The New (unscientific but still very helpful) Stress Scale

There’s a really famous stress scale that exists, called the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, that looked at 5,000 medical patients and asked them what major life events had taken place for them in the past two years. From there, they figured out how likely each of those things were to cause a major health breakdown. (You can read the full list here.) It’s a good system, but it only focuses on major events and only looks at how likely you are to have a physical breakdown. So, I’ve created my own non-scientific in any way stress scale, based on my own experiences and those of my friends and family.


Level One: 100 Points

Any change in your basic intro sentences. For example, if you go from “I’m a single graphic designer who lives in Austin” to “I’m a married shop owner who lives in LA,” congratulations that’s three full 100 point changes in your life. Add an extra 50 points to any of those if they happened unwillingly.

Level Two: 50 Points

Sickness, death, and debt. If you’ve been majorly ill or anyone close to you has died, add 50 points. If your net worth is negative, add 50 points. If you live paycheck to paycheck, add 50 points.

Level Three: 25 Points

Other big personal changes. A new boss, a new hobby, eating differently, family moving in or moving out, change in work hours, change in social activities, change in friends, even a vacation.

Level Four: 1-5 Points

Every single thing on your to do list. Literally all of it.

  • 1 Point – any normal chore that takes less than 30 minutes to do
  • 2 Points – any normal chore that takes more than 30 minutes to do
  • 3 Points – any unusual activity that takes less than 30 minutes to do
  • 4 Points – any unusual activity that takes more than 30 minutes to do
  • 5 Points – any of the above that you’ve put off for more than three months

So for example, washing your dishes or making your bed is normally a one point task, but if you’ve put it off for a few days, now it’s two points. Laundry is a two pointer. Getting an oil change is a three pointer. Filing for health insurance is a four pointer. Not restarting and updating your laptop because you don’t want to close all your tabs is almost definitely a five pointer, because you’re reminded of it every day, yet every day you put it off.

So how many points do you have?


Here’s the deal. In my unscientific study (and just like Whose Line is it Anyway), my points technically mean nothing. They don’t indicate anything in your life other than that you’re probably super stressed. But the reason this is important is because it helps to show you how important it is to take care of the things you can take care of. You may have two hundred points of stress that you can do absolutely nothing about. But you may have 100 points that you can. Wouldn’t it be great to reduce your stress by a third just by knocking things off your to do list?

When we feel stressed, and especially when we feel overstressed, we tend to shut down. We get home from a crappy day at work, and we only have the emotional energy left to do what’s easiest – get fast food, watch Netflix, maybe brush our teeth, and go to bed. If you can force yourself to do a little bit more, you will feel better. Maybe it’s just putting your dirty clothes in the hamper instead of on the floor. Maybe it’s doing laundry before you run out of things to wear. Maybe it’s replying to that one email that you’ve meant to reply to for the past two weeks. Whatever it is, be loving to yourself. Show yourself kindness by doing things that will make tomorrow you a little less stressed.

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