You vs. Stress & Illness: 5 Secrets for Winning the Wellness Battle By Jed Diamond, Ph.D. Contact: Jed@MenAlive.com Web: www.MenAlive.com www.freedigitalphotos.net They say that stress is a killer. But most of us don't interpret that literally. We know that stress is bad for our health, but few of us are aware of the role it can play in producing such real killers as heart attacks and strokes. "A critical shift in medicine has been the recognition that many of the damaging diseases of slow accumulation can either be caused or made far worse by stress," writes Robert M. Sapolsky, author of the critically acclaimed Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. "Stress can wreak havoc with your metabolism, raise your blood pressure, burst your white blood cells, make you flatulent, ruin your sex life, and if that's not enough, possibly damage your brain." What's important to remember, writes Sapolsky, a professor of biological science and neuroscience at Stanford University, is that effectively managing your stress can be a powerful weapon against serious illness. In a landmark study, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe examined the medical records of over 5,000 medical patients as a way to determine whether stressful events might cause illnesses. A positive correlation was found between their life events and their illnesses. Results were published as the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS), known more commonly as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. Subsequent validation has supported the links between stress and illness. To measure stress according to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, the number of "Life Change Units" that apply to events in the past year of an individual's life are added. The final score will give a rough estimate of how stress affects health. This scale has been updated to add in new stresses that were not addressed in Holmes and Rahe’s original studies in the 1960s. Place a check beside any changes that have occurred in your life in the last year, circle the associated life-change units, and add up your score. Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale Life Changes Life change units 1. Changes at work Change: ( ) Change to a new type of work - 25 ( ) Change in your work hours or conditions- 20 ( ) Took a course to help your work - 18 Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale (Continued) Responsibilities: ( ) More work responsibilities - 29 ( ) Fewer work responsibilities - 29 Trouble at work: ( ) With your boss - 23 ( ) With your coworkers - 23 ( ) With those you supervise - 23 ( ) Other work troubles - 20 ( ) Major business readjustment - 39 Status: ( ) Promotion - 40 ( ) Transfer - 38 ( ) Demotion - 40 ( ) Being laid off - 42 ( ) Retirement - 45 ( ) Being Fired - 47 2. Changes at home or in your family Move: ( ) Move within same city or town - 20 ( ) Move to another city or town - 28 Major changes: ( ) Major changes in living conditions - 25 ( ) Change in family get-togethers - 15 ( ) Change in health or behavior of family member - 44 Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale (Continued) Spouse or marital partner: ( ) Recently married or in a committed relationship - 50 ( ) Spouse begins or stops work - 26 ( ) Change in arguments with spouse - 35 ( ) Sexual difficulties - 39 ( ) Separation from spouse - 65 ( ) Marital reconciliation - 45 ( ) Divorce - 73 ( ) Death of spouse - 100 Children: ( ) Getting pregnant - 40 ( ) Birth of a child - 39 ( ) Birth of a grandchild - 29 ( ) Adoption of a child - 39 ( ) Child leaves home to attend college or get married - 29 ( ) Child leaves home for other reasons - 29 Relatives: ( ) Problems with relatives or in-laws - 29 ( ) Death of a parent - 63 ( ) Death of a brother, sister, or other close relative - 60 3. Changes in your personal or social life School: ( ) Beginning or ending school - 26 ( ) Change of school or college - 20 Personal habits: ( ) Change in eating habits - 15 ( ) Change in church activities - 19 ( ) Change in social activities - 18 Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale (Continued) Miscellaneous personal: ( ) Vacation - 13 ( ) Major personal achievement - 28 ( ) Christmas - 12 Relationships: ( ) A “falling out” in a close relationship - 32 ( ) Death of a close friend - 55 ( ) Serious illness of a close friend - 34 Legal: ( ) Minor violation of the law - 11 ( ) Being held in jail - 63 4. Changes in Finances Income: ( ) Major loss of income - 38 ( ) Major increase of income - 38 Property: ( ) Loss/damage to personal property - 25 ( ) Foreclosure on mortgage or loan - 30 Investments: ( ) Investment losses - 39 ( ) Investments payoffs or significant increases in value - 39 Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale (Continued) 5. Changes in Health ( ) An injury or illness that kept you in bed for more than a week or sent you to the hospital - 53 ( ) An illness or injury that was less serious than above - 50 ( ) Change in eating habits - 16 ( ) Major change in sleeping habits - 15 ( ) Major change in your usual type and/ or amount of recreation - 19 Total Life Change Units____________. Score of 300+: At risk of illness. Score of 150-299+: Risk of illness is moderate (reduced by 30% from the above risk). Score 150-: Only have a slight risk of illness. References 1. Holmes TH, Rahe RH (1967). "The Social Readjustment Rating Scale". J Psychosom Res 11 (2): 213–8. doi:10.1016/0022-3999(67)90010-4. PMID 6059863. 2. Rahe RH, Arthur RJ (1978). "Life change and illness studies: past history and future directions". J Human Stress 4 (1): 3–15. PMID 346993. So what can you do? 1. Tally your score. If you’re like most of us, your scores are quite high and you are at risk of illness. The first step in making change is to be aware that a problem is at hand. 2. Limit future changes in the next year. Many of us tell ourselves that we have no control over the changes in our lives. But the truth is we have a great deal of control. For instance, think of how much stress and strain we create for ourselves by watching the T.V. every night. Do we really want to be putting so much “imaginal” stress into your life? What other changes to you have planned that you could postpone if you knew it would help keep you health? 3. Get out and move more. Exercise and movement is a wonderful antidote for stress. The more we move, the more we are able to dissipate the stress chemicals that build up in our systems. The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard had it right when he said, “Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well- being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.” 4. Spend time with friends and family. Too many of us become workaholics. We think we’re working to make our families life better, and we are, but we also take time away from them when we work takes over our lives. When it’s your time and you are ready to pass on you won’t be thinking, “I wish I had worked just a little bit harder and gotten a little more done at work.” No, you’ll be thinking, “I wish I had spent more time getting to know my wife and my children.” 5. Enjoy nature’s rhythms. Have you noticed that nature moves at the speed of life, while humans seem to get caught up in trying to keep up with the speed of light? Think about what we do between Halloween and New Years. If you’re like most of us, it’s the season to do more and more, faster and faster. What’s nature doing? Slowing down, turning inwards, and getting quiet. We can reduce a lot of stress in our lives if we learn from nature.