The Excel-Equivalent Unit of Stress

| 4 mins | Bob
tags: studying, opinion, engineering

As an engineering student, I quite frequently have the task to calculate a scale-up model, to simulate the flashing of a liquid mixture stream or even simply to present external data in a graphical illustration. There are plenty of tools available for free, as open-source or in paid plans that are capable of performing the task. However, you should not expect to get any chance for a logical choice to use the tools you know work best for the problem — no, your instructor, lecturer or client always wants you to deliver nothing but an Excel sheet. How awful is that?!

First, the good things about Excel. It is widely used across the world, virtually everyone has it installed and can open the files with no problem. Also, to be honest, it actually can do a lot of things if you know how to, if you have a lot of time for google and forum searches1 and if you come with a very, very high frustration line. Wait, those are already bad things! Exactly! You cannot talk about one of Excel’s few strengths without putting a footnote and listing all the horrible things that come with it.

Every time I’m working with this software I’m embittered by numerous frustrations. Because of my little tolerance for this, I came up with the “Excel-equivalent unit of stress” .xlσ2. Whenever I face a situation that let my heart rate increase because it should not happen in the first place but did because of pure ignorance, misconceptions, marketing, greed, stupidity, profitability etc., I can describe my induced mental stress in Excel-equivalents. Isn’t that genius?


One Excel-equivalent unit of stress is the mental stress a person perceives when creating a new Excel file.

Scale of Stress:

On the σ-scale from 0 to 10, at 0 the person is resting with no feeling of mental pressure, at 10, the escalation point of no return is reached. The level of stress σ is equivalent to opening σ², or .xlσ, many Excel files.

This stress-unit is, of course, subjective to each person. Below you can see the full σ-scale with examples for stress-inducing actions related or unrelated to the tabular calculation program. I could give many more details but listing these already gave me 4.xlσ.

example situation σ .xlσ
relaxing on the couch while reading a book or drinking coffee 0 0
buttering a slice of bread3 0.1 0.01
writing a shopping list 0.2 0.04
riding your bicycle in headwind 0.3 0.09
looking at the Excel icon 0.4 0.16
having to explain why you don’t want to explain something in more detail 0.5 0.25
having a mild discussion about Excel 0.6 0.36
almost missing an appointment because of overhearing your alarm clock 0.7 0.49
realizing you have to use Excel for a task 0.8 0.64
accidentally spreading coffee grind all over kitchen tools 0.9 0.81
opening a new Excel file 1 1
horizontal scroll bar cannot scroll plots into view when there are no used cells nearby 2 4
almost kicking something over with the hose of a vacuum cleaner 3 9
creating a new plot and seeing the extremely bad default settings 4 16
realizing VBA Editor cannot be used while a cell of any other Excel file is edited 5 25
watching an Indian YouTuber building free-energy device 6 36
removing rows/columns or resizing them causes size of nearby plots to change 7 49
settings window changes menu randomly when refocussing a plot element 8 64
trying to work around the impossibility to export plots into something else than MS Office 9 81
furiously damaging things unrelated to Excel 10 100

If this system helps you to put your emotional state into universal words, when you have editing suggestions or other examples for specific stress levels, please let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading and have a nice, sub-Excel day.

  1. Oh dear, the official documentation is bad. Very bad. I wonder how a multi-billion dollar company could proudly present this software as their summit of creation. 

  2. I hope you got the quite funny use of the engineering symbol of stress inside the Excel file extension. 

  3. In other words, opening Excel is like preparing 100 sandwiches. 

Bumble, 2020-11-09 16:32

One thing I understood for sure is that Excel is one of your worst nightmares. And that stress unit table is a scientific masterpiece!

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updated on 2022-11-30