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.

Your physical reactions:
Your thoughts and feelings:
Your actions:


References for Stress Response

  1. Miller L., Smith, A. The Different Kinds of Stress. Help Center, American Psychological Association, 2004. Accessed on the World Wide Web at American Psychological Association
  2. Stress and Your Health. The National Women’s Health Information Center. Aug. 2004. Accessed on the World Wide Web at National Women’s Health Information Center
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stress at work. Accessed on the World Wide Web at CDC
  4. Mental Health America. Stress: Coping with everyday problems. Accessed on the World Wide Web at Mental Health America, formerly known as the National Mental Health Association
  5. American Institute for Preventive Medicine. Systematic Stress Management. Accessed on the World Wide Web at American Institute for Preventive Medicine
  6. American Academy of Family Physicians. Stress: How to Cope Better With Life's Challenges. 2005. Accessed on the World Wide Web at American Academy of Family Physicians
  7. Spencer, R L, Hutchinson, K E. “Alcohol, Aging, and the Stress Response. Alcohol Research and Health. 23 (4). 1999. 272-283.
  8. Sayette, M. Does Drinking Reduce Stress? Alcohol Research and Health. 23 (4). 1999. 250-255.
  9. Anisman, H, Merali, Z. Understanding Stress: Characteristics and Chavetas. Alcohol Research and Health. 23 (4). 1999. 241-249.
  10. Jacobson, J, Jacobson, A. Psychiatric Secrets, Second Edition. Hanley and Belfus. 2001. 214-239.

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

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