Forty-three years have passed since Rodale Press published the first
popular work on the theme of well-being. The title, “High Level Wellness: An Alternative to Doctors, Drugs, and Disease,” paid tribute to Halbert L. Dunn, a physician who coined the phrase “high level wellness” and used it to promote personal responsibility for health and happiness, including daily attention to sufficient exercise, scientific nutrition, exuberant living, and environmental sensitivity. As early as the 1950s and early 1960s, Dr. Dunn promoted a shift in emphasis away from continuing reliance on medical care for chronic illnesses and illnesses caused largely by poor lifestyle choices and dangerous environments.
Despite the growth of a wellness movement, the emphasis remains on treatment and cure, rather than prevention and wellness. This fact is one of the many main reasons why the US healthcare system now costs $3.2 trillion a year. In my view, the focus on chronic disease and the consequent neglect of life enrichment is the main reason for this staggering level of medical spending, unmatched anywhere else in the world.
A simple version of my stress test self-assessment appeared in that 1977 book mentioned above. I have expanded it over the years. The test has always been designed to give a broad idea of a range of factors that can lead to emotional and mental stresses of an unpleasant nature, which is basically the meaning of stress, although the term has also been interpreted to include such occasional strains from positive factors, such as overexcitability caused by sudden and extreme good fortune. (Personally, I have always welcomed such stress and still do.)
Basically though, too many positive or negative stressors that are not managed well will cause health problems and others that range from misery to ruin. My stress test, which remains a self-assessment tool after many expansions over the years, is still a self-report instrument intended to obtain personal information. It is not a test in any technical sense. Unless validated under controlled conditions over time with scientific rigor, it will only serve the purpose of self-awareness and insight into areas deserving of attention. Which, by the way, always was and still is the intention.
Many books have been written on the phenomenon of stress. It is a popular term in our culture and receives much attention in various workplace health promotion programs. Among humans, there are large individual differences in the way people respond to and deal with stressors at different times and under various circumstances. What stresses you out can, paradoxically, delight me, and vice versa. People thrive and experience stress in their lives in a wide range of ways. Therefore, any stress self-assessment that increases awareness should lead to less suffering and more prosperity. That sounds like a very good thing.
If effective stress management is as beneficial to health as experts in this specialized field claim, the benefits of mastery are considerable. A partial list of benefits includes less brain shrinkage(!), better emotional health, better handling of distressing events, aids in concentration, sharper focus, less presenteeism, expanded potentials, reduced risk of dementia, and improved sleep cycles.
In summary, the following stress test is a self-awareness test.
evaluation or life satisfaction survey to date. It should help you start or add to a wellness mindset and lifestyle.
We can all improve our ability to manage stress. This test should be helpful in exploring problems and concerns that lead to positive resolutions of many challenging situations.
The rating scale
The Ardell Wellness Stress Test, updated and expanded many times since the short “High Level Wellness” chapter, now incorporates physical, mental, emotional, spiritual (ie meaning and purpose), and social aspects of wellness. This is one reason many users report finding the test useful: it offers a balanced assessment of various sources of stress based on a six-point scale, plus a neutral option indicating that there are no positive or negative emotions associated with a given item. Simply rate your satisfaction in positive or negative degrees for each item.
Enter “+3” if your satisfaction with the way life is currently going with respect to the listed category is “exuberant to exuberant”, as good or positive as could reasonably be expected or desired.
Enter “+2” if your level of satisfaction in the category is “very happy to fairly satisfied.”
Please enter “+1” if your satisfaction is “OK to slightly satisfactory”.
Enter “0” if your closest meaning is “not sure” to “no problem”.
Enter “-1” if the most accurate answer seems to be “slightly disappointed” to “not quite right.”
Enter “-2” if the most/best answer is “very disappointed” to “quite unhappy with this”.
Enter “-3” if you feel the problem at hand is “I’m on the road to nowhere” to “I think I’m about to fall off a cliff.”
With this scoring system, enter a number to the left of each factor regarding how much positive or negative stress it generates. When you’ve completed all 25, add your score and read your stress assessment.
The final recommendation when testing and scoring is complete, no matter what your score, is to familiarize yourself with and commit to a REAL wellness mindset/lifestyle. REAL Wellness means lifestyles and mindsets guided by reason, inspired by exuberance, supported by
athletics and empowered by freedom.
The self-assessment test
_____ 1. Choice of profession or career
_____ 2. Current job or ability to earn a satisfactory living
_____ 3. Marital or partner status
_____ 4. Primary relationships (family and best friends)
_____ 5. Ability to have fun and the extent to which you regularly experience good times
_____ 6. Number of recent times you felt exuberant, filled with the feeling that “life is good”
_____ 7. Financial situation and future prospects
_____ 8. Sense of who you are and how you evolve (self-respect and confidence)
_____ 9. Meaning and purpose in life (includes “spirituality”)
_____ 10. Level of self-esteem and estimate of how others see you
_____ 11. Prospects to have an impact on those who know you and possibly others
_____ 12. Sex life
_____ 13. Body, how it looks and how it works
_____ 14. Home life, including variety of interests and passions
_____ 15. Life skills and education: awareness of issues and facts not related to your job or profession
_____ 16. Capacities to face changes, crises, setbacks and all kinds of unexpected situations
_____ 17. Nutritional knowledge, attitudes and consumption patterns
_____ 18. Ability to recover from disappointments, injuries and tragedies
_____ 19. Potentials
_____ 20. A variety of interests and a balanced quality in your life
_____ 21. Feels like life for you is on an upward curve, getting better and fuller all the time
_____ 22. Level of involvement in issues and concerns beyond your immediate interests
_____ 23. Parenting options and parenting styles/principles
_____ 24. Role with a network of friends, family and/or others
_____ 25. Emotional acceptance of the inescapable reality of aging, decline, and death
Add the positive number and subtract the negative numbers. Write the total in this space: ______
+60 to +75: You are in a very good place overall and are unlikely to be significantly bothered by stressors on a consistent basis. You have many positive factors in your life that, more than any stress management
technique (for example, deep breathing, meditation, etc.), will make you largely immune to the adverse effects of negative emotions in dealing with what life has to offer. There are few challenges that can take you away from a continuous sense of close well-being, as long as your satisfaction
the level is still as high as indicated in this evaluation.
36 to +59 – You are doing well, much better than most. You should find the available information on the concept of wellness attractive and consistent with your movement towards effective and healthy living. You already have a fine-tuned ability to deal creatively and efficiently with events and circumstances. Additional advancements should be easy for you. All good wishes for moving forward as you learn new skills, particularly in areas of critical thinking, exuberant life experience, physical fitness, and expanding your personal freedoms and choices.
20 to +35 – You have a well-founded appreciation of the importance of lifestyle choices that affect the quality of your life. Learn the value of personal responsibility, a supportive environment, and the cumulative positive effects of small changes over time. In the coming months, put extra energy into learning ways to strengthen certain areas. You can increase your satisfactions while reducing your stressors.
0 to +19: You can clearly benefit from a modest investment in learning ways to reduce stress and increase pleasure. A flurry of negative circumstances could lead to emotional setbacks. Take action now to avoid slowing down your steady progression toward mastery of the good life and self-efficacy.
The following recommendation applies to the score range above (0 to +19) and the three score ranges below: Review the stress items identified in all 25 statements. Google or search for at least basic information on these crucial stress-related topics. Take the test again after you have done this reading and, where appropriate, practiced the selected techniques and perspectives.
-1 to – 17. Your ability to use the fundamental skills of REAL wellness is being inhibited by insufficient management of the stressors in your life. These four key skill areas are 1) the use of reason-based decision-making, 2) the enjoyment of exuberant qualities of life, 3) the practice of the two keys to athletics (exercise and wise nutrition), and 4) the ability to break free of self-imposed restrictions on your personal freedoms. This is a mental health problem with considerable consequences.
-18 to -37 – Everyday stress that interferes with good living is a serious problem and deserves your attention. Stress of a constant negative nature in life will jeopardize your motivation to choose wisely and maintain the energy level necessary for good health and an enjoyable life. You are a candidate for counseling. You are overly pessimistic or have serious problems coping with stress.
-38 to -75 – Oh my gosh. What do you do for a living? Are you the supreme leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Il, ruling dictator of the Hermit Kingdom? Do you work in the Trump White House? Something must be done, many things, to lighten the load, to remove much of the stress load from his life.
Let’s look on the bright side for a moment: He’s still alive, he made it through the test without suffering a cardiac event, and he probably has a sense of humor, sort of. But seriously, if he really is as stressed as this little set of awareness-raising questions would indicate, it’s time to have a chat with a wellness professional.
Thank you for taking my self-assessment stress test.
All the best wishes. Good.