Stress is one of the most predominate challenges people face every day. According to the anxiety and depression association of America, seven out of ten adults in the United States say they experience stress daily, and some say it interferes at least moderately with their lives (Stress is an inevitable, 2018). Stress is defined as a situation where a person’s homeostasis is affected and thrown off balance in response to the situation. This research paper is dedicated to identifying different types of stress and analyzing unique stress management techniques. The types of stress I will be covering in the body of this paper include Acute Stress, Episodic Acute Stress, and Chronic acute Stress. I will examine the primary reasons why they are caused, some health complications that come along with these types of stress to include both mental and physical. Finally, I will discuss different techniques we can incorporate into our daily lives that would be most beneficial to combat and overcome these stressors.
Stress is a common obstacle that inhabitants of this world are faced with every day, both animals and humans alike. From a rabbit being chased by a fox, to a person who just found out that he is going to be laid-off and does not know how he will provide for his family next. Both of these situations cause a natural response to help cope with the events taking place. The issue that are troublesome to humans is that there are many different situations that can trigger this response and sometimes its multiple events that can pile on added stress. Prolonged periods of stress can cause serious health issues. It is critical that we become familiar with stress and ways that we can overcome stress to prevent any adverse effects.
What is Stress?
Stress is a common term that we use every day, but how often do we really think about what this really means and what exactly happens to the body when this is happening? According to Dr. Erica Jackson of ACMS Health & Fitness journal, stress is the disruption of the body’s homeostasis or a state of disharmony in response to a real or perceived threat or challenge (Jackson, 2013, p. 14). The perceived threat or challenge is what we identify as a stressor. When we encounter these stressors, our body disperses many hormones to prepare us to confront this threat. The chemicals are known as cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. This affects the body by increasing the heart rate, heightened muscle responsiveness, alertness, and even sweating. This is called the body’s natural “fight-or-flight” response. As we are all probably too familiar with, stress is not only caused from something that is life threatening, but sometimes even smaller issues. Some examples include; job issues or responsibilities, privation of time or money, family problems, relationships, driving in heavy traffic, or even waiting for an important outcome. With each unique situation we face, we may also encounter different types of stress depending on that vary situation.
Types of Stress1
Stress management can be complicated and confusing because there are different types of stress. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), These include acute stress, episodic acute stress, and Chronic stress, each having their own symptoms, characteristics, longevity and treatment styles.
Acute stress is recognized as the most common type of stress. It comes from momentarily dwelling on recent past events and the concern of how these events will affect you in the near future. Acute stress can be stimulating in small amounts, but an excessive amount can be wearing. This is because of the consistency of this stress, over long periods of time it can take a heavy toll on the body. Some familiar scenarios that contribute to this stress are car accidents that may have caused some body damage on your car, a deadline you are trying to meet, possibly even issues your child may be facing in school. Symptoms of this stress can include emotional distress in combination of anger, anxiety, and depression. Acute stress can also cause physical symptoms such as muscular problems like tension headache, back pain, jaw pain, and muscle tension.
According to APA, Episodic Acute Stress can be attributed to those whose lives are so disordered that they are subjects in chaos and crisis. They are always in a rush, but always late. If something can go wrong for these individuals it usually does, and usually they take on to much they can handle (Stress-kinds, 2019). People who suffer from episodic acute stress are usually short-tempered, irritable, anxious and tense. Additionally, they can be seen in a hurry, abrupt, and often their irritability comes off as hostile. They find the workplace to be extremely stressful to them. Personality traits associated with these individuals are often seen as having an excessive competitive drive, impatience, aggressiveness, and always having a sense of urgency. These people are at greater risk for coronary heart disease.
Chronic stress is undoubtedly the most severe type of stress a person can suffer from. This is the type of stress that breaks a person down day after day, and even year after year. APA describes this as destroying the human mind, physical body, and our lives as it inflicts chaos through long-term exposure. This is the stress of monetary scarcity, of broken families, being trapped in a torn marriage or in a unfavorable job or career (stress-kinds, 2019). Essentially, Chronic stress is derived from a miserable situation that appears to be no way out of. Symptoms from chronic stress are some of the most harmful or even deadly. These include violence, stroke, heart attack, and even suicide. Because physical and mental resources are exhausted through long-term attrition, the symptoms of chronic stress are some of the most difficult to treat and may require extended medical as well as behavioral treatment and stress management (“stress management can be,” 2019).
Identifying the Right Stress Relief Technique
Finding the right technique to use is the first step to proper stress management and is essential because if you do not use the correct one, it will be challenging to make any progress. Some techniques are ineffective for one of two reasons: either they are a poor match for the person’s personality, or for the situation (Scott, 2018). For someone who is a healthcare provider, or any other challenging profession, simply using breathing techniques may not be sufficient enough in effectively reducing stress for that situation. According to the health and science journal, Transcendental meditation is referred to as a simple and easily learned technique, requiring only to be practiced for 20 minutes twice daily while sitting with eyes closed and repeating a ‘mantra’, a meaningless sequence of sounds specific to each individual, to promote a natural awareness to a wakeful but deeply restful state (Varvogil, Darviri, 2011). This technique may have amazing benefits overall, but this can be hard for someone who is feeling overwhelmed and lacks the patience to learn a new practice. It is important to identify what type of stress you may be experiencing, and then determining which techniques are most appealing to your personal preferences. This will make the process easier and smoother when attempting to managing your stress.
Management Techniques for Stress. As we discussed earlier, acute stress is a type of stress that only effects you momentarily. It happens quickly and often times unexpectedly and does not typically last too long. Further examples include an argument with someone in your life, or an exam you don’t feel adequately prepared for. A good practice for this type of stress are breathing exercises. They can be coupled with other strategies, such as yoga or meditation. Breathing exercises is also one of the more common techniques because of its simplicity, and it is effective for virtually everyone. They work quickly, you can do them anywhere (no extra equipment is required, just your lungs), they are cost free, and only take little practice to master. The benefit of breathing exercises is that it almost immediately begins to reverse your flight-or-fight response bring you back to homeostasis.
Another good stress management technique for acute stress is cognitive reframing. Have you ever over analyzed a situation to the point where you started to psyche yourself out of your own comfort zone (overstressed) only to find out all your concerns where unnecessary? That may have been a time when cognitive reframing may have been beneficial to counteract your unnecessary stress. Sometimes we tend to be overly cautious and critical, as humans normally do, of a tasking or situation when ultimately our over cautiousness does more harm to ourselves than good. It causes us to cloud our judgement or even make mistakes we would have not normally made if we were able to think straight. Cognitive reframing is a way of changing the way you look at something and changing your experience of it. For example, seeing something that would be challenging to be bravely overcome, or a viewing a really bad day as a mildly low point in a largely positive life. Even seeing a negative event as an opportunity to take it as a learning experience. Reframing positively affects stress because your stress is often triggered by what you perceive, not what is actually taking place. By reframing your thinking, you are likely to minimize, if not, neutralize your stress all together. Reframing can be simplified into a four-step process; learning about your thinking patterns, noticing your thoughts, challenging your thoughts, and finally, replacing your thought with more positive thoughts (Scott, 2018).
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a relaxing and effective technique for relinquishing body tension and psychological stress. For this technique, you will be required to tense and relax all of your major muscles in your body in order from head to toes. By tensing your muscles prior to relaxing them you enable yourself to relax them more effectively after you release. To effectively do this technique you will first need to find some time, at least 15 minutes. Next, you want to find yourself a place where you can feel comfortable for all your tensing needs. Now you first begin with your face; making a tight grimace, clinching your teeth, closing your eyes as tightly as possible, clench your teeth, for about eight seconds. Then you let go of all of your tension by exhaling and relaxing completely. Next comes your neck and shoulder areas, then you continue to repeat by working your way down your body with all of your muscles. The final step is to just practice and then abbreviate. Now you can use this technique to destress virtually at any time.
With managing Chronic Stress, often times it may require a combination approach with some short-term stress relievers and some long-term stress relief habits. An excellent long-term lifestyle change technique that can prove to be beneficial is exercising on a regular daily basis. Exercising is effective against stress for many different reasons. For one, it can serve as an outlet for frustrations. It allows you to turn negative emotions into motivation for improved health. Additionally, stress can increase your feel-good hormones like endorphins, and decrease stress hormones like cortisol. From a physical standpoint, with working out you will also feel and look healthier and it may boost your confidence relieving stress. With consistent physical activity it can even distract you and take your mind off of your problems.
Taking a much needed vacation away from work, in my opinion, is probably be the best stress management technique. Sometimes you just need to get out of your daily routine, an opportunity to clear your mind from all the troubles of the regular world with a five day trip to a tropical coastline, leaving all your worries behind. When you return, you will be refreshed and you may even be able to bring back some recently kindled motivation. The only issues that come with this technique is it may be the costliest compared to others. If the money is a concern, you would most definitely not want to place yourself in a financial burden adding even more stress. If money is a constraint, the next best thing I would suggest is making the most out of your weekend. This does not necessarily suggest spending your money to make you feel better, but spend some time doing the things you enjoy and leave work or other stressors for Monday. Whose to say weekends should not be treated as mini-staycations.
- American Psychological Association (n.d.) Stress: the different kinds of stress. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-kinds
- Jackson, Erica, M. (May/June 2013) Stress Relief: The Role of Exercise in Stress Management.
- ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal p. 14-19 retrieved from https://journals.lww.com/acsm healthfitness/fulltext/2013/05000/STRESS_RELIEF__The_Role_of_Exercise_in_Stress.6.aspx#O3-6-3
- Scott, Elizabeth (15 February, 2018) Stress Relief Techniques: Why The Right Fit is Essential
- retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/stress-relievers-for-each-type-of-stress-3145249
- Varvogli, Liza, Darviri, Christina (2011) Stress Management Techniques: Evidence-based
- procedures that reduce stress and promote health. Health and Science Journal p. 78 Retrieved from http://www.hsj.gr/medicine/stress-management-techniques-evidencebased-procedures-that-reduce-stress-and-promote-health.pdf
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America (n.d) Physical Activity Reduces Stress.
- Retrieved from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st