The 3 Types of Stress & How To Deal With Them

June 10, 2024|Mental Health|
A stressed African American woman leans against a guardrail while holding a hand to her temple

In today’s fast-paced world, stress is an almost inescapable part of life. But not all stress is created equal. Understanding the types of stress and their effects on your body and mind is a critical step towards managing stress effectively. 

Understanding Stress

Stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. It can be physical, mental or emotional and is often triggered by life events or thoughts that make you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. In small doses, stress can be positive, such as when it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline. However, when stress becomes chronic, it can harm your health.

Acute Stress: The Immediate Response

Acute stress is the most common type of stress. It’s your body’s immediate reaction to a new challenge, event or demand, such as narrowly avoiding a car accident, having an argument or skiing down a steep slope. It’s often thrilling and exciting in small doses, but too much is exhausting.

Symptoms of acute stress

Acute stress symptoms are typically brief and may include:

  • Emotional distress, including feelings of anger or irritability
  • Muscle problems, such as tension headaches or back pain
  • Stomach issues, including heartburn or acid stomach
  • Rapid heartbeat or shortness of breath

Coping with acute stress

To manage acute stress:

  • Practice Deep Breathing: Take a moment to breathe deeply, which can help calm the nervous system.
  • Engage in Physical Activity: Exercise can help metabolize excess stress hormones.
  • Use Relaxation Techniques: Techniques such as meditation or progressive muscle relaxation can help dissipate stress.
  • Seek Social Support: Talking through the event with a friend can provide a new perspective and reduce stress.

Episodic Acute Stress: When Acute Stress Becomes Habitual

For some people, acute stress happens so frequently that it becomes a way of life. This is known as episodic acute stress. Individuals with this type of stress are often anxious and tend to overreact to situations that others might handle more calmly.

Symptoms of episodic acute stress

  • Persistent tension headaches or migraines
  • Hypertension and chest pain
  • A feeling of being in constant chaos
  • Interpersonal relationship issues

Coping with episodic acute stress

To manage episodic acute stress:

  • Identify Stress Patterns: Keep a journal to identify recurring stressors and your reaction to them.
  • Learn to Say No: Overcommitment can lead to stress; be more selective about what you take on.
  • Seek Professional Help: Therapy can be beneficial in learning new coping strategies and modifying behavior.
  • Adopt Healthy Habits: Prioritize sleep, nutrition and exercise to bolster your body’s resilience to stress.

Chronic Stress: The Grinding Stress That Wears You Down

Chronic stress stems from long-term exposure to stressors. It could be due to an unhappy marriage, a despised job or financial troubles. Unlike acute stress that is short-lived, chronic stress can persist for weeks, months or even years, which can lead to significant health problems.

Symptoms of chronic stress

  • Fatigue and difficulty sleeping
  • Digestive issues and changes in appetite
  • Anxiety, depression or feelings of hopelessness
  • Increased use of alcohol, drugs or tobacco

Coping with chronic stress

Managing chronic stress often requires a more comprehensive approach:

  • Establish Healthy Boundaries: Determine your limits in personal and professional relationships and communicate them clearly.
  • Prioritize Self-Care: Regular self-care is crucial for managing stress and maintaining both physical and emotional health.
  • Seek Support: Whether from friends, family or support groups, talking about your stress can help you feel less overwhelmed.
  • Consider Lifestyle Changes: Sometimes, the only way to deal with chronic stress is to make significant changes in your life, such as changing jobs or ending toxic relationships.

Stress Management Techniques

Effective stress management helps you break the hold stress has on your life, so you can be happier, healthier and more productive. Here are some techniques to help manage stress:

Exercise regularly

Physical activity can help reduce stress by producing endorphins, which are natural painkillers and mood elevators.

Maintain a healthy diet

Eating a healthy diet can reduce the effects of stress. Make sure your meals are well-balanced and full of nutrients.

Get plenty of sleep

Lack of sleep is a significant contributor to stress. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation can help you focus on the present moment, which can reduce anxiety caused by worrying about the future or dwelling on the past.

Time management

Effective time management allows you to control your schedule rather than it controlling you, which can help reduce stress levels.

Connect with others

Social engagement is the quickest, most efficient way to rein in stress and avoid overreacting to internal or external events that you perceive as threatening.

Learn to relax

Techniques such as yoga, deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can activate the body’s relaxation response.

Keep a stress diary

Noticing when and why you become stressed can help you identify patterns and find better coping mechanisms.

Understanding the different types of stress and recognizing their symptoms are the first steps in effective stress management. By implementing the strategies discussed, you can learn to cope with stress more effectively and lead a more balanced, healthy life.

Remember, if you’re struggling with stress, you’re not alone. Don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help if stress becomes overwhelming. Hartgrove Hospital offers health and wellness resources, as well as different treatment programs that can help you deal with different types of stress. Call today at 773-572-3300 to learn more about the offerings at Hartgrove, in Chicago, IL. 

Hartgrove Hospital

Hartgrove Hospital is a Modern Behavioral Health Hospital that specializes in personalized treatment for adults, adolescents and children. We pride ourselves on delivering quality care provided by our compassionate and thoughtful staff. Our mission is to restore the emotional well-being of our patients, while giving them the proper resources for their future.

Some of our programs include our inpatient and outpatient services. As well as our trauma and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP). These programs are offered with an all-encompassing psychiatric healthcare service that is both effective and efficient. Located in Chicago, IL, our facility has a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

To schedule a no-cost assessment or for more information, please call 773-572-7900 .

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