Balancing work: Jan 5. Good moods, elevated stress.

This is a series on keeping track of my stress while also monitoring my work output (and hopefully not over-working myself). You can read about how this all started here. You can also find all other related posts by searching the "stress" tag here.

A little about the two tests

The two tests are the PANAS-X and the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS).

The PANAS-X is an expanded version of the traditional PANAS, which assesses affect (e.g. emotional state). On top of assessing positive and negative affect, the PANAS-X can also measure eleven other affective states -- such as fatigue, guilt, and other states. I use this to test my mood. It's possible being in a more negative mood may correlate with greater perceived stress.

The PSS assesses my perceived stress. As work piles on, or as deadlines near, I think my stress increases. I would assume it does, but we have science to help me with that -- in the form of this assessment.

I take a few liberties with the output of the tests. I'll report the actual numbers I scored (mainly for the positive affect, negative affect, and perceived stress measurements -- seldom for the other affect measures) but I'll be discussing them in terms of ranges determined by standard deviation for my age group. For example, a perceived stress score between 13 and 19 can be considered an "average level of stress" whereas a score of 37 or above can be considered "extremely high stress". These ranges I've created are based on standard deviations and means from the two papers I've linked here. They aren't intended to be precise, but rather just an easier way to discuss what a value means in the context of what I'm going through that week.

The PSS works on seven ranges: no perceived stress, a little perceived stress, typical/average stress, elevated stress, high stress, very high stress, and extremely high stress.

The PANAS works on six ranges: no positive/negative affect, little positive/negative affect, typical/average positive/negative affect, elevated positive/negative affect, high positive/negative affect, and very high positive/negative affect.

Current data suggests...

Elevated positive affect
Elevated negative affect
Elevated stress

Work load: Somewhat high

This is the first semester I'm teaching an in-person class. I'm not getting as much support from people who have previously taught this course as I thought I would, which essentially has me build the class from scratch. I spent the last week setting up the course and having the first 4 weeks planned -- up through the first exam. I'm still working on the exact exam specifics, but once that is done I think I'll feel a little more relaxed about my teaching workload.

Research is relaxed right now. I have an IRB amendment to write up and one to review for an RA. I'm writing a grant but it is mostly written (based on my dissertation proposal). Manuscripts have been edited and I'm planning to address those within the next week or two.

I'm becoming more anxious about my dissertation proposal presentation (or the "defense" if you'd prefer that term). I need to have my slides prepared and reviewed before I head into battle. That is slowly being pushed up towards my #1 priority.

The actual #1 priority is a consulting job I have. There is a deadline for this week. On top of that, I am driving through two snowstorms to get back to Utah this week. So... actual priorities in front of me are pretty high. But in the scheme of things, only somewhat high work load this week.

Things I'm doing to relax: a date, music, writing

I probably shouldn't blog much about personal life stuff, but I think that's the most transparent way to show how I'm dealing with stress relief. I promise I'll keep these parts of the post as concise as possible.

I do have a date. I'm pretty excited since me and this person have been missing hanging out with each other for awhile now. My spirits are pretty high. But also... nervous and all the other emotions that come with a first date? I'm assuming that's increasing my stress to elevated as opposed to normal.

I am in the midst of recording my new album. I played a few nights ago to get my feet back under me for shows. Hoping to play pretty frequently soon. Playing music is one of those things that doesn't allow you to focus on anything else. It's a great way to relieve stress or to get away from work.

I think writing has been a byproduct of non-stressful times, but I've never really used it as a stress reliever until recently. I'm not necessarily doing more free-writing, but blog posts on this blog have been obviously more focused on me and health as of lately.

In my near future

Grant proposal needs to be finished. Dissertation proposal presentation is coming up. Manuscripts need to be edited and sent out.

Oh yeah, and I need to teach a class for the first time.

We'll talk in a week or so, everyone.

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