The Holmes & Rahe Stress Scale – A Potent Tool for Stress Management

For many of us, stress is merely a part of everyday life. Some of us just tolerate it. Others find ways to address it – through meditation, exercise, mindfulness or other means. What many don’t know, however, is that there are several kinds of stress. And that, if evaluated and measured, stress can be better understood and managed.

Hans SelyeConsidering that many of us think of the word “stress” as having a purely negative connotation, it might be surprising to learn that stress can have both positive and negative impacts. Endocrinologist Hans Selye defined “eustress” as healthy stress that gives one a feeling of fulfillment and includes positive healthy gains such as increasing enjoyment or ones capacity for life. Examples of eustress include strength training or challenging work. Conversely, “distress” is persistent stress that can’t be resolved through coping or adapting. This chronic, unresolved stress can lead to anxiety, withdrawal and many other physical and emotional problems including challenges at work, home or relationships.


Richard Rahe

Scientists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe took these ideas and developed a means of measuring stress – providing a powerful tool that can help us better understand the potential impacts of long-term stress. Called the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, it helps us measure the stress load we carry and predict the chance that stress will lead to disease.

Here is a link to the scale for your review. As described in chapter nine of my upcoming book Sustainable Wellness, you can use this tool to focus your awareness on these types of events and the areas of your life they are affecting. If your score is very high, it’s important to realize that it doesn’t sentence you to illness. Basically, this scale points out that any change is stressful and can throw us out of balance, especially if we are not aware.

The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale can be powerful tool to help manage stress. By becoming increasingly attentive to the many pressures that affect our lives, we can make adjustments that can help us sustain balance through life’s inevitable changes. In the words of Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”


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