How To Better Your Life With An Online Stress Test

Medically reviewed by Dr. April Brewer, DBH, LPC
Updated July 15, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

While everyone may experience some level of stress, too much stress can have negative impacts on your life, potentially leading to mental, emotional, and physical symptoms, as well as long-term health effects. An online stress test may indicate whether you’re experiencing too much stress and should consult a medical or mental health professional to address it. A low-stress way to seek professional help may be to connect with a licensed mental health professional through an online therapy platform, where you can attend sessions from the comfort of your home at a time that fits your schedule.

What is stress?

Stress can be defined as the way your body is programmed to handle a threat. In our primitive days, stress was generally the fight or flight mechanism that was present whenever there was a need to get food, fight against a warring tribe, or address a threat.

Your nervous system typically handles a threat by releasing adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones. These can prepare your body for an emergency. You may have a faster heartbeat, higher blood pressure, shallow breathing, heightened senses, and other physical changes that can get your body moving and speed up your reaction time and focus.

Learn to manage and cope with stress

Can some stress be good for you?

Stress can be a natural response to anything threatening around you. It's generally designed to motivate you to stop whatever it is that's bothering you. Small amounts of stress can help you perform better and give you a reason to do well in life.

Stress may have helped our ancestors get the extra boost they may have needed to defeat a wild animal. Stress can help you hit the brakes and miss a car crash. It may keep you motivated at work, help you perform tasks better, and keep you focused when it's crunch time.

Sometimes, stress may not be aligned with the modern world. With all of life's demands, you can find yourself stressed all the time, and this can affect your performance and your body, potentially reducing your chances to succeed. What may have been designed as something to help can end up hurting you.

Why stress can be a problem

Human emotions can be considered relatively new. In general, we used to be creatures that simply needed to survive, and stress would come as a response to physical threats to our lives. As we evolved, our problems became more about emotions and stresses related to less physically threatening problems, such as finances.

The problem may be that our nervous system didn't evolve to separate the two. It usually can't tell the difference between relationship problems and a mountain lion that’s about to pounce on you. Your unpaid cell phone bill can evoke the same emotions as a warring tribe coming to take your cave. Your boss threatening to fire you can give the same response as starving for food in the caveman days.

All these stresses can cause your stress hormones to increase and become harder to shut down. Constantly stressed may not be a state your body was designed to be in, and it can affect your body in different ways, both physically and mentally.

What can cause stress?

As you can imagine, negative threats can cause you stress, but so can positive experiences. If you're moving someplace better, you may be stressed about the move. If you're promoted, you may stress over performing well. It can be different for everyone. Some may handle stress well, while others may stress over any event. Stress can also be internal in terms of stress you may be putting on yourself.

Here are a few potential causes of stress:

  • Life changes

  • School or work responsibilities

  • Relationships

  • Finances

  • A busy schedule or endless to-do list

  • A pessimistic outlook

  • Fear of the unknown

  • Perfectionism

Symptoms of stress

You probably have a general idea of what being stressed is like, but some symptoms may sound ordinary unless you're aware of them. Stress can cause both psychological and physical symptoms.

  • Difficulty concentrating, recalling information, or making judgments

  • Constantly worrying or feeling overwhelmed

  • Showing signs of anxiety, anger, or depression

  • Experiencing racing thoughts

  • Withdrawing or isolating one's self

  • Experiencing physical symptoms like pain, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, low libido, dizziness, etc.

Additional stress symptoms may manifest through overeating or undereating, oversleeping or experiencing insomnia, or developing unhealthy habits. Procrastinating, using substances to "numb out" and nail-biting are examples of unhealthy habits a person may develop to cope with stress.

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

Long-term effects of stress

If you are overstressed, it can lead to health problems down the road, potentially including the following:

  • Depression and anxiety: Anxiety often goes together with stress. If you're worried about something, you can be anxious, too. Stress can make you feel upset, potentially leading to depression.

  • Aches and pains: Your body may respond by making your head hurt or causing pain somewhere else.

  • Insomnia: You may spend all night worrying about your problems, making it harder to sleep. In turn, the lack of sleep can make you perform worse, escalating your problems.

  • Immune system problems: Your immunity may lower, making it easier to get sick.

  • Digestive troubles: Food may not sit well with you.

  • Skin conditions: You may experience acne, eczema, or accelerated signs of aging.

  • Heart attack and stroke: Since stress can lead to a faster heart rate, it may increase the risk of these health issues.

  • Weight changes: You may overeat due to stress, and thus gain weight, or you may undereat and lose weight.

  • Reproductive challenges: If you're pregnant, too much stress can be hard on you and your baby.

  • Cognitive difficulties: You may find it harder to think straight or remember things.

How stress testing can help

It's sometimes hard to tell if the stress you're experiencing is natural or too much. An online stress test can help you figure out if you're overstressed. It can be a good way to see if you should visit a doctor regarding your stress levels.

If you search for an online stress test, you'll likely find dozens. In general, they will ask you a question, and you'll respond with how much it applies to you. The selections will usually be on a spectrum, with answers like, "Not at all, sometimes, a lot of the time, and all the time." Most tests should take about 15 minutes before providing you with the result.

Online stress tests can mainly function as a springboard. If you get the results and see that you may be overstressed, it can be best to see a doctor or mental health professional. Even if your results don’t indicate that you’re too stressed, but the level of stress you’re experiencing is concerning to you, it can be helpful to seek professional help.

How to reduce stress

You may never eliminate stress completely, but it can be possible to reduce it to healthy levels. If you talk to a doctor, there may be a few options.

Learn to manage and cope with stress

Coping with stress usually involves speaking to a therapist and letting out all your worries. It may involve you creating your own system to manage stress. Since stress is such a subjective concept, different techniques tend to work for different people.

The important thing can be that you learn to manage your stress in a healthy, effective manner. Your goal may be to reduce your stress until it's back to what it was designed for: to help motivate you and not to wear you down.

Benefits of online therapy

With online therapy, you generally won't have the additional stress of having to get to a therapist’s office. You can sign on anywhere you have an internet connection. Online therapy can be affordable, too, usually costing less than in-person therapy, which may relieve financial stress.

Effectiveness of online therapy

Online therapy can be effective in treating high-stress levels. One 2016 study investigating an online stress intervention stated, “This Web- and mobile-based intervention has proven effective in reducing stress in employees in the long term. Internet-based stress management interventions should be further pursued as a valuable alternative to face-to-face interventions.”

Takeaway

Stress can be a normal and expected part of life, but excessive stress can come with a variety of symptoms and long-term effects that can impact you physically, mentally, and emotionally. It can be helpful to take an online stress test to determine whether your stress levels may be too high. If they are, or if you feel that stress is causing harm to your life, then it can be vital to reach out to a doctor or therapist. Online therapy can be a convenient and easy way to seek professional guidance.

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