How stressed should you be? What does “good mental health” actually look like? Is stress simply unavoidable? Or should any deviation from constant serenity and deep inner peace and fulfilment be considered unacceptable. Standardised tests can be a helpful way to see how your experience compares to other people.
There is little doubt that lots of people are quite stressed. It has been recently estimated that in the UK 12.5 millions work days were lost because of work-related stress, depression or anxiety.¹ That’s just work days, and doesn’t even include all the fun days that were missed. But what level of stress is reasonable, and indeed necessary for human endeavour to continue? And on a personal level, what level of stress is unavoidable and an inevitable part of the circumstances in which you find yourself?
You will probably be unsurprised to hear that there is no simple answer to this. This question gets to the core of what it is to be human. It also gets to the core of the vexed question of what is a diagnosable “mental illness” and what is simply the nature of being alive?
One way to evaluate your unique experience is to use standardised tests that can compare particular aspects of your mental health and stress levels to a larger test population. There are quite a few of these tests.
A very common one is the Beck’s Depression Inventory. This is very likely to be the basis of the short questionnaire that your GP might run through with you if you visit them because of poor mental health.
Other useful tests are the Beck’s Anxiety Inventory, the Penn State Worry Questionnaire, the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS), the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale, the Perceived Stress Scale, the Ardell Wellness Stress Test and the Dysfunctional Attitudes Scale.
These tests have been developed based on extensive research looking at common factors which contribute to people’s mental health, how these can be measured and, when so measured, where people’s experience sits on the measures.
They are used in a number of settings. Commonly they are used by doctors and psychologists to measure individual patient’s mental health. However they are also used to measure the success of policy interventions on the population and to compare different levels of wellbeing among different populations.
All of these tests are helpful to give you an idea of how your inner experience may compare to other people’s. They can also be evidence that there is scope for your experience to improve – i.e. if other people are less stressed than you then this very much suggests that you have the capacity to be less stressed!
At Bilantia we are very pragmatic when we consider what good mental health looks like and how stressed you “should” be. We think that it can be very helpful for an individual to do these standardised tests and get an idea of how their experience compares to others in the population.
However, we also think that these tests are inevitably generalised and are unable to fully reflect your individual experience. A core principle of our approach at Bilantia is that ultimately you are “the expert” on your own experience – what it is now and what you want it to be.
We think some stress in life is unavoidable but if you feel like it is too much stress – then it is too much stress – for you. The challenge is to work out what “good mental health” would be like for you. There is no “level of stress” that you “should” be. There is the level of stress that you want to achieve and then there is the level of stress that you can realistically achieve in your particular circumstances. One of our main goals at Bilantia is to support you to get as close as possible to making these match – so that you are as stressed as much as you want to be!
We have developed the detailed Bilantia Mental Health and Stress Questionnaire to help us to support you to do this. It incorporates a number of standardised tests and a comprehensive analysis of your own unique circumstances. We can use this detailed analysis to work with you to develop an Individual Mental Health and Stress Management Plan that will get you to being as stressed as you want to be.
If you would like to know how your mental health and stress levels compare to other people’s and undertake a comprehensive analysis of your own experience we would be delighted to support to you to do this. Click here to see the services that we can help you with. Please reach out and call us on 0798 480 5351 or email us at email@example.com. We have consulting rooms in Brighton and London and consult online to anywhere in the world.
Nicole Shinnick is the Founder, Managing Director and a Lead Consultant at Bilantia. She is a Certified Mindfulness Based Awareness Coach and currently completing a Master of Science, Psychology and Neuroscience of Mental Health at King’s College London.