The term “stress” can be a bit confusing because there are three types, degrees really, of stress – acute, episodic acute and chronic. While it is healthy to experience some stress, chronic stress can be very problematic. Anyone experiencing significant stress should strongly consider finding some solutions because chronic stress will eventually solve itself. Unfortunately this means a dead you!
This is the most common of the types of stress. The demands and pressures of things that have happened recently and those which you anticipate are where these types of stress come from. Too much acute stress can wear you down although small doses can add to the excitement of life. For instance, bicycling down a mountain trail can be exhilarating. At the same time, overdoing it can lead to injury. Likewise, some stress is good, but not too much. An excess of stress can result in headaches, nausea and psychological stress among other things.
Acute is the most common of the 3 types of stress and also the most recognized. In fact, it amounts to a list of all the things that have or might go wrong from time to time. Jimmy acting up at school, a speeding ticket, meeting a deadline at work and so forth. In other words, these are all relatively short-term stressors. Thus, there is not enough time for them to cause significant damage.
Symptoms of Acute Stress
- Emotional distress
- Gut problems like heartburn, gas, diarrhea, constipation and irritable bowels.
- Overexcitement of the body such as dizziness, sweaty palms, increased blood pressure, fast heartbeat, migraines, shortness of breath and chest pain.
- Muscle problems like back pain, headaches, jaw pain and other muscle injuries
Fortunately, acute stress is very manageable and the most easily treatable of the 3 types of stress.
Episodic Acute Stress
If you are the type of person that suffers from acute stress too much, then you are experiencing episodic acute stress. These types of people tend to be highly disordered and their life seems to be enshrouded in chaos. Or at least that’s how they see it. Most often they place far too many demands upon themselves and thus the pressure is great. They are always in a hurry and yet always late because there is so much to do and so little time. In addition, they often describe themselves as having ‘nervous’ energy and can even be hostile.
Type “A” Personalities
Type A personalities are an extreme case of folks who experience episodic acute stress. They tend to be very driven competitively, impatient, aggressive and hurried. Usually they have managed to rationalize their hostile behavior away and remain rather insecure. The characteristics of a type A personality seem to actually create this type of stress. And unfortunately for them, they have a much higher risk of heart problems than type B personalities that display nearly the opposite behavior.
Although episodic acute is only one of the types of stress, it can be brought on by more than one mechanism. Constant worry and the certainty of the worst possible scenario always occurring also results in acute episodic stress. We often refer to these individuals as ‘worry worts’ or pessimists. They are sure that there is danger lurking around every corner and it every outcome will be a bad one. Yet they are usually not angry and hostile, but rather depressed and filled with anxiety.
The symptoms of this type of stress result from over-arousal as well. However, in the case of acute stress, it takes place over time. Common results are as follows:
Symptoms of Episodic Acute Stress
- Persistent headaches
- Heart disease
- Chest pain
Because these sorts of people have come to believe that their lifestyle is “normal,” they have trouble realizing that they are killing themselves. More often than not, they blame others for their problems and see the world and their actions in it as ‘who they are.’ In addition, they are usually very resistant to changing.
The worst of the types of stress is chronic. It is bad! Unlike acute, which is good in small doses, chronic stress wears people down physically, mentally and psychologically. This is the type of stress associated with horrible situations such as poverty, a miserable marriage or family life or a crummy job. Unlike the other types of stress, it is always present and never goes away.
With chronic stress, the individual has no way out of their awful situation. Or at least they can’t see one. Not surprisingly, people experiencing these types of stress have given up on finding a solution because to them, there is none. Sometimes these stresses originate from early childhood experiences that represent a constant emotional and psychological pain.
Whatever the cause of the chronic stress, circumstances that lead to chronic stress have a significant impact on personality. Victims adopt a belief system and world view of extreme pessimism that holds that the world is a terrible place. Based on their experience, it is! Overcoming this kind of attitude requires significant evaluation of one’s self. Professional help is often necessary as well since this is the worst of the 3 types of stress.
Chronic acute stress is really quite sneaky too. People become desensitized and accustomed to it. With standard acute stress, the individual is experiencing something new. Something different. With chronic acute stress, it is the ‘same old, same old’. It is familiar and almost comfortable to the victim.
Chronic Stress = Death
Nonetheless, chronic stress not only makes life hard, it ends life too. Suicide, heart attack, stroke, violence and cancer are all more common in those with chronic acute stress. Oftentimes it psychologically defeats and exhausts a person so much that they hit a ‘breaking point’. Once there, rationality and logic are lost and sometimes ends in violent acts towards oneself or others. Professional help should be solicited for anyone experiencing chronic stress.
There are lots of things that you can do to reduce stress. Here are a few ideas:
Solutions for the 3 Types of Stress (Especially Chronic)
- Avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeine – no news here!
- Supplement – there are several vitamins and herbs that can lower stress.
- Be physically active – click here to learn how to get exercising.
- Sleep more – for some help, see our SLEEP supplements page
- Relax – use relaxation techniques.
- Talk about it – someone you trust or a professional is best.
- Keep a diary – this will help you recognize what stresses you out and how to avoid it.
- Find solutions – fix the problem and you won’t be stressing about it anymore.
- Get organized – when you manage your time well, you have less chaos to stress about.
- Don’t do so much – Say “NO” to things if you need to in order to keep your sanity.
- Take a sick day – If you are sick, don’t do normal things. Rest instead.