Debra Swersky
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Holmes & Rahe

The obvious questions can sometimes be the worst. Such as: “How are you?” (Get your laughs out now.) I answered that question truthfully last week and found myself face-to-face with the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, also known as the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS). When scored in adults the SRRS, indicates how “at risk” the adult is to illnesses based on stressful events taking place in their life. When Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe examined the medical records of over 5,000 patients they found a correlation of .118 between life events and illnesses (based off their rating scale).

I was fascinated by the scale… but more importantly I was amazed that someone thought to do the research (and suddenly exhausted). 

Then the real questions got asked: How could I possibly endure that many “life change units” and not have an illness? What was happening in my world (the non life-unit-adjusting world) that allowed me to not contract some major illness? And is .118 statistically significant? (That’s the kicker.)

So I started poking into the research on stress and found myself on the website reading through the history of “what is stress” and contemplating the meaning of life (only kind of kidding). The definitions that the site uses to explain stress aren’t your run of the mill “define stress” searches. They define stress as:

  • Where demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.
  • The rate of wear and tear on the body… and the sense of having little or no control.
  • [Stress] In addition to being itself, was also the cause of itself, and the result of itself.

In wondering how I’ve been coping, I decided to make this journal response two parts… because I answered the question, “how am I coping with that many “life change units” and not ill?” with a snap answer. But, then I got thinking about it… and I realized I need a whole separate entry for the real answer.

Part 1: The Snap Answer

Headspace. Staying “in the moment” or “being present” has helped me to see situations differently and respond to the root of issues without getting too caught up in outside forces. I’m still not very good at it (and have found it to be much harder in recent weeks due to the outside forces) but I see the benefits of 10-minutes a day. Plus, when you’ve got 300+ life-change units taking place how else do you expect yourself to keep swimming?

In reflecting on my snap answer, I began to see the bigger picture and really dug into the question: Is .118 statistically significant? I’m not pretending to be a statistician here (nor did I ask any statisticians to comment) so this is my answer: No. A correlation of .118 in this context is not really statistically significant. But, the question is still valid: What was happening in my world (the non life-unit-adjusting world) that allowed me to not contract some major illness? Stay tuned!

Debra Swersky