Different Types of Stress
The three different types of stress are broadly recognized as acute, episodic acute and chronic stress.
The most common of these is acute stress.Almost everyone is affected by this at some time. It is brought about by recent or anticipated pressures. It is usually manageable and treatable and usually passes as quickly as it starts.
It is recognizable as it happens, such as when involved in a traffic accident or sitting an exam. Sometimes there is an emotional response such as anger or irritability, and there can be physical symptoms such as tension headache, muscle tightening, increased heartbeat or upset stomach.
As both the cause and effect are transient there is no long term problem stemming from acute stress.
Episodic Acute Stress
Individuals who seem always to be in a state of acute stress, who often rush around, trying to do too much, and are sometimes aggressive even if mildly so, are experiencing episodic acute stress.
The distinguishing factor between acute and episodic acute stress is that those with episodic acute stress are unaware of their problem. They would benefit most from some form of stress management but don’t recognize their behavior as stress. They see it as being who they are, and accept it as being normal.
This is by far the most serious and potentially harmful form of stress. It seems never ending and has a corrosive effect on the sufferer who experiences it relentlessly, day on day. It affects the individual’s personality, their mental, physical and emotional states, and their overall health.
Chronic stress often comes about through dissatisfaction with lifestyle. Maybe from an unhappy relationship, dysfunctional family life, financial difficulties, issues at work, or unemployment, for example. Sometimes it stems from experiences in childhood or from a traumatic incident, from which they have never fully recovered and which is bottled up inside them.
People who encounter stress on a near daily basis are open to a high risk of health problems. Unless treated, serious physical and mental health conditions such as heart disease and cancer, depression and anxiety disorder can develop.
When we are under constant stress we go through three phases.
The Alarm Phase is when our stressor causes the release of stress hormones, mostly adrenaline. This prepares the body for the ‘flight or fight’ response. The heart works harder pumping blood to the muscles, we have more lung capacity, internal organs slow down, and we become alert and ready to face the cause of our stress.
After a few minutes in this state of readiness we enter the Resistance Phase. Our brain works very fast analyzing the situation we are in and our body releases more hormones – cortisol – and endorphins. These energise our body to enable it to continue working in this heightened state of readiness. After this phase you need to rest. You need to relax and recover.
But, if we exceed our capabilities, and the cycle of stress starts over again, we go into Burn-out. There is a heightened level of cortisol in the blood which doesn’t have a chance to dissipate before the body goes into the next stress episode and the cycle starts again. We can feel fatigued, depressed and lose our energy, and lay ourselves open to much more serious illness.
Natural stress remedies and healthy living are beneficial in managing all the different types of stress and especially chronic stress. Yet the very fact that the individual gets used to living in a permanently stressed-out state can make it difficult for them to implement them successfully.
Chronic long-term stress is a killer. It needs to be managed.