Three Main Types Of Stress And Tips For Reducing Stress In Your Life

Updated January 12, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension, and while it is common to experience sometimes, when it persists for an extended time or becomes too much, it can have harmful effects. Stress can also come in different forms, with three main types being acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress. In this article, we’ll cover these different types of stress as well as a few suggestions for how to reduce stress. 

Stress Can Be Harmful

Stress And Its Three Common Types

In order to understand the various types of stress, first having a basic understanding of stress itself can be helpful. So, what is stress? There can be two key elements to stress: the psychological response to a perceived threat or stressor and the physiological response. Sometimes, a small amount of stress can be beneficial; for example, sometimes stress is a way of warning ourselves that we are getting into a situation that could be dangerous, and it prompts us to be rightly cautious. But, when it interferes with daily life, is too extreme, or is ongoing, it can have a range of negative effects on a person’s mental and physical health. We’ll explore some of these effects further later in this article. 

With this general understanding in mind, now let’s dive into some of the different types of stress

  1. Acute Stress

Acute stress happens when an individual is subjected to an obstacle or threat that produces an immediate reaction. This type of stress is common and can happen in a variety of everyday scenarios. Some examples could include a dispute with a coworker, missing a deadline, or running late due to traffic. During situations such as these, people may experience a fight, flight, or freeze response. Whether or not an individual chooses to engage in flight, a fight, or simply freezes depends on them, the way in which they are used to handling stress, and a variety of other factors.

This particular type of stress is not always dangerous and can actually be beneficial, at least up until a certain point. Sometimes, experiences with acute stress can help people to learn how to handle situations that are mildly disruptive, yet not completely overwhelming. Acute stress also has the potential to provide the appropriate practice for dealing with similarly mild issues that may arise later down the line. While this manner of stress is often not particularly dangerous, undergoing acute stress can act as a warning sign, and severe acute stress can be more harmful. Severe acute stress can occur when you’ve faced a severely dangerous or life-threatening situation, for example. 

  1. Episodic Acute Stress

Frequently experiencing episodes of acute stress is regarded as episodic acute stress. Episodic acute stress can be indicative of a bigger, deep-seated issue that has yet to be addressed. For example, if there are certain things that continue to bring you stress, such as a certain unhealthy relationship, a stressful work project, or a looming personal issue, you may experience episodic acute stress. Frequently experiencing stress over and over again can be unhealthy, and individuals who live with episodic stress may feel on-edge.

  1. Chronic Stress

Chronic stress can be especially harmful. Put simply, a person develops chronic stress when they experience high levels of stress for a long period of time. Chronic stress does not subside or eventually fade away like acute stress. This type of stress may be caused by ongoing issues, a series of ongoing issues, or undesirable circumstances that make a person feel trapped and unable to escape. 

Tips For Reducing Stress In Your Life

As we’ve established, stress can be very harmful, but there are a variety of steps you can take to try to reduce stress in your life. Included below are a few suggestions to consider:

  1. Try To Create Balance In Your Life

Creating balance in your life may help to reduce stress, and there are many different ways to do it. Balance may look different from one person to the next. Many people undergo various types of stress because they are overextending themselves in one area and neglecting other parts of their life and well-being that are just as important. Creating more balance can happen with even small steps.

For instance, it may help to start by noticing what areas are taking up more time or attention than you’d like them to, and which areas you feel you’re neglecting or which you’d like to devote more time to. Creating balance could involve simply meditating for a few minutes each day before getting out of bed in the morning, instead of immediately checking your email. Balance can also mean dedicating a certain amount of time to spend with your family and friends, or ensuring you have enough time each day to do something you enjoy. The appropriate means and methods of balance are bound to vary from person to person. 

Stress Can Be Harmful

  1. Create A Healthier Lifestyle

Cultivating a healthy lifestyle can be another effective way to reduce stress. This might involve adding in more healthy habits like exercise, journaling, time in nature, better sleep, and meditation. It can also involve spending time with positive people whose presence you enjoy. This does not mean that you will never be faced with challenges or tough times. However, the habits you regularly engage in and the people you surround yourself with can make a difference. If you find that you are frequently surrounded by toxic people and unhealthy environments, it may be time to make a change. 

  1. Don't Be Afraid To Ask for Help

If you are in a situation where you are constantly facing stress or some other challenge, it can be easy to feel as though you are completely alone, and it may be hard to envision a way out. While the above tips can be useful, if you need additional support, online therapy can help. Working with a therapist can help you gain new tools to successfully work through challenges and find ways to reduce and manage stress in your life.

When you’re experiencing high levels of stress, the thought of seeking help through therapy may feel like one additional stressor, with the hassles of making time for it, finding a therapist, and commuting to an appointment. With online therapy, you can match with a therapist online and meet with your therapist wherever you have an internet connection, which may feel easier and more convenient for some people. 

Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of online therapy for a range of concerns, including stress. For instance, one research study examined the effectiveness of internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (ICBT) for individuals experiencing chronic stress. It found that the individuals who received the treatment “made large and significant improvements” on the level of perceived stress. 

Takeaway

Stress can come in a variety of forms, including acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress. It can have a range of negative effects on a person’s physical and mental health, but there are strategies you can try to reduce stress in your life. For additional help with managing and reducing stress, online therapy can help. 

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