With everything going on lately, stress may seem like it’s a part of your everyday routine. If you’re feeling frazzled, you’re not alone — nearly half of Americans report feeling stressed, according to a recent Gallup poll.1
But all stress isn’t created equal – there are specific types that could spell trouble for your mental, physical and emotional health. And surprisingly, there is such a thing as “good stress!” Read on as we identify the different types of stress, explore the impact it has on the body, and discuss simple techniques to find balance.
What is stress?
You’re probably familiar with the kinds of situations that cause stress, but simply defined, stress is the physical and mental tension that can be caused by many circumstances.
The National Institute of Mental Health breaks it down into three general categories:3
- Routine stress brought on by your day-to-day responsibilities like work, family, or school;
- Sudden stress resulting from negative changes like illness or loss of a job; and
- Traumatic stress from events like serious accidents or natural disasters.
The different types of stress
The American Psychological Association takes a more in-depth look at three major types of stress and the impacts they have on your physical, mental and emotional well-being.
1. Acute stress
This is the most common type of stress and is often the easiest to recognize. Acute stress is short-term and typically very manageable.4 It can be good — the thrill of an exciting experience, for instance, but too much of it can lead to exhaustion — like if you’re stuck in traffic multiple times a day. Acute stress can also cause adverse effects like anxiety, muscle pain, stomach issues, or increased blood pressure.
2. Episodic acute stress
This type of stress can affect people in two distinct ways. Those who find themselves frequently feeling irritable, short-tempered or with too much “nervous energy” may suffer from this type of stress.3 A self-described “worrier” might also feel the pressure of episodic acute stress, but experience anxiety, rather than irritability.4 In both cases, people experiencing this type of stress are overstimulated for extended periods, which may lead to tension headaches, high blood pressure, and even heart disease.4
3. Chronic stress
Chronic stress is an ongoing, long-term condition that can be caused by the pressures of everyday activities or traumatic events, the American Psychological Association explains.5 If left untreated, chronic stress may lead to major health concerns, including anxiety, depression and high blood pressure.5 In an effort to soothe chronic stress, some people may turn to food for comfort. In fact, researchers are making more connections between stress eating and obesity. Studies have found continuous stress may make you more likely to reach for foods that are high in sugar and fat, even if you’re not hungry.6,7
What is good stress?
Good stress, or “eustress,” is a healthy and positive result of challenging events or circumstances, compared to “distress,” which is negative.8 Good stress can feel exciting – your body releases the “stress hormones” cortisol and adrenaline. Your breathing rate, heartbeat and blood flow to your muscles, brain and limbs all increase.9 Examples of good stress can include moving, getting married or starting a new job.10
In small amounts, good stress may encourage you to be more motivated to complete tasks, helping you to feel accomplished.6
The good news? Research suggests you may be able to use stress to your advantage. Here’s how to make the most out of it, and how to ease any pressures you’re currently facing.
Keep your stress levels in check
Switch gears to find a new perspective. Feeling overwhelmed? Researchers from Columbia Business School suggest working on a separate task before returning to the original one.11 This gives you the opportunity to refresh your thoughts and tackle your first task with renewed enthusiasm. Take a break to redirect your attention – it’ll help you to rethink the way you view a problem and keep it from becoming stale and uninteresting.
Make time for mindfulness. Giving yourself a few minutes to be present, feel grateful and focus on the positive is an effective strategy to help reduce stress.12 Check out these simple tips to learn how to add more mindful thinking to your day.
Try adding a little physical activity. All you need are 10 minutes: a short walk could help improve your mood and help you manage stress.13 Getting your body moving boosts your ability to use oxygen, circulates your blood, and encourages your body to produce endorphins, the “feel-good” hormones that help you feel energized and happy. Give these basic exercises a try!
Say yes to self-care. Between your personal and professional responsibilities, a busy schedule could leave little time to yourself. Try to avoid spreading yourself too thin – give yourself the opportunity to rest and recharge. Consider these simple (and relaxing!) self-care suggestions or treat yourself to a gift.
Focus on both on your health and wellness. Surprisingly, there is a difference between health and wellness. While your health encompasses your physical and mental health, wellness encompasses your overall lifestyle. Wellness is more than just your physical health - it includes your physical, social and emotional well-being. You can improve your health and wellness through self-care activities like meditation and journaling.
Stress can impact many areas of your life – even your health. Understanding the types of stress and how they can affect you is the first step to finding a better balance. From there, finding ways to de-stress – whether it’s talking to a health care professional, introducing some physical activity into your day, or taking time for self-care – can make an incredible difference in your physical and mental well-being.
If stress has affected your weight, we’re here to help! Book your free appointment with Jenny Craig to start making positive, healthy changes today.
Elisa is a content marketing manager for Jenny Craig with over ten years of experience working in the health and fitness industry. She loves sharing her passion for living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. A San Diego native and an endurance sports enthusiast, you can usually find her swimming, biking along the coast highway or running by the beach in her free time. Elisa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University Chico.
Favorite healthy snack: mozzarella string cheese with a Pink Lady apple.
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Edited by Elisa - Jenny Craig