Stress is a normal and, in moderation, healthy part of our everyday lives. It’s what activates our fight or flight instinct, motivates us to be productive, and can help our body to work harder when we need it to. However, too much stress can have negative effects on our mental and physical states, including hypertension, anxiety, and a weakened immune system. Because stress is a subjective condition and can’t be measured or diagnosed with tests, it can be difficult to know when to talk to your doctor. When you’re trying to determine the best course of action, the first step is learning what type of stress you’re dealing with.
What is acute stress?
Acute stress—the most common type of stress—occurs periodically in response to short-term stressors, like a tight deadline at work or car troubles. In moments of acute stress, you may notice feelings of irritability, an increased heart rate, and tension in your muscles.
Acute stress management techniques
Fortunately, basic coping techniques, such as breathing exercises and engaging in physical activity, can help. Our minds associate different forms of breathing with different emotions. Slow, deep breathing can help you relax, as well as lower your heart rate.
What does episodic acute stress look like?
Episodic acute stress happens more frequently and is often the result of repeated or extended stressful events, such as working in a stressful field or caring for a sick relative for long periods of time. Symptoms of episodic acute stress are similar to those of acute stress but can lead to longer-term and more serious impacts over time, as well as take a toll on your relationships and career.
Management techniques for episodic stress
Switching up your routine is a simple but effective way to deal with episodic acute stress. Taking time to pause and rest is essential. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle by exercising, sleeping well, and eating right can also help you keep stress at bay or minimize its effects.
How does the body react to chronic stress?
Chronic stress is stress that a person experiences constantly and over a long period of time. It stems from more serious stressors—financial hardships, unsafe living conditions, or other similar factors—and can lead to significant impacts on your mental and physical wellbeing. Chronic stress can result in a lowered immune system, cardiac issues, depression, and anxiety.
Ways to manage chronic stress
Acknowledging your limits and reaching out to your support system are the first steps to managing chronic stress. Know when to step away from a stressful situation and what boundaries to set that will prevent a task or event from becoming unmanageable. Remember, you can always reach out to your loved ones and mental health professionals for help.
Although stress serves a purpose and can be positive, it is important to make sure it doesn’t reach unhealthy levels. If you are experiencing stress, especially chronic stress, and are searching for ways to cope, schedule an appointment with a Baylor St. Luke’s primary care physician today.