Exploring Stress Through Self-Tracking

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tracking stressIn an attempt to understand what causes psychological stress and how it affects quality of my life, I have been tracking its various sources. Contemporary stress theory recognizes three major types of stressors: intrapersonal (my personal thoughts, emotions, inner conflicts, etc.), interpersonal(relationships and interactions with other people, and non-personal (weather, workload, time constraints,  etc.). I have been rating exposure to each of these stressors three times a day throughout March, using 10-point scale in my rTracker log. The objective was to find out what kind of stressors bother me most often, my sensitivity to each of them, and how stressors influence my everyday psychological states and behavior. This week, I finally had a chance to aggregate all that data, and run some quick analysis.

First, I looked at the distribution of stressors across dayparts and weekdays. As you can see, the most prevalent stressors were of non-personal nature, especially in the morning and afternoon. The least prominent stressors were those related to interpersonal relationships (you are looking at the average stressor intensity across different day parts):

Distribution of Different Stressors

I then looked at how each of these stressors is related to the overall stress by running a regression model, with three type of stressors as predictors of overall stress. The only significant influencer was again non-personal type of stressors. In other words, in presence of other stressors, non-personal stressors are the most influential in driving my overall stress. (How to Interpret Chart Below: every 1 point increase in subjective intensity of nonpersonal stressors results in 0.47 poitns increase in intensity of overall stress).

Influence of Different Stressors on Overall Stress

Measured Me: How Different Stressors Influence Overall Stress

The intrapersonal and nonpersonal stressor were also turned out to be significant influencers of Mood Positivity. The higher intensity in both of these stressors leads to considerable decrease in mood (one point increase in intensity of the stressor would lead to 0.16 or 0.25 points drop in my mood positivity). Similar analysis for Mood Intensity and Mood Dominance did not reveal any statistically significant relationships.

Influence of Different Stressors on Mood Positivity

Measured Me: Influence of Stressors on Mood Positivity

I then looked at how stressors affect my self-esteem. The only influential stress factors that negatively influence my self-esteem were my own internal conflicts and thoughts: one point increase in intensity of intrapersonal stressors leads to 0.11 drop in my self-esteem:

Influence of Different Stressors on My Self-Esteem

Measured Me: Influence of Different Stressors on My Self-Esteem

Based on this analysis, I can conclude that stress in my everyday life is caused primarily by inner conflicts and environmental/situational factors. The next step would be to explore different ways to deal with these stressors (meditation? breathing? physical exercises?) , and quantify and compare effectiveness of these treatments. I will keep you posted!

If you find such categorization of stressors too broad and general, or do not trust subjective measures of stress, you may check out Azumio’s new awesome Stress Check 2 app . It measures and tracks your stress levels at any given point based on heart rate variability, and let’s you log more specific types of stressors (e.g.,. finance, health, career, relationships, etc.).

Image Credits: http://www.brucesallan.com

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