Feeling stressed has almost become the new normal during the pandemic. Whether it is trying to cope with working from home while being a full-time parent or attempting to find optimism within the past year, being overwhelmed has taken a toll on both our body and mind.
According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 84 percent of adults have reported feeling at least one emotion associated with prolonged stress in the past two weeks. The most common emotions were feelings of anxiety, sadness, and anger.
Most adults reported the future of our nation (81 percent) and the coronavirus pandemic (80 percent) as a major source of stress in their lives.
Unpredictability has put most people on edge, but shifting your focus to what can be controlled can provide you with the opportunity to find peace and confidence.
This article will help you understand the different types of stress, symptoms to be on the lookout for, and stress management techniques for when things get too overbearing.
What are the Different Types of Stress?
There are three different types of stress that you may be facing – acute, episodic, and chronic. Each has its own symptoms, duration, and coping strategies, which means that treatment varies based on your environment and lifestyle.
Not all stress is necessarily bad for you, though. Studies show that acute short-term stresses may actually be able to boost the body’s immune response.
However, once it becomes chronic stress or long-term, it can do the exact opposite and “wear down” the immune system, leading to an increased susceptibility to a number of infections.
What is Acute Stress?
Acute stress, which is short term and the most common type of stress, is what we encounter most in our day-to-day life due to responsibilities and expectations about the near future. It can be momentary anxiety about a new project at work, negative thoughts about an argument, or even getting on a call with someone you don’t enjoy talking with.
It is relatively easy to overcome acute stress because of its temporary nature and positive response to treatment. Try these recommended relaxation techniques, such as taking a step away from the situation or meditation.
Common symptoms of acute stress include:
- Anxiety, irritability, and distress
- Racing thoughts that lead to poor concentration or a lack of sleep
- Heart palpitations, headaches, nausea, and breathing difficulties
- Avoiding people, places, or situations that cause anxiety
What is Episodic Acute Stress?
Frequent instances of acute stress that create a life of ongoing worry can add up to more significant mental and physical health issues over time. The accumulation of acute stress is episodic acute stress.
Individuals experiencing episodic acute stress take on many responsibilities and are in constant overload. This feeling can be due to an unusually demanding job, having interpersonal relationship difficulties, or being overwhelmed with “What if..” thoughts that imagine negative outcomes.
Common symptoms of episodic acute stress include:
- Physical distress – headaches, tension, back pain, jaw pain, pulled muscles, and ligament problems
- Emotional distress – irritability, anxiety, and depression
- Immune system compromised illnesses – colds, flu, allergies, asthma
- Interpersonal relationship issues
- High blood pressure, increased cholesterol, and weight gain
- Insomnia and inability to concentrate
- Heart disease
What is Chronic Stress?
Chronic stress is the most dangerous and harmful type of stress. If not treated, it can lead to often irreversible damage to both your physical and mental health.
Chronic stress can be due to an unhappy marriage, substance abuse, unemployment, or a feeling of overall helplessness. Traumatic experiences can also lead to chronic stress. Chronic stress is long-term, includes all previously mentioned symptoms, and can lead to violent actions, heart attacks, and strokes.
While acute stress comes and goes and is easy to identify, some people adapt to chronic stress and ignore symptoms because they feel hopeless in their situation.
Texas therapist Thom Wilder writes about the symptoms of stress, and can help you identify what type of stress you are experiencing.
5 ways to manage your stress
This year has been filled with challenges that have tested our strength and ability to adapt to changes that we never expected to be faced with.
Although feeling stressed is inevitable, you can reduce the impact it has on your life by following these helpful coping and relaxation techniques:
- Take a moment to refocus on the things you can control, and keep things in perspective.
- At the end of the day, reflect on the good things that happened – large or small.
- Incorporate more positive self-talk into your day. Consider these affirmations to help you overcome stress.
- Take a break from the news and social media. Constant exposure to media or negative information can maintain anxiety at unhealthy levels.
Get regular exercise and incorporate self-care activities into your daily life. Therapist Kelly Freeman has provided self-care activities for you to consider that can make transformational change and not just help you feel better for a moment.
If you continue to feel stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, or are having trouble coping with your symptoms, Mental Health Match can introduce you to therapists that offer personalized mental health treatments and strategies.