What types of stress are there and how to identify them?

There are different ways to categorise stress types. The most common distinguishes 3 types of stress:

  • Acute stress is short term, not recurring stress and often includes positive stress, also known as eustress
  • Episodic (acute) stress is recurring, small stress issues, often caused by excessive worry and pressure
  • Chronic stress is the type, which you want to avoid. Constant, high pressure and draining

There are also categorisations based not on the frequency and ‘heaviness’ of stress but based on where stress comes from or what type of effects does it have on us. If you are curious about these categories in detail, keep on reading ;).

 

We all experience different kinds of stress at least once a day. Stress is a way your body reacts to negative or positive stimuli or stressor, so to say.

It’s important to understand the types of stress, related reactions and you current level of stress, in order to learn how to control or what to do when any of it becomes overwhelming to you.

In this article you will learn more about:

  1. what types of stress are there
  2. how can you identify them

Your current stress levels you can monitor simply with the help of a stress journal. Once you know what type of stress you are experiencing and what your stressors are, you can make a plan to reduce stress in your life.

 

The main types of stress

As mentioned above, based on the frequency and how heavy stress is, we can distinguish three categories. Let’s see each of them in details.

Acute stress – all the small things

what is acute stress

Under this category fall all the small, everyday stressors in your life. This can be anything from a brief arguments with a family member, an annoying bus driver who breaks too often or that you forgot to turn off the light when you left home.

These are the type of stressors which do not happen regularly but more of a one-time events.

Acute stress is short term, small bursts of stress which does activate your stress response, however because it’s short lived it doesn’t cause real damage to your body. The point is that this type of stress passes relatively fast.

It can also involve ‘positive stress’. It’s triggered usually by, well, positive events, such as job promotion, winning on the lottery or giving a presentation at work. This type of stress is also often labeled as eustress, but more on that later.

Just because acute stress passes fast and does not occur regularly, doesn't mean you should ignore… Click To Tweet

Different stress management strategies can help you to avoid this type already. The earlier you start managing stress, the better your chances are to avoid later symptoms of stress.

Episodic acute stress – when you need to start really paying attention

When you experience acute stress consistently over a longer period of time, it becomes episodic acute stress.

This type of stress emerges if you experience pressuring external factors regularly. An example is job related stress, due to consistent work overload or a bullying colleague.

It can however also be caused by the way how you manage your life. People who are often in a rush, always seems to be late can experience episodic stress, due to the reoccurring feeling of begin late, not meeting deadlines, forgetting things etc.

Also if you are the type who tends to worry a lot and have always negative thoughts in your mind, you might be more prone to experience this type of stress. Make sense as well, always imaging the worst outcome, worrying about potential negative events keeps your body and mind tensed up.

At this phase you should systematically start building up a stress management routine:

  • Look at your main stressors, think about and learn how can you handle them (handing workload, colleagues, etc.).
  • Learn stress relieving techniques and use them consistently.
  • Make stress relief techniques part of your life (via exercise, healthy eating, meditation etc.)

Chronic stress – the type of stress you want to avoid

episodic acute stress

When you experience chronic stress, you arrived to the point when stressing went too far in your life. There is no point trying to make it sound pretty.

Chronic stress usually occurs either when stressors in your life are present for an extended period of time or when a major (tragic) life event happens.

To give you some examples of possible events that can lead to chronic stress:

  • if you have a highly demanding job with heavy stressors
  • experience constant family issues at home
  • you might generally tend to worry to much
  • the death of a loved one
  • major accident in your’s or a loved one’s life

When you experience chronic stress, you get into a spiral, not only physically and mentally but most likely emotionally as well. Not begin able to catch a break, further worsens our situation.

Chronic stress can lead to some serious health consequences:

  1. Depression
  2. Heart diseases
  3. Sleep disorders
  4. High blood pressure
  5. Eating disorders / obesity
  6. Negatively affecting your memory
  7. Facilitates addictions (alcohol, smoking)

Some cases of chronic stress are visually noticeable. Effects of eating too much or too little are obviously visible. Sleeplessness is also something that can be easily seen on a persons face and energy levels.

However, chronic stress symptoms can also go unnoticed for a longer period of time. Obviously heart diseases is harder to to catch on time, until in some cases it is too late.

That is why if suspect that you are experiencing chronic stress, always get in touch with your doctor.

Make a complete check-up, discuss your symptoms and make a plan together. Obviously you can do different stress relief techniques but you might need more help than just that.

It’s better to take a few precautionary measure than being too late and suffer the consequences!

 

Alternative 4 types of stress

You can also name stress types based on what part of your being they are affecting. This be helpful if you would like to understand what type of stress relief techniques you should use.

I am little cheating here. There is a little debate on the internet over how many categories there, but we can say 4 categories out of which 2 are major and 2 are sub-categories 🙂

Two major categories are stressors, which effecting your body and stressors, which are effecting your mind, in one way or another.

Physical stress

This include all type of stressors which effect causes you stress via your body. Issues can involve anything from injuries, illnesses to disabilities.

Obviously, if your body is sick, it can pose limitation on what you can do, which might in turn cause you worry and stress. If you are sick, you cannot take care of your loved ones, because you might be bedridden.

When you have some type of physical disability, you might feel like you are missing out for not being able to do the same things as others. You might also feel shamed for how you look and might not be able to fit in so easily.

Similar to the next category, physical stress can be acute, episodic or chronic stress.

Psychological stress

This stress type involves many different sub-categories. All different types of negative feelings that effect your mind fall into this category.

These might include for the whole category:

  • Sadness
  • anger
  • fear of missing out
  • informations overload
  • self-criticism
  • jealousy
  • negativity
  • perfectionism
  • feeling lonely and isolated
  • loosing life purpose
  • major life events (job hunting, marriage, divorce etc.)

You can read more in this research, how psychological stressors such as divorces, military experience, childhood abuse can effect development of stress and the long-term effects on health.

Spiritual stress

4 types of stress

This category includes things which effect your spirituality, what beliefs do you have and what are your personal, family or cultural values. While this sounds very fluffy, it can be a serious stressors.

If you have a clear goal in life, a set of values which support your action, you can feel more at ease. If you don’t know what to trust, if you feel lost, it might create a sense of loneliness or a feeling of being lost.

There is also some research about this, like this one with breast cancer survivors. According to them, there was a significant correlation between persons having a meaning for life or when they were spiritual and stress.

Social stress

This worth mentioning as a subcategory because more things belong here.

According to this definition on Verywell, psychosocial stress happens when you look at a possible social threat and you realise that you don’t have it what it takes to face this threat. This can be a real threat or a perceived one.

Typical social issues that fall in this category are relationship and marriage issues, loosing your job or feeling isolated and lonely.

Typical issue could be is that you feel ashamed because you feel that you don’t meet a specific standard that society puts on you. Like for example having an income, thinking that you need to buy a fancy car to look successful etc.

Fear of missing out‘ is something that became popular lately due to social media. you are constantly exposed to updates from friends and people in your network. By not being constantly on these social media networks, people experience stress and fear of missing some type of events or cool happening.

 

Can stress also be good?

Unfortunately you simply cannot avoid stress in your life. If someone tells you that they have a method to make you stress free, they are lying.

However, stress is not always a bad thing, stress also has some health benefits. You can read more under the link, I am not going to discuss again here.

The good stress triggers your brain’s mechanism that can help you respond to an emergency, stay focused in a chaotic situation and even in most cases, stress helps you stay alert and avoid accidents. That is why stress is a part of daily life and when it is managed, one can live a fully healthy and happy life.

So as you might figured, there is good stress and bad stress, which provides the 2 basic types of stress.

Eustress – the good type of stress

good stress eustress

This is positive stress and it is normally temporary. Once the situation has passed and the adrenaline rush has eased up a little, your heart rate returns to normal, your breathing slows down and your muscles relax.

A perfect example is when you are preparing to give a presentation. If you are prepared well and practiced in advance, you feel a positive, stress like excited feeling. Your hands might get sweaty, your heart-rate is elevating and you get more hyped.

Eustress can be brought about by many other positive things:

  1. Getting married.
  2. Starting a new job or getting a promotion.
  3. Having a baby.
  4. Traveling on an airplane for the first time in your life.
  5. Meeting someone new for a date.

Distress

This is the negative type of stress. It can have adverse effects on the mind and body because this type of stress lingers for a while and when not handled, it can turn chronic, as discussed above.

It’s important to identify on time when you are experiencing negative stress. In this way you will be able to handle the problems while they are still in baby shoes and possibly avoid chronic stress

 

How to identify the physical and psychological signs of stress?

There are noticeable physical and psychological signs of stress. For most people experiencing chronic stress, unfortunately becomes a familiar feeling overtime.

Some people might even accept it as a normal way of life. They might repeat things such as, ‘It’s hard to find a job’ or ‘Bad things always happen to me’.

There are many many signs of stress, so this list is by far not complete. You also need to keep in mind that not all signs are necessary signs of stress. Look at your own situation and think about it, if it can be caused by something else.

  1. Withdrawing from others
  2. Constant anxiety or racing thoughts
  3. Non-stop worrying, imaging the worst scenarios
  4. Often rapid heart rate and chest pains
  5. Calm hands, sweaty palms
  6. Constantly feeling unhappy
  7. Feeling overwhelmed and unable to take action
  8. Feeling lonely or isolated even when in the company of others
  9. Over or under eating
  10. Lack of sleep
  11. Neglecting responsibilities both at home and work
  12. Heavily relying on stimulants such as drugs, alcohol or smoking to relax

Whenever you feel any of the above or you notice yourself that you are stressing, take a second and note it down in your stress journal. Not what is that you are feeling and why do you feel it. Really take a moment to think about the issue and don’t write things like ‘Life sucks…’. That’s not a real, underlying issue.

After monitoring your feelings and actions for 2-4 weeks, you will have enough hard data to dive into. With the above discussed types, you will be able to understand where your stressors are coming from and what type of stress are your experiencing.

Once you understand this, it will be much easier to take the necessary actions to get rid of your stressors and help you to improve your life.

 

I hope this article helps you to understand the type of stress you are experiencing and identify your major stressors.

It might seems like a lot of work at the beginning and it’s true. It’s not easy to turn your life around implement a good stress management program, but you gotta start somewhere 🙂

For the question of this week, let us know in the comments:

  • What type of stress do you experience the most often? Is there a stressors which takes up most of your energy?

Also if you just have a questions, let me know, maybe myself or someone in the comments can help you with some good ideas and tips 😉

Relax and be well,

Istvan

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