Last time we said our stress really comes in levels.  And, understanding our stress is important because when we are NOT aware of the levels of our distress, we can feel powerless over it. But we can influence some control over our mental and emotional state when we can subjectively measure it.

Using a SUDS can help us keep distress levels in perspective. It is useful to have a way of measuring your level of distress or anxiety. You can then become more in touch with your feelings, and can control them more effectively.


100 Highest anxiety/distress that you have ever felt
90 Extremely anxious/distressed
80 Very anxious/distressed, unable to concentrate
70 Quite anxious/distressed, interfering with performance
50 Moderate anxiety/distress, uncomfortable but can continue to perform
30 Mild anxiety/distress, no interference on performance
20 Minimal anxiety/distress
10 Alert and awake, concentrating well
0 Totally relaxed


But, How Does Using the SUDS Help Us in Our Relationships?

Think about 2 scenarios.

  1. You are having a conflict with your spouse. Things begin to get a little heated. You have that “feeling” starting to rise up within you. Your frustration turns into irritation. Your irritation becomes anger and you feel stressed out. Then you begin to feel anxious and distressed. Your ability to force yourself to calm down and control yourself becomes nonexistent. You say things you don’t mean. And eventually, you blow!
  2. It’s been a crazy, hectic morning getting the kids off to school on time. You didn’t get the sleep you really needed last night because you stayed up late prepping for that big meeting today. Your hour drive to work is full of stop and go traffic and people who need to learn how to drive! Your coffee spills in the car and on you. You are late. The stress is high (but how high is it really?). Then, the meeting doesn’t go so well. Totally stressed out, you are a nervous wreck!

What if you knew when things “got a little heated” with your spouse you were only at a 30? You are still able to deal with issues appropriately and wisely. You can catch your frustration and use some repair techniques before you get so irritated that you get angry, lose control and blow! How would that change future interactions with your spouse? Would that change how you feel about each other over time so you both are less likely to lose your closeness and connection?

Repair Techniques

Repair techniques could be taking a time out and going to do something that is good and soothing for you:

  • Take a walk or a drive
  • Play with the kids, or the dog
  • Meditate and pray,
  • Take a hot bath
  • Do some muscle tension relaxation exercises
  • Deep breathe
  • Mindfulness techniques

What if on that crazy, hectic morning when you might be late and you were already tired, you stopped for just 30 seconds before you hit the road and prayed or did some deep breathing? You would know your SUD level was too high and that you needed to use what you know to slow your heart rate down. What if when you got to your office you took a few minutes to relax and decided to let the stress go, to give it to God? You might check your level again to see if you needed to take a quick break. Maybe the meeting would not upset you quite as much and afterwards you could reflect more calmly.

Appreciation and Gratitude

Another great way to manage your distress is to make and maintain an appreciation and gratitude list. Use a journal, phone or index card to list 1-5 things you appreciate or are grateful for each day. Gratitude comes from an old word that means to find out what is pleasing, or to give thanks. It is related to blessing before a meal. Gratitude creates a sense of being open, of appreciation and even kindness and compassion.

Being aware of the things you are grateful for is easy, but you have a choice. Where will you focus your attention? Most of us have plenty to be thankful for or to be grateful for: a home, food, clothes, family, and friends. How about the warm sunlight and the beauty of the day? Maybe think about the things that aren’t great but could be worse? What if your air conditioner at you house breaks down and its 100 degrees outside, but you can get a repairman out today? And you also can pay for it? I’m pretty grateful for cool air in the summertime in Texas, how about you?

Much of the ability to take good care of ourselves is to understand our stress level and when we need to take action with techniques and exercises to slow our brain and bodies down. Understand your own personal level and master self-care and self-soothing.


Here’s to understanding our stress and having a strategy and the understanding to do something about it!