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Understanding Your Response to Stress

Any change in your life can lead to stress. This includes even pleasurable activities, such as vacations or new forms of recreation. You can also be in a stressful situation such as a difficult job or a long-term illness of a spouse. If you think you might be experiencing stress, this assessment may help you identify its effects on you.

You probably know some of the common signs of stress. They include a pounding heart, sweaty palms, and feeling anxious. But you may respond to stress in many other ways too, from feeling irritable to driving recklessly. Recognizing how you react to stress is an important step toward managing it.

Everyone responds to stress differently. This assessment will help you identify your particular stress profile. Listed below are the kinds of physical, mental, and emotional responses people may have to stress—some of which you may not have considered before. Review these lists and think about which reactions apply to you when you’re under stress. Check all the reactions you have experienced in stressful situations.

In each category, check any symptoms you’ve had in the past month. Remember, the reactions you choose may be indicators of stress. But stress is only one of the possible causes of these symptoms. Talk with your health care provider if you have questions or concerns about the items you check.

Tightness in the chest Muscle aches (neck, shoulders, back, or legs) Constipation or diarrhea Problems with your digestive system Change in appetite (increase or decrease) Tense muscles and muscle cramps Sleep problems (too much or too little) Nervous habits (nail biting, tongue clucking) Dry mouth or throat High blood pressure Excessive sweating Fatigue Pounding heart Grinding teeth Headache Dizziness Nervous tic Difficulty breathing Frequent colds None of the above
Wanting to cry, or crying easily Getting upset about little annoyances Feeling low self-esteem Feeling fearful and anxious Feeling tired most of the time Always feeling rushed Having difficulty concentrating Being forgetful Feeling confused Feeling impatient Feeling irritable Feeling like nobody likes you Lacking joy Feeling helpless Worrying None of the above
Not getting along with people Withdrawing from friends and family Not trusting people Lowered sex drive Being more or less active than usual Driving recklessly Lashing out Getting angry easily Making errors Turning to alcohol, tobacco, or drugs for relief None of the above

This assessment is not intended to replace the evaluation of a health care professional.