Exploring The Effectiveness Of A Stress Quiz

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated April 29, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Feeling stressed now and again is a common human experience. The body and mind are equipped to handle these times by entering fight-or-flight mode in order to deal with the threat or other stressors. However, chronic stress means that your system is engaged in this mode too often. This can take a toll on both your mental and physical health over time and has been shown to even increase mortality risk. That’s why being aware of your stress levels and taking the appropriate actions to manage them as needed can be important. Read on to learn how taking a stress quiz can represent a helpful first step in this process. 

Common causes of excessive or chronic stress

Stress can have a variety of sources that can be situational, psychological, or both. They’re different for each individual, but common sources include:

  • A demanding job
  • A difficult living situation
  • Tumultuous romantic relationships
  • Serious and/or chronic illness in yourself or a loved one
  • Family conflict
  • An underlying mental health condition, such as an anxiety disorder
Getty
Feeling overwhelmed?

Signs of chronic stress

Because of the complex physiological processes in which the body engages when responding to stress, a person is likely to exhibit certain signs or symptoms of being under this influence long term. In other words, the first way to recognize that you may be routinely experiencing more stress than is healthy is to look out for symptoms such as:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Neck or back pain
  • Headaches
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Heartburn, stomach pain, or nausea
  • Increased anger, frustration, or irritability
  • Significant changes in appetite
  • Social withdrawal
  • Fatigue
  • Nervous habits like fidgeting
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares

Another way to tell if you might be experiencing too much stress is to take a stress test, which we’ll discuss below. They can help you measure your current stress levels against what is considered by researchers and medical professionals to be healthy and safe.

Taking the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) quiz

The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) is one popular test that can help individuals get a better understanding of how much stress they’re regularly experiencing and whether it may represent a health risk.

This self-assessment was created by psychologist Sheldon Cohen in 1983, but it remains widely used by psychologists and mental health professionals today. The results of the assessment tend to be more accurate and actionable when it’s administered by a mental health professional, but taking it on your own can give you a basic idea of the amount of stress you are experiencing.

The PSS measures stress by asking ten general questions regarding your stress levels over the last month. You’ll be asked to answer each question as a rating using a scale from 0–4, with zero representing “Never,” one representing “Almost never”, two representing “Sometimes,” three representing “Fairly often,” and four representing “Very often.” The questions are as follows: 

  1. In the last month, how often have you felt confident about your ability to handle your personal problems?
  2. In the last month, how often have you felt that things were going your way?
  3. In the last month, how often have you been able to control irritations in your life?
  4. In the last month, how often have you felt that you were on top of things?
  5. In the last month, how often have you been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly?
  6. In the last month, how often have you felt that you were unable to control the important things in your life?
  7. In the last month, how often have you felt nervous and stressed?
  8. In the last month, how often have you found that you could not cope with all the things that you had to do?
  9. In the last month, how often have you been angered because of things that happened that were outside of your control?
  10. In the last month, how often have you felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them?
Getty/Vadym Pastuk

Calculating your PSS score

If a therapist or other mental health professional administers the test, they will determine your PSS score for you. If you choose to do the assessment yourself, you can add up your score by following the directions below.

The scoring process for this test may seem a bit unusual for those who have never done it before. First, you’ll need to “reverse” your scores for the first four questions. For example, if you chose zero for any of the first four questions, transpose that score to a four and vice versa. If you chose one, transpose that score to a three and vice versa. A score of two will remain the same. Once that’s done, add up these reversed numbers with the sum of the numbers you chose for the other six questions. Your final score should fall somewhere between zero and 40. 

If it’s between zero and 13, your stress levels are considered to be low. 14–26 indicates moderate stress, and 27–40 indicates high stress. If you receive a moderate or high score or otherwise believe you could benefit from support when it comes to handling your stress, meeting with a mental health professional to discuss your results is typically recommended.

Coping with high-stress levels

There are a variety of different ways to cope with moderate to high-stress levels. The first and most obvious is to reduce or avoid sources of stress, but that’s not always possible. In that case, regularly engaging in relaxation exercises and finding healthier ways to cope with stress is usually recommended. Popular relaxation techniques include deep breathing strategies, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation. Taking time for self-care can also help you relax, such as regularly spending time with loved ones, in nature, or doing activities you enjoy. Cultivating healthy habits like eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and practicing good sleep hygiene may help your body more effectively face stress as well.

If your stress levels are consistently high, you may also consider meeting with a mental health care provider like a therapist. They can equip you with strategies for coping with stressful situations in healthy ways. The technique of cognitive reframing, or seeing situations in a different light to shift your reactions to them, is one they might have. An example of this in regards to stress might be seeing a stressful work situation as a challenge rather than a threat, or an opportunity to build new skills rather than to fail. While it may not be appropriate in every situation, a strategy like this can often be helpful. Additionally, if a mental health condition like an anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is contributing to your ongoing stress levels, the provider can help you address these as well.

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Getty/Luis Alvarez
Feeling overwhelmed?

Seeking therapy for stress

Many people who face chronic stress have busy, hectic schedules, which can make commuting to and from regular therapy appointments difficult. In situations like these, online therapy can represent a viable alternative. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist with whom you can meet via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging from the comfort of home. They can help you learn ways to manage your stress levels without adding to them by requiring a lengthy commute or spending time in an unfamiliar space. Research suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in particular can be as effective when delivered virtually as in person when it comes to helping reduce symptoms of stress, so you can generally feel confident in whichever format you may choose.

Takeaway

Taking a stress test on your own isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice, but it can give you an idea of whether your stress might be reaching unhealthy levels. If so, you might want to engage in some healthy coping mechanisms and meet with a mental health professional who can guide you toward managing your stress in a more positive way.
Ease stress and mental exhaustion
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started