How to Test and Track Your Stress Levels
You would think that we would be good at telling when we’re stressed out or not. You would be surprised at how many of my patients take a long time to realize their minds and bodies are under high stress. Being in a state of stress can become a part of your new normal making it harder for you to recognize stress in your life.
It can be helpful to have a way to assess your own stress levels and monitor your fluctuations in stress over time. It can help you determine if a worsening of symptoms (like worsening IBS, acne or arthritis) is happening at the same time as a worsening of stress. This can help you and your health care providers decide if more emphasis needs to be placed on coming up with a better stress management plan for you.
It can be hard to understand stress symptoms. That’s why scientist have developed tools to help with figuring out your stress levels. These tools are widely available for free online. The Perceived Stress Scale and the Perceived Stress Questionnaire are both validated tools for measuring stress levels. These tools are often used in research studies. For something simpler (although not validated in research), you can do the What’s Your Stress Index quiz put together by The Canadian Mental Health Association by clicking HERE. Of course, on their own, these tools don’t replace medical advice but they’re great to bring into your appointments with your naturopathic doctor and family doctor.
Some of my patients ask me about the value of lab tests for measuring stress levels. There is some evidence that measuring cortisol (often called a “stress hormone”) can help with assessing stress levels. An interesting point is that sometimes cortisol levels don’t match up perfectly with perceived stress levels. For example, a patient may feel like they are not stressed out but when they measure their cortisol levels, they are high. Speak to your naturopathic or family doctor to help you decide if and when this test could be useful to you.
In the pre-COVID-19 world, I created a 4 week program to help bring some stress relief to my patients. The program was originally designed to be done alongside acupuncture. I have now modified it so that it can be done virtually without acupuncture if needed.
Dr. Samantha Dass is currently a naturopathic doctor working at Holland Landing Health Centre in East Gwillimbury, Ontario, which services Holland Landing, Newmarket, Aurora, Keswick and Bradford areas. If you are interested in naturopathic services please contact Holland Landing Health Centre at 905-853-7900 or via e-mail at [email protected]