Staying in Touch with Stress and Yourself
Here is a tool that we have found uselful to help monitor our stress levels as well as the stress levels of mission/aid workers. It helps us stay in touch with how we are doing in the face of the demands of work, expecialy in "field" contexts. This tool is used by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and many other organizations (from the booklet Managing Stress in the Field, 2001). The booklet is very helpful and available to download for free at:
Short Questionnaire on Stress
Instructions: Rate each of the following items in terms of how much the symptom was true of you the last month.
0 = Never 1 = Occasionally 2 = Somewhat often 3 = Frequently 4 = Almost always
___1. Do you tire easily? Do you feel fatigued a lot of the time, even when you have gotten enough sleep?
___2. Are people annoying you by their demands and stories about their daily activities? Do minor inconveniences make you irritable or impatient?
___3. Do you feel increasingly critical, cynical or disenchanted?
___4. Are you affected by sadness you can’t explain? Are you crying more than usual?
___5. Are you forgetting appointments, deadlines, personal possessions? Have you become absent-minded?
___6. Are you seeing close friends and family members less frequently? Do you find yourself wanting to be alone and avoiding even your close friends?
___7. Does doing even routine things seem like an effort?
___8. Are you suffering from physical complaints such as stomach aches, headaches, lingering colds, general aches and pains?
___9. Do you feel confused or disoriented when the activity of the day stops?
___10. Have you lost interest in activities that you previously were interested in or even enjoyed?
___11. Do you have little enthusiasm for your work? Do you feel negative, futile, or depressed about your work?
___12. Are you less efficient than you think you should be?
___13. Are you eating more (or less), smoking more cigarettes, using more alcohol or drugs to cope with your work?
Total Score: (Add up scores for items 1-13)
Interpretation: No formal norms are available for this measure. Based on the content of the items, a score of 0-15 suggests the delegate is probably coping adequately with the stress of his or her work. A score of 16-25 suggests the worker is suffering from work stress and would be wise to take preventive action. A score of 26-35 suggests possible burnout. A score above 35 indicates probable burn out.
Based on “The Relief Worker Burnout Questionnaire” in Coping with Disaster (1999) by John H. Ehrenreich.
Reflection and Discussion
1. Based on the above tool, what are some of the main areas of stress for you?
2. What are a few things you could do to help deal with such stress?
3. Who do you know that would benfit from using this tool?