The Many Types of Stress
In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, nearly 8 in 10 American adults (78%) in the say said the coronavirus pandemic is a significant source of stress in their life. And, 2 in 3 adults (67%) said they have experienced increased stress over the course of the pandemic, according to a press release from the American Psychological Association.
So should we believe stress is stress? Well, not always.
There are multiple categories of stress not all bad, you can experience “good” stress, too! All stress varies according to frequency, severity, and symptoms. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Eustress ( /yo͞oˈstres/ )
This may be a new term to some. Eustress refers to “good” stress or the kind of stress that actually enhances health and performance. This is the kind of stress you feel when you see your child about to topple down a flight of stairs, and it kicks your body systems into gear so that you can act quickly and efficiently to catch your child. Other ways that eustress manifests are in creative and athletic efforts. An artist who is driven by eustress becomes inspired and full of energy. An athlete gains excited energy and his or her body performs to its highest potential. Eustress is brief, intense, and does not wear the body out.
The prefix “hyper” denotes too much of something, or an excess of some sort – hyperactivity, hypLog Outerthyroidism, etc. Hyperstress is no exception. It refers to relentless stress that forces you to perform optimally and continually. It’s like being asked to give your all every minute of every day, and sometimes through the night as well. Hyperstress is not healthy and can cause burn-out.
Hyperstressed people often feel tense and edgy. You may find that your emotions are always just below the surface and are easily provoked.
The opposite of the “hyper” prefix, “hypo” denotes a lack, as in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). If you are hypostressed, you don’t have enough stimuli. You’re bored and do not have much motivation. This does not mean you’re not doing anything; you just are not doing anything that interests or motivates you. For example, if you have a job that involves repetitive, mechanical action, such as on an assembly line, you may experience hypostress. Hypostress can make you feel restless, discontent, or apathetic.
- Distress is caused by a traumatic event or events, or some sort of negative environmental factor. It is sometimes used synonymously with anxiety. Distress itself is divided into two types: acute and chronic distress.
- Acute distress results from a perceived threat. It may be real, such as being physically attacked, or it may be purely psychological. Either way, the result is distress. It’s your response to being threatened. Acute distress can also be a reaction to a change or upheaval in your life. It is always temporary.
- Chronic distress is more ongoing. It can result in illness and depression. It may still be caused by perceived threats or difficulties in the environment, but they are continual or frequent. Chronic distress can result if you are yelled at by your boss every day, for example, or if you are in a problematic marriage. Where acute distress is like a hammer blow, chronic distress is like a slow wearing down with sandpaper.
The phrase “healthy stress” may seem like an oxymoron, but it’s actually a reality. Stress is inescapable; everyone feels some stress at some point throughout their lives. Our bodies are therefore equipped to handle certain types and amounts of stress. We can even benefit from it.
So what is the difference between healthy and unhealthy stress? What makes stress healthy? Here are some things to think about regarding stress and its role in your health.
- The Great Motivator
Without stress, not very much would get done. Stress is what drives you to teach your kids proper behavior, to earn money, and to pay your bills on time. It is what keeps you on your toes in a football game or when catching your tumbling toddler. A certain amount of stress about traffic accidents motivates you to drive safely.
- Reaction Time
Did you feel stressed when that person cuts you off in traffic? The stress response was partially responsible for your quick pressure on the brakes! Stress can motivate us into quick, sometimes life-saving action. In the case of an emergency, one of your stress hormones – adrenaline – kicks in, and prompts you to act quickly and sometimes with remarkable strength.
Endorphins are the “feel-good” neurotransmitters. When the body is stressed or in pain, its natural pain relievers are released in the form of endorphins. Exercise is a healthy way to bring this kind of endorphin-releasing stress onto your body. While you should not exercise to the point of unbearable pain, it’s okay to “feel the burn” and push yourself a little. Massage therapy and acupuncture can also stimulate the release of endorphins.
Other Health Benefits
Experts are finding anti-tumor activity in people who undergo healthy stress, indicating that healthy stress stimulates the immune system.
The unhealthy type of stress is constant. You do not return to a normal energy level after it has passed. Unhealthy stress can take the form of constant worry, depression, and exhaustion. It can cause weight gain as well due to the release of cortisol, the “stress hormone.”
Continual stress weakens the immune system. That can leave you more susceptible to everyday illnesses and more serious problems such as cancer.
- Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
People who are chronically stressed usually worry about common, everyday things over which they have no control. These are the kinds of things that are not going to go away, such as paying bills, keeping the house clean, and so forth. Once one set of worries is tackled, another set comes along. Accepting these annoyances as part of life can go a long way in helping you cope with unhealthy stress.
Now that you can identify the many types of stresses you can make a successful effort to reduce your unhealthy stresses as much as possible so you can live a healthy, balanced life!
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it;
and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” — Marcus Aurelius
Meditation is a habit that may come easily to some. I have been meditating for over five years, but there were many days I found myself slipping. These days, not so much, not since I’ve printed out and put on my vision board over my desk these Positive Mindset graphics from Alice Seba at Publish for Prosperity. You can get these graphics at no cost here.
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I’m Donna SLam, who loves to blog about how meditation brings self-compassion, peace of mind, and clarity to my life and others by sharing tips and strategies to live a fulling and purposeful life. I enjoy championing others to lead a healthy and happy life through meditation, walking, self-development, and spending time with loved ones.
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