What’s Your Stress Stack Score?

The human body and mind were designed to manage stress. When we go to the gym or take a yoga class, we’re putting physical stress on our body which helps activate the muscle systems, manage hormone production, strengthens our immune system and much more. When we approach a challenging problem at work, we put stress on our brain, which helps us learn and become better at problem-solving. Many of today’s increasing health issues are actually due to people not exposing themselves to enough of the right types of stress, both physically and mentally.

On the other hand, too much stress or chronic stress can also cause a lot of physical and mental health issues. It can be easy to overcommit to obligations and responsibilities across work, community and family and not realize it until you’re in a state of complete burnout. I have a terrible track record of over-committing in my life. I’m overly optimistic about how much time or energy things will take, and get excited about opportunities to learn and accomplish new things which leads me to say yes far too often. So over the last few years, I’ve developed a concept I call “Stress Stack Scoring” as a way to evaluate my current and future stress load in order to make smart choices about what I commit to. In this article, I’ll explain how Stress Stack Scoring works so that you can evaluate your own Stress Stack and, if necessary, find a better sense of balance in your life.

The first thing to understand is that even activities you look forward to can add stress to your life or take energy that you might otherwise use elsewhere. Let’s say you’re planning a friend’s surprise birthday, and that is something you enjoy doing. It still takes hours of your evenings and lots of email, phone calls and chat communications to get everything confirmed, plus there are likely a few loose ends that will cause you stress as the event approaches. That doesn’t mean you don’t love doing it, it just means it is one of the things you’re currently working on that is taking time and energy. If you’re someone who gets really nervous about planning events or wanting to impress your friend, it might actually be highly stressful!

What this evaluation is meant to measure is everything you have going on in your life for a specific period of time, and how much time, energy or stress that activity will involve, or combination of the three. For instance, prepping for mid-term exams is likely an activity that would score fairly high on all three scales. So, whether you categorize an activity “fun” or “not fun”, or “bad” or “good” is irrelevant. Everything you take on or are simply dealing with in your life at any given time comes with some commitment of time, energy or stress. You must consider the total measure of your Stress Stack when making decisions about when to say yes and when to politely decline in order to make sure you stay healthy and balanced.

Here’s how to get started:

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