Understanding Stress: Acute Versus Chronic

All stressors are not created equal.

Hands down, stress is one of the worst things for your overall health. When you are feeling anxious it creates small health effects, such as raised blood pressure and feelings of depression. When you compound those side effects over time, they can lead to more serious problems like cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and stroke.

We all feel stress from time to time. Most of us feel some stress on a daily basis. So the first step to managing or defeating stress is to understand it better.

There are two main types of stress: Acute and Chronic.

Acute stress is generally short term. Small things like going to the dentist, a tense meeting with your boss, or confronting your husband about leaving the toilet seat up can cause acute stress. Since this type of stress is generally short term, you can combat it by taking a walk, counting to ten, repeating a calming mantra, or doing any number of small stress relieving activities to get your mind right.

READ MORE: Unusual Ways to Relieve Stress

If you are being audited, get in a car accident, or have to deal with a dumpster fire at work, you are experiencing episodic acute stress. Episodic acute stress is a little more long term, and is punctuated by separate stressful events, that lead to an overall mélange of anxiety that takes over your life from time to time.

The best way to manage episodic acute stress is to make your stress relief tactics into a habit, or strategy. If you have to meet with your divorce lawyer once a week, make that the day you also take a 40-mile bike ride. If your work load is just too much, finding a person to help you shoulder the burden is a long term solution.

Episodic acute stress requires more planning and commitment to fight, but your mental and physical health is worth it.

Chronic stress is the real problem however. Chronic stress occurs when you experience long-term anxiety that basically never goes away, and makes you feel like you are buried underneath a pile of problems that only get bigger every day. Money issues, unhappy relationships, abusive relationships, and the contradictory actions of our current administration can all be causes of chronic stress.

To manage chronic stress, you have to be very proactive. Turn your stress relief activities into long term habits and commit to them every week. Exercise as much as possible, and seek medical help if necessary.

Experiment with different diets and fitness regimens until you find one that works for you. Personally, bike riding is my favorite stress reliever, but find whatever works for you, and stick with it.

Published by karenmsutton

HSS Orthopaedic surgeon in sports medicine | Mother of 4 amazing children | Team physician for USA Women's Lacrosse | ACL injury expert

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