I am a woman in my forties with multiple responsibilities as a solopreneur, wife, mother, and daughter. Plus, I add on hormonal changes, which are a whole different type of stress. I don’t know any women my age who aren’t dealing with various kinds of stress. But I know my demographic isn’t the only one with stress.

Have you ever wondered how your stress compares to another person’s? Or what life events scientists have found to cause the most stress?

I answered yes to both. In a search for an answer, I discovered the Holmes – Rahe Life Stress Inventory. The questionnaire rates social readjustments according to the amount of stress they induce. The inventory lists 43 different life-changing events that cause stress.

Can you guess the top 10 life events that cause the most stress?

How do your guesses compare to this list?

  1. Death of a spouse
  2. Divorce
  3. Marital separation from a mate
  4. Detention in jail or other institution
  5. Death of a close family member
  6. Major personal injury or illness
  7. Marriage
  8. Being fired at work
  9. Marital reconciliation with a mate
  10. Retirement from work

What are the other 33 stressors?

  • A major change in the health or behavior of a family member.
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Gaining a new family member (birth, adoption, older adult moving in)
  • Major business readjustment
  • A major change in financial state (better or worse)
  • Death of a close friend
  • Changing to a different line of work
  • A major change in the number of arguments with spouse
  • Taking on a mortgage
  • Foreclosure on a mortgage or loan
  • A major change in responsibilities at work (promotion or demotion)
  • Son or daughter leaving home
  • In-law trouble
  • Outstanding personal achievement
  • Spouse beginning or ceasing work outside the home
  • Beginning or ceasing formal schooling
  • Major changes in living conditions
  • Revision of personal habits
  • Troubles with the boss
  • Significant changes in working hours or conditions
  • Changes in residence
  • Changing to a new school
  • A major change in usual type and/or amount of recreation
  • A major change in church activity
  • A major change in social activities
  • Taking on a loan
  • A major change in sleeping habits
  • A major change in the number of family gatherings
  • A major change in eating habits
  • Vacation
  • Major holidays
  • Minor violations of the law

What do you notice about this list of life’s stressors?

Here’s what stood out to me. As expected, most of these events are negative. But what surprised me is the number of events that are positive or open to interpretation. It’s important to recognize positive events can also cause stress in our lives.

In short, the more change you have in your life, the more stress you have in your life.

I also found it interesting that four of the top 10 life stressors are related to marriage: divorce, separation, marriage, and reconciliation. Planning a wedding and preparing to enter into a marriage can be incredibly stressful. If you honeymoon that year, you add in vacation-related stress too.

In my opinion, this exhaustive list missed some important life-changing moments that I’ve experienced. Infertility issues and pregnancy loss. Natural disasters. Culture shock. Reverse culture shock. Menopause. Peri-menopause.

How does your stress compare?

In the last year, have you experienced many of the life events on the inventory? Yes or no, visit here to access a PDF or online version of the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory yourself.

If you score 300 points or more, you have an 80% chance of a health breakdown in the next two years. Yikes.

If you scored 150 to 300 points, you’ve got a 50% chance of a health issue in the next two years. (This is where I scored, which confirmed with a number that I’d had a stressful year. This was in large part due to health crises for two family members.)

If you scored 150 points or less, you have a relatively low amount of life change which also equals lower stress. You have less susceptibility to stress-induced health breakdowns. Lucky you.

Embrace your stress

If you scored 150 points or more, Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal’s research might reassure you. Stress gets a bad rap, and it is not all bad. She has written a book, The Upside of Stress, which I’ve added to my to-read list. The book argues embracing stress and practicing at getting better at dealing with it makes us stronger, smarter, and happier.

If you don’t have time to read the book I recommend this article on McGonigal’s research or her TED talk on making stress your friend.

I also recommend having a trusted, go-to list of self-care practices. Here are mine. What forms of self-care do you use to practice getting better at dealing with your stress?