There are many different signs and symptoms that can indicate when someone is having difficulty coping with the amount of stress they are experiencing:

Physical: headaches, grinding teeth, clenched jaws, chest pain, shortness of breath, pounding heart, high blood pressure, muscle aches, indigestion, constipation or diarrhea, increased perspiration, fatigue, insomnia, frequent illness.

Psychosocial: anxiety, irritability, sadness, defensiveness, anger, mood swings, hypersensitivity, apathy, depression, slowed thinking or racing thoughts; feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, or of being trapped, lower motivation.

Cognitive: decreased attention, narrowing of perception, forgetfulness, less effective thinking, less problem solving, reduced ability to learn; easily distracted.

Behavioural: overeating or loss of appetite, impatience, quickness to argue, procrastination, increased use of alcohol or drugs, increased smoking, withdrawal or isolation from others, neglect of responsibility, poor job performance, poor personal hygiene, change in religious practices, change in close family relationships.

Below is a quiz from the Canadian Mental Health Association of Ontario you can take to help identify your stress levels:


  •    Neglect your diet?
  •    Try to do everything yourself?
  •    Blow up easily?
  •    Seek unrealistic goals?
  •    Fail to see the humour in situations others find funny?
  •    Act rude?
  •    Make a ‘big deal’ of everything?
  •    Look to other people to make things happen?
  •    Have difficulty making decisions
  •    Complain you are disorganized?
  •    Avoid people whose ideas are different from your own?
  •    Keep everything inside?
  •    Neglect exercise?
  •    Have few supportive relationships?
  •    Use sleeping pills and tranquilizers without a doctor’s approval?
  •    Get too little rest?
  •    Get angry when you are kept waiting?
  •    Ignore stress symptoms?
  •    Put things off until later?
  •    Think there is only one right way to do something?
  •    Fail to build relaxation time into your day?
  •    Gossip?
  •    Race through the day?
  •    Spend a lot of time complaining about the past?
  •    Fail to get a break from noise and crowds?

Adapted from: What’s Your Stress Index? Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario (no date).

Interpretation of your score (based on the number of “Yes” selections):

0-5:  There are few hassles in your life.  Make sure though, that you are not trying to deliberately avoid problems.

6-10: You’ve got your life in fairly good control.  Work on the choices and habits that could still be causing you some unnecessary stress in your life.

11-15: You are approaching the danger zone.  You may be suffering stress-related symptoms and your relationships could be strained.  Think carefully about choices you’ve made and take relaxation breaks every day.

16-25: Emergency!  It is critical that you stop and re-think how you are living; change your attitudes and pay careful attention to diet, exercise and relaxation.

- SDI Team