Stress Management, Well-being and Self-Care

What events in life can cause the greatest stress, and how can people cope with them?

by James Porter May 26, 2017

Here’s a chart of the life events that cause the greatest degree of stress. It’s one of the earliest stress tests ever devised and it’s called the Holmes/Rae Social Readjustment Rating Scale. Stress researchers, Thomas Holmes and Richard Rae arbitrarily assigned a point value to all the stressful things that can happen in life (defined in this case as the changes we all go through).

It’s a very old scale, so you will see a few dollar values that are a bit out of date like a mortgage of $10,000. Obviously that needs updating. But most of the things on the list are timeless. There are updated versions of this scale on the web that don’t list a dollar amount.

This test has been validated or scientifically proven to be a true or valid test. It has been used to determine the stress levels in thousands of people and also used to predict whether somebody would get sick from all their stress. Go through the test and circle all the things you have experienced in the last 12 months and then add up the point values. Drs. Holmes and Rae found that people who scored 300 or more, were much more likely to get sick, than people who scored lower than 300.

Notice that even good things are listed here like getting married, retirement, having a baby and Christmas. We all know that these events represent, sometimes major life changes, and thus have an element of stress to them as well.

Coping with events like these requires a two part strategy. Part one is simply to take control of the changes you CAN control. So if you’re getting a divorce or your spouse just died, (changes you can’t control) maybe now is not the time to move or change jobs or take on more debt (changes you can control).

Part two is to enhance your coping skills for the things you can’t control. So, if you are experiencing a big change at work, or at home, consider taking up exercise, meditation, yoga, or doing some deep breathing as a way to better handle the stress that you can’t avoid or control.

This question was originally answered on Click here to see more of his answers on Quora. Do you have a question for Jim? Email your question to with "Ask Jim" as the subject line.

James Porter
James Porter


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