little changes, over time. In the months to come, invest additional energies in learning ways to strengthen certain areas. You can boost your satisfactions while reducing your stressors.â
- 0 to + 19 – You can clearly benefit from a modest investment in learning ways to reduce stress and increase pleasures. A flurry of negative circumstances could spark emotional setbacks. Take steps now to avoid slowing your steady progression toward mastery of good living and self-efficacy.
The following recommendation applies to the score range above (0 to +19) and all three of the score ranges below: Review the elements of stress identified in the 25 statements. Google or otherwise locate at least basic information these crucial stress-related issues. Retake the test after you have done this reading and, where appropriate, practiced selected techniques and perspectives.
- -1 to – 17. Your ability to employ the foundation skills of REAL wellness is being inhibited by insufficient management of the stressors in your life. These four key skill areas are 1) the use of reason-based decision-making, 2) the enjoyment of exuberant living qualities, 3) the practice of the two keys to athleticism (exercise and wise nutrition) and 4) the capacity to break to free of self-imposed restrictions on your personal liberties. This is a mental health issue of considerable consequence.
- -18 to -37 – Stress of a daily nature that interferes will good living is a serious problem — and it deserves your attention. Stress of a consistent negative nature in life will jeopardize your motivation to choose wisely and to sustain the energy level needed for good health and an enjoyable life. You are a candidate for counseling. You are either too pessimistic or have severe problems in dealing with stress.
- -38 to -75 – Oh my goodness. What do you do for a living — are you North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Il, ruling dictator of the Hermit Kingdom? Do you work in the Trump White House? Something, lots of things, must be done to lighten the load, to eliminate much of the stress burden from your life.
Let’s look on the bright side for a moment – you are still alive, you managed to complete the test without suffering a cardiac event and you probably have a sense of humor, more or less. But seriously, if you truly are as stressed as this little consciousness-raising set of questions would indicate, it’s time for a chat with a wellness professional.
Thanks for taking my Stress Self-Assessment test.
All best wishes. Be well.