Types of Stress And How To Deal With Them
The modern world is incredibly stressful. The amount of pressures we all face on a day to day basis are increasing year on year, which is probably why the amount of adults who say that they’re stressed is rising, year on year. (1). There are different types of stress, some more concerning than others.
Stress is our bodies’ response to outside danger, and it’s the way we get ready to fight back or run away. But our bodies don’t know if what we’re dealing with is a life threatening problem, or just the standard stresses of the day to day.
It’s important to understand just what stress is, what the symptoms are, and what you can do about it.
What Are The Three Types Of Stress?
There are three major types of stress. Acute, episodic and chronic. (2)
Acute stress is what we can think of as the standard type of stress. It’s the type of stress that would keep us alive back in the day, when the world was a lot more dangerous.
When we encounter a stressful situation, for example someone shouting in our faces, or a lion jumping out of a bush, our body goes into fight or flight mode, pouring us full of adrenaline.
Acute stress might not be bad. After all, if someone’s coming after you with an axe, you want your body to be in high gear. As well as this, regularly interacting with situations that are stressful, but not enough to shut you down, can teach your body how to better deal with stress. This is a good thing, because it means in the case of a really stressful situation, you’re going to have a much better chance of being able to deal with it.
The only downside to the acute types of stress is that when it gets too severe, the events can be catastrophic. In the short term, acute severe stress can lead to being absolutely overwhelmed, and potentially unable to act. The after effects of severe acute stress can be as problematic as post traumatic stress disorder.
Episodic stress, or episodic acute stress, is, as its name suggests, when you have acute stress attacks with regular or unusual frequency.
We all know someone who always seems to be in a crisis. Frazzled, irritated or short tempered, anxious, worrying. These are all signs of episodic stress.
This type of stress can negatively affect your life, both emotionally and physically. What’s worse is that someone suffering from episodic stress could have trouble resolving it, or potentially even accepting it, as their stress could cause them to be fatalistically accepting of their lot in life.
Chronic stress is acute stress that’s become a part of daily life. If you’re regularly involved in stressful situations, especially stressful situations where you feel like you have no control over the outcome, then your stress can become chronic.
What this means is that your body is in a permanent state of alert, because it’s so used to being in situations that it perceives as being dangerous and stressful.
Needless to say, this is bad. It has long lasting negative effects on health, and can seriously affect your mental state.
Some example situations that might lead to chronic stress are things like:
- An unhappy or abusive relationship
- A bad job or working environment
- Dysfunctional personal relationships
- Poverty or serious ill health
If you have chronic stress, it’s in your best interest to attempt to fix the problem as soon as possible, as it can lead to multiple long term health problems, such as:
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- Autoimmune disorders
How To Know If You’re Stressed
These types of stress affect everyone differently, which is why it’s difficult to diagnose. However, there are many general symptoms. If you have more than half of the below symptoms, it is worth taking some positive action. (3)
Physical symptoms of stress include:
- Aching or tense muscles
- Low energy and feeling tired all the time
- Stomach problems, diarrhoea or constipation
- Chest pains or heart palpitations
- Frequently falling ill with colds or flu
- Low sexual desire or issues with sexual ability
- Nervousness, sweats, cold and shivering
- Trouble swallowing, or dry mouth
- Grinding your teeth or clenching your haw
Emotional symptoms of stress include:
- General unhappiness or depression
- Generalised anxiety and agitation
- Irritability and anger
- Loneliness and isolation
- Apathy or unwillingness to do anything
- Feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope
Understanding Which Type Of Stress You Have
The American Psychological Association makes a clear differentiation between chronic and acute stress.
Acute stress only appears at certain times, and in response to certain stimuli, and it’s generally not something to worry about.
If you’re getting stressed because you’ve made a mistake at work and your boss is angry, for example, then that’s normal. We’d expect that, and would be worried if you didn’t!
However, to go back to our previous example, if you’re waking up every morning feeling stressed and anxious, and dreading going into work before anything happens, that’s a sure sign of chronic stress.
Managing Stress In Your Daily Life
Because these types of stress affect each of us in different ways, the way to treat it can be different for each person also. But in general, following good principles for general health is an excellent way to deal with stress. (4)
As a general goal, you’re never going to be able to get rid of all types of stress completely. Everyone’s lives will have stresses in them. The goal is to put yourself in a place where stress doesn’t affect you negatively, and especially not chronically.
The following tips can help you manage stress in your day to day life.
- Following good general health practices, like making sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating right, and getting light exercise.
- Talk to other people and make sure that you’ve got a strong social network that you can share your problems with and rely on.
- Try not to isolate yourself, especially after a hard day. This can make the symptoms of stress worse
- If you know if there are specific things that cause you stress, try to avoid them or minimise the impact of them in your life
- Avoid coping mechanisms like overeating, drugs or alcohol.
- Take time to relax and breathe, especially with light exercise. Stretching, Yoga or, SOMA breath is ideal.
SOMA Breath for Less Stress
One of the biggest indicators of stress is how it affects our breathing.
People under high levels of stress tend to have much faster breathing patterns, with shorter, lighter breaths. This can lead to less oxygenation of the blood, undue pressure on the aerobic system, and even hyperventilation-like symptoms.
After all, there’s a reason people tell us to relax when we’re anxious. Physically relaxing our breathing actually helps to relax our mental state. Our bodies and minds are inextricably linked, after all.
That’s why a program like SOMA Breath is ideal for dealing with chronic stress. The combination of focused relaxation, meditation, and intentional conscious breathing can actively reset your system when times get tough. (5)
Furthermore, as you get deeper into your practice, you will start to teach your autonomic nervous system how to react to stressful situations. Meaning that it will almost become automatic to follow SOMA Breath principles and relax yourself, helping you get through stressful situations that much easier.
Nothing is a cure all, and you’ll never be free of stress. Life is too complicated for that. By learning to recognise stress, manage it when it comes and by following a conscious practice of stress reduction, you’ll be able to gain back control of your life and breathe a little easier, even in the most stressful of situations.