Stress Solutions

Test Your Stress IQ

There is a reason we talk about stress. And, we all do talk about stress. Lately, it has become  a major topic. There is so much change in the world around us – everything from the  weather to our daily schedules to our bodies as we get older every day. So, we should all  know how stress affects us. Each of us is affected in unique combinations of ways by stress. And, each of us would define different things as being “stressful.” For example, one person  might find loud noises very stressful. Another could be totally unaffected by loud sounds or  noises. I imagine that many of you try to help colleagues, friends, family, or clients with their stress. So, why not test your stress IQ.

1. Name four symptoms that stress is affecting your brain.

2. Stress is the body’s reaction to harmful situation. Do the harmful situations have to be real?

3. Can plants reduce stress?

4. Can a mother’s uncontrolled stress affect her unborn child?

5. Can stress trigger an autoimmune disease in humans?

6. How does a sleep-deprived bee show stress?

7. It is just a fanciful belief that seeing birds can reduce your stress. True or False.

8. What is the first thing that is lost when your schedule gets too busy?

9. Growing up in poverty can have a lasting impact on a child’s brain. True or False.

10. Chronic stress can harm a lot of things but one thing it doesn’t do is age you prematurely. True or False.

Answers to Stress IQ Test – Each correct answer earns 10 points. A perfect score is 100.

1. If you listed 4 of the following 6 general symptoms indicating that stress is affecting your brain, give yourself 1 point. a. Constant worrying; b. Racing thoughts; c. Forgetfulness and disorganization; d. Inability to focus; e. Poor judgment; f. Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side

2. No, whether the harmful situations is real or perceived or even “just” imagined, if you feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in the body to help you deal with the situation. That chemical reaction or the stress response is known as “fight or flight.”

3. Yes, some indoor plants can reduce stress. Of course, a walk in nature and the beauty of nature have long been known to make people feel better. Science backs up more benefits to keeping indoor plants around you. Indoor plants improve our mental health. A study at the University of Vermont showed that visual just seeing plants in the space around you helps reduce stress in only five minutes. Another study showed that plants in the same room while working increases a person’s ability to pay attention and stay focused (J. Environmental Psychology). Flowers are even more impressive. Research at Rutgers showed an immediate  impact on happiness. One hundred percent of the people in the study immediately responded with a smile.

4. Definitely. A pregnant woman’s chronic stress during pregnancy can cause behavioral and emotional problems of childhood that last into adulthood. The fetal brain responds to maternal chronic stress by making subtle changes in the development of the brain. These subtle changes lead to behavioral issues as the baby grows, such as ADD/ADHD, high levels of anxiety, learning differences, and even autism.

5. Yes. Almost all research papers on the topic of autoimmune disease start by saying that there is a multifactorial group of causes, including genetic, hormonal, some environmental and immunological factors. Despite the known causes, at least 50% of autoimmune diseases can be attributed to “unknown trigger factors.” And, that is where stress as a trigger fits in. Subjects of retrospective studies on autoimmune disease have identified that they experienced an unusual amount of emotional stress prior to onset of an autoimmune disease.

6. Some bee species who are sleep deprived perform their waggle dances with less  precision. The “waggle dance” of a bee is their equivalent of a GPS. So, a sleep deprived bee who is supposed to be communicating with the rest of the hive as to the direction of food could be off in the directions they are giving the others.

7. False. A study done at King’s College London examined the immediate effects on well- being when the 1,292 study subjects were in green spaces of nature and seeing/hearing birds at the same time. After statistical analysis the data showed that people rated their well-being in the moment highest when birds were present. The analysis eliminated the presence of nature (trees, plants, and water) thus isolating the positive effects of birds on
human emotions. The positive effects were found regardless of whether the participant had a prior diagnosis of depression/anxiety or no mental health issues.

8. The first thing that drops out of your schedule when work bears down is exercise. Aerobic exercise can reduce stress but if done in sufficient amounts, aerobic exercise can increase the length of “telomeres.” An important study done at U. of California proved that exercising at least 3 times a week for about ½ hour over a 6-month period can slow down cellular aging, which is measured by telomere length.

9. True. In general, people know many of the negative effects of poverty. What has not been well known is how childhood poverty coupled with stress might affect brain function, particularly the brain’s function of regulating emotions. One longitudinal study found that the amount of chronic stress from childhood through adolescence, including substandard housing, crowding, noise, family violence and separation, determined the relationship between childhood poverty and prefrontal brain function when the participant was trying to suppress negative emotions.

10. False. Chronic stress can cause premature aging and illness because the constant overproduction of cortisol reduces the supply of telomerase and that prevents the cell from reversing the effects of stress. In other words, your telomeres get shorter because of the stress and cannot be lengthened when the stress is too great.

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