Perceived Stress Scale

perceived stress

One way to get stress under control is to take a perceived stress scale test and identify how well you are handling the many stresses of life.

Sources of Stress

The main thing that causes stress is change. These changes can take the form of situations and experiences that take us out of our daily routine. Stress and resistance also go hand in hand because it seems the more you resist the change in your life, the more stressed you become.

Measuring Stress

When you're dealing with stress, it's helpful to have a measurable device that lets you know how you're doing. This will give you clues as to whether you need professional help, to make big changes, or that you are, in fact, able to handle the stress that is coming your way. One way to do this is to use the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), which is a tool used by psychologists to measure the perception of stress in a person's life. Sheldon Cohen developed this scale in 1983. It shows you how well you are dealing with stress that has been occurring in the last month.

Using the Perceived Stress Scale

The scale uses ten questions on a five-point scale to compare a person's perceived stress to the actual circumstances or events. To take the test, read each question and respond to how often you've experienced these feelings in the past month. Choose your answer by being as honest as possible and add up the total number at the end. Determine your response as follows: 0 = never, 1 = almost never, 2 = sometimes, 3 = fairly often, and 4 = very often.

The Questions

This test can also be taken by going to here and clicking on responses.

  1. In the last month, how often have you been upset because of something that happened unexpectedly?
  2. In the last month, how often have you felt that you were unable to control the important things in your life?
  3. In the last month, how often have you felt nervous and "stressed?"
  4. In the last month, how often have you felt confident about your ability to handle your personal problems?
  5. In the last month, how often have you felt that things were going your way?
  6. In the last month, how often have you found that you could not cope with all the things that you had to do?
  7. In the last month, how often have you been able to control irritations in your life?
  8. In the last month, how often have you felt that you were on top of things?
  9. In the last month, how often have you been angered because of things that were outside of your control?
  10. In the last month, how often have you felt difficulties were piling up so high that you could not overcome them?

How to Score

While the scale does not have specific score cut offs, your total score does give you a perception of the amount of stress in your life. Total scores will range from zero to 40 points, with the higher scores indicating greater stress. On some of the questions (numbers four,five,seven, and eight), you will need to reverse the number on your score as these are indications of positive ways of handling stress. For example, if you indicate "four" on question number four, you'll actually give yourself zero points.

Coping With Stress

Some ways to cope include total acceptance of the change or current circumstances, awareness of the stress, and letting go of resistance. The more you can simply "be" and relax with your experiences and not try to control them, the better you'll be able to handle life's stressors.

Getting Help

Knowing your perceived stress levels can also help you make important choices and know whether or not you need:

  • Assistance from a therapist or counselor with your stress
  • More time to make a big decision, such as a job change
  • A change in exercise, diet, or lifestyle
  • Additional help from family or friends
  • More ways to release your emotional or physical stress

Knowing What Is Normal

Measuring perceived stress levels will also tell you whether or not:

  • Your level of stress is normal
  • If anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication might help
  • Whether you might want to try a few different techniques to relieve your stress

You Can Manage Stress

No matter how much perceived stress you have in your life, there are ways to feel better and manage stress. Once you know how you are doing, you are on your way to finding stress-free solutions.

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Perceived Stress Scale