In the sea of crud that has been 2020, I’m one of the rare few that have had a (mostly) positive year. Even though I’ve been fortunate with being in the midst of happy, exciting events such as launching a book and moving closer to the beach, I’ve felt pretty stressed. I have felt a pretty big sense of guilt related to this stress because I’ve been one of the lucky ones this year. However, in unearthing the lab report from my undergrad degree (see last week’s post), I breathed a sigh of recognition and relief. I was reminded that when we talk about life events in the psychological context of stress, we aren’t just referring to the negative moments.
In the 1960s two psychologists Holmes and Rahe ranked what they considered the 43 most stressful life events on a scale. When I relooked at this scale, I remembered that both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ life events can cause stress. For example, getting married is considered more stressful than a change in finances and a hitting a major personal milestone is deemed more stress-inducing than a change in living conditions. Personally, this came as a relief to remember that it’s not just when things go awry that we experience stress or anxiety.
It’s worth noting that with the huge shifts that have occurred globally, the stress inducing events that come as a flow on effect from COVID-19 changes are substantial. For those interested (and for a bit of validation), here’s twelve stress-inducing events from the Holmes & Rahe Stress Scale that are relevant for many right now:
· Dismissal from work
· Change in financial state
· Change in frequency of arguments
· Change in responsibilities at work
· Spouse starts or stops work
· Change in living conditions
· Change in working hours or conditions
· Change in recreation
· Change in social activities
· Change in sleeping habits
· Change in number of family reunions
· Change in eating habits (what chocolate biscuits..?)
If you’re experiencing any of these (hello all of us), or positive life events it’s time to make sure you’re managing the effects of this stress and anxiety.
So what now?
The same people who came up with this stress scale explained that stress occurs when there’s an imbalance of sufficient coping mechanisms when compared to the events themselves. Does the coping depend on the person too? For sure, but for the most part we could all use a little extra help.
Here's what extra help can look like:
· Reaching out to friends and family for a deep chat about how you’re coping
· Enrolling in the Learn to Manage Your High Functioning Anxiety eCourse
· If you’re in Australia, getting a Mental Health Care Plan via your GP
· Reading The Panic Button Book