Stress is a normal part of everyday life. While a certain amount of stress can be positive and motivating and can get you excited to take on new challenges, too much stress can impact your ability to cope emotionally and physically.
If not managed well, stress becomes overwhelming, and the effects can have serious implications for your health. Unmanaged, acute or chronic stress can result in difficulty sleeping, irritability, poor work performance, and disorders such as anxiety and depression.
What is stress?
Stress is the mental and physical tension that can result from adapting to any number of changes. Stress can result from a variety of situations, such as traffic, noise, deadlines, financial difficulties, illness, or interactions, such as family or workplace conflicts, etc. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, health concerns, job and financial uncertainty, excessive stress is all too common. When you are chronically in a stressful environment, it can be easy to miss the toll prolonged stress is taking on your mental health. Because too much stress can be harmful to us, it is essential to manage it effectively. But, to manage it, we need to recognize when it is impacting us negatively.
Tools to Help You Assess Your Stress and Mental Health
Learning how stress affects you and recognizing early warning signs of distress are important tools for preventing both physical and mental health problems. Here are a couple of tools to help you check in with yourself to evaluate your stress level and reflect on your mental health:
1. “What’s Your Stress Index?” created by the Canadian Mental Health Association. By answering yes or no to the 25 questions listed, you can calculate your stress index score. Complete the test online here or download it in PDF.
2. "Mental Health Continuum Self-Check", adapted from the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Mental Health Continuum, this chart displays the general emotional, physical and behavioural signs and indicators of mental health from healthy to ill, along with the actions to take depending on where you land on the continuum.
Make Stress and Mental Health Check-in’s a Regular Part of Your Routine
Have a look at your Stress Index and the Mental Health Continuum to gain some clarity on where you are today and look at some actions you can take to help you stay healthy. But don't make it a one-time exercise. Stress levels and our mental health fluctuate depending on what's going on around us. These tools become more effective the more you use them. Making a habit of reflecting on how you're doing and building it into conversations with those in your support network, such as your family, friends and work colleagues, can go a long way to increasing your awareness and attention on the actions you can take to maintain your mental and physical well-being.