• Jan Baker

Which type of stress do I have?

There has been a little break between blog posts on stress, so I'll recap briefly. The first blog post, Am I stressed? looked at identifying symptoms. The second,What causes stress? looked in more detail about its causes.

Here I want to take a closer look at the types of stress we face.

There are several different types of stress.

  • Acute stress: Acute stress is a very short-term type of stress that can either be positive or more distressing; this is the type of stress we most often encounter in day-to-day life.

  • Episodic acute stress: Episodic acute stress is acute stress that seems to run rampant and be a way of life, creating a life of on-going distress.

  • Chronic stress: Chronic stress is stress that seems never-ending and inescapable, like the stress of a bad marriage or an extremely taxing job; chronic stress can also stem from traumatic experiences and childhood trauma.

  • Eustress: Eustress is fun and exciting. It's known as a positive type of stress that can keep you energized. It's associated with surges of adrenaline, such as when you are skiing or racing to meet a deadline.

Acute stress isn't all bad. It's actually one of the least damaging types of stress, which is good because it is also the most common type. We experience acute stress multiple times throughout the day. It tends to be seen as an immediate threat but can be quite mild. For example, like when an alarm clock goes off, having a new assignment to start at work, or even a phone call that needs to be answered when you're relaxing on the sofa and your phone is across the other side of the room.

I have spoken before about your fight or flight response, and it is when this kicks in that acute stress can become more serious. Events that can trigger this type of stress, for example, are things like when you are pulled over for speeding, when you are taking an exam or getting into an argument with a friend.

Acute stress can easily be managed because it occurs and then it's over. It's relatively easy to recover from this type of stress. Once you recognise it, you can use simple relaxation techniques to soothe your system and bring your stress levels down. Repeated instances of acute stress, however, can lead to episodic acute stress, which is not quite so easy.

Whereas acute stress is usually a short part of our daily routine, episodic acute stress is a form of negative stress that causes people to have intense reactions when they are in situations where there is uncertainty.

This type of negative stress can be caused by many different things, including financial instability or job insecurity. Symptoms include panic attacks, irritability and muscle tension. Getting caught up in a traffic jam is the perfect example of a source of episodic acute stress. If you are driving, then it’s likely that your mind is preoccupied with thoughts about whether or not this traffic jam will make you late for an appointment, and how long you are going to be delayed for.

Chronic stress on the other hand, is more of a consistent sense of feeling under pressure and feeling overwhelmed over a long period of time. This type of stress has the potential to really affect your health and this is where a lot of us sit because of the hectic pace of modern life. It occurs when stress triggers are greater than the body's ability to relax. This means the body remains in fight or flight mode for far longer than it was designed for.

And it isn't always easy to recognize chronic stress. Because it is pervasive and long-lasting, we often grow so accustomed to it that it begins to feel normal. Chronic stress can often be classed in four ways:

  • Emotional stress (difficult emotions such as anger, sadness, or frustration)

  • Environmental stress (where you live and work)

  • Relationship stress (how you relate to friends, family, co-workers, partners)

  • Work stress (challenges and pressures related to your job)

And each can have an affect on the other. Work stress can create stress in your relationships. Relationship stress can make it harder to manage difficult emotions.

Finding ways to manage chronic stress is therefore really important for your overall well-being.

The best stress, of course, is eustress. Positive stress. It comes from the Greek word 'eu' meaning good. If the idea of positive stress is new to you, you’re not alone. Most of us equate all stress with negative experiences. Eustress is usually a product of nerves, which can be brought on when faced with a fun challenge and is an important part of our well-being.

Positives from this type of stress include:

  • Emotional benefits - can result in positive feelings of contentment, inspiration, motivation, and flow.

  • Psychological benefits - helps us build our self-confidence, autonomy, and resilience.

  • Physical benefits - helps us build our body (e.g., through completing a challenging workout).

Learning to identify stress and how it affects you is one of the very best gifts you can therefore give yourself.

Stress, whether positive or negative, is a normal part of life. We may not have control over some of the negative stress we experience, but we can all look for ways to include more eustress in our life.

I'm doing some further training on really unusual essential oils on Wednesday. What are you going to do to create some eustress in your life this week?

Stay safe

Jan x

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