A more precise measure of personal stress can be determined by using a variety of instruments that have been designed to help measure individual stress levels.
The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) is a classic stress assessment instrument. The tool, while originally developed in 1983, remains a popular choice for helping us understand how different situations affect our feelings and our perceived stress. The questions in this scale ask about your feelings and thoughts during the last month. In each case, you will be asked to indicate how often you felt or thought a certain way. Although some of the questions are similar, there are differences between them, and you should treat each one as a separate question. The best approach is to answer honestly and don’t over think your answer. That is, don’t try to count up the number of times you felt a particular way; rather indicate a reasonable estimate.
For each question choose from the following options:
0 – never 1 – almost never 2 – sometimes 3 – fairly often 4 – very often
- In the last month, how often have you been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly? ____
- In the last month, how often have you felt that you were unable to control the important things in your life? ____
- In the last month, how often have you felt nervous and stressed? ____
- In the last month, how often have you felt conﬁdent about your ability to handle your personal problems? ____
- In the last month, how often have you felt that things were going your way? ____
- In the last month, how often have you found that you could not cope with all the things that you had to do? ____
- In the last month, how often have you been able to control irritations in your life? ____
- In the last month, how often have you felt that you were on top of things? ____
- In the last month, how often have you been angered because of things that happened that were outside of your control? ____
- In the last month, how often have you felt difﬁculties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them? ____
Calculating your PSS score:
Determine your PSS score by following these directions:
First, reverse your scores for questions 4, 5, 7, and 8. On these 4 questions, change the scores to 0 = 4, 1 = 3, 2 = 2, 3 = 1, 4 = 0
After you make this adjustment add up your total score. My total score is ___________.
Individual scores on the PSS can range from 0 to 40 with higher scores indicating higher perceived stress.
► Scores ranging from 0-13 are considered low stress.
► Scores ranging from 14-26 are considered moderate stress.
► Scores ranging from 27-40 are considered high perceived stress.
The Perceived Stress Scale is interesting and important because your perception of what is happening in your life is most important. Consider the idea that two individuals could have the exact same events and experiences in their lives for the past month. Depending on their perception, one of those individuals could have a low stress store and the second person a high stress score. How you perceive and deal with stress will impact your score. However, personal awareness is important, because it can help you take more intentional action.
Disclaimer: Your PSS (self-assessment) score is not a diagnosis or a suggestion for treatment. Your score is meant to help assess your level of stress. If you have any further concerns about your current well-being you can contact your primary care doctor, coach, counselor, EAP provider, or a trusted advisor.
Empower Health America offers programs that help individuals, teams and organizations manage stress. Click here for a complete list of programs and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org