Description: This is another installment in my efforts to talk about, and to get you to THINK about what the Covid-19 pandemic and our experiences of it can show us about the nature of human Psychology. What I am suggesting is that we can learn more about ourselves and our communities and about how we might be able to move forward more positively (or at least less negatively) into our complex and uncertain futures if we use Psychology to help us reflect on ourselves and our social connections and social meanings rather than wasting time focusing on the Psychology or toilet paper panic buying and hand sanitizer hoarding. So, here is a bit of Psychology history. Back in the 1960’s two Psychiatrists, Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe wanted to study how stress effects susceptibility to physical illness (somewhat currently relevant, right?). They wanted to operationalize stress in a way they could assess using a survey or inventory as opposed to biological measures. They came up with the idea/theory that stress was equal to or the result of life change. The more that things change in your lifer over, perhaps a year or two the more stress you will have experienced. Using general surveys and by asking experts (Clinical Psychologists and Psychiatrists – or stress experts) ratings they arrived at a long list of life change events and tagged each of them with a number for 0 to 100 indicating how much life change they involved. One insight they provided was that BOTH negative AND positive life events involve life change. So, while separation and divorce are fairly high in their assigned life change points getting married or reconciling are not that much lower down the list. Change is stress. Their biggest finding was of a strong correlation between life change (stress) and physical illness – more life change = greater likelihood of illness. Now, in the years since their initial work many caveats have been pointed out: E.g., their scale included illness items (which contributed to their correlational results) and their scale did not take individual interpretation into account (for some people separation or divorce are huge stress reducers). Nevertheless, as any of the articles listed below suggest, thinking about stress and life change can help us to see more clearly just how MUCH stress we are currently coping (not coping so well) with in recent days and weeks.
Source: Holmes, T. H., & Rahe, R. H. (1967). The social readjustment rating scale. Journal of psychosomatic research.
Date: March 22, 2020
Article Link: Life Change Index Scale
There are a multitude of How to Cope with isolation due to Covid-19 sites out there (many quite well done) but if you think just a little bit about the conceptual work behind Holes and Rahe’s Social Readjustment Rating Scale (Life Change = Stress) you can better understand why you likely are feeling so disoriented and perhaps anxious. As well, this conceptualization also suggests tings you can do to address your current Psychological situation. Parents are being told to create and stick to schedules for your children (and for yourself as well). We have lost SO much social structure through imposed social isolation requirements and a lot of it we are not even aware of – think of all the little things that provided order to our days before like the ebb and flow of rush hour or of neighbourhood foot traffic. Setting a few new routines in place can relieve a LOT of stress and can help us to see that a lot of how we are feeling has to do with social norms and social conventions that we may not have noticed before. We are all now part of the Zoom generation (look it up!) looking for new ways to maintain old but essential social connections despite demands for social distancing.
Questions for Discussion:
- How did Holmes and Rahe suggest that stress and social change might be related
- Sit down and write up a list of all the things in your life that have changed in just the past 2 weeks and pay particular attention (mark with a star) the things you added to your list that surprised you (that you were not thinking about until after reading this post and the linked articles?
- In light of this reflection what are a few things you can start doping right away that could mitigate the impacts (stress) some of the changes you put into your previous list?
References (Read Further):
Holmes, T. H., & Rahe, R. H. (1967). The social readjustment rating scale. Journal of psychosomatic research.
Noone, P. A. (2017). The Holmes–Rahe Stress Inventory. Occupational Medicine, 67(7), 581-582. https://academic.oup.com/occmed/article/67/7/581/4430935
Linden, W. (1984). Development and initial validation of a life event scale for students. Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy, 18(3). https://cjc-rcc.ucalgary.ca/article/download/59826/45212
Grant, I., Gerst, M., & Yager, J. (1976). Scaling of life events by psychiatric patients and normals. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 20(2), 141-149. http://www.academia.edu/download/53559460/0022-3999_2876_2990041-620170617-29824-1hk7u4i.pdf
Linn, M. W. (1986). Modifiers and Perceived Stress Scale. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 54(4), 507. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/2652/de7bb401328af05ebd7b901f306da6d1ba23.pdf