It’s no surprise that stress takes a toll on your mental and physical health. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines three types of stress: acute, episodic acute, and chronic. Today we look at how these differ and how to address them in your own life.
Acute stress is caused by short term events such as speaking in public or being summoned into your boss’ office. As we talked about in an article a couple weeks ago, this type of stress manifests in raised heart rate, sweating, and maybe even fainting in severe situations. Acute stress does not cause the same detrimental long-term health effects as chronic stress, but managing it can help you be more confident and successful in your daily endeavors. Simply activities such as going for a walk, listening to your favorite music, and practicing breathing and meditation exercises are all great ways to manage acute stress.
Episodic acute stress is caused by repeated, intensely stressful events. It can feel like moving from one crisis to another and can occur if you have a high stress job or are caring for a sick loved one. This is when stress moves into the unhealthy range, and when it comes to episodic acute stress, the solution is often a change in routine. Look at your plate and see what responsibilities can go on the backburner for a while. Make sure to prioritize self-care such as regular exercise, healthy sleep habits, and a good diet. Be realistic about how much you can take on every day and make adjustments to your schedule accordingly.
Chronic stress, as its name suggests, is prolonged stress over a significant period of time. It leaves the body flooded with stress hormones and can have detrimental effects on immune function and heart health. Situations such as unhappy marriages, abusive relationships, or constant financial worry can contribute to chronic stress. Similarly to episodic stress, treating chronic stress requires taking a good hard look at what is negatively impacting your well-being. Adjusting your lifestyle and schedule while tapping into your support systems for guidance is an effective starting point. If you’re experiencing chronic stress, it could be time for a significant career or relationship change. It may also warrant speaking to a licensed mental health therapist for some professional guidance.
Stress is unavoidable, but too much can be very harmful. Pinpointing the type of stress you are experiencing is the first step to helping you address it.