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Stress: What is it? What are the different types of stress? What are the risks? (Pt. 1)

Guest Blog by: Joy Hughes, a writer of health, nutrition and all things cannabis. Having experienced the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids first hand, she's been spreading the word ever since. She currently travels the country in an RV with her husband and beloved beagle. Contact her at joyfulpawz@gmail.com.

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It’s stress awareness month, and we’re doing a series of articles to shed light on what stress is, where it comes from, and what you can do about it.

Arrrghhh… Stress, we all experience it at certain points in our lives. And in our fast-paced modern world, stressors are lurking in every corner. 

For example, you sleep through your alarm, and now you have less time to get what you need accomplished for the day. You’re not only running late for work, but running behind to take the kids to school, feed the dog, etc. You’re stressed.

Or how about this scenario… You’re in a new city, and you need directions to get to your next location. But your phone is dying, and you forgot to bring your charger. You’re stressed. 

Here’s one more… You’ve just learned that your father’s health has taken a bad turn, and doctors are suggesting the worst possible outcome. Everything around you keeps moving, and all your usual obligations keep rolling in—despite the fact that you’re dealing with heart-shattering news. You’re overwhelmingly stressed. 

Stress comes in all shapes and sizes. Meaning, we all experience stress in different ways. But the first question is…

What is stress? 

This may come as a surprise to you, but there is no one way to define stress. At least, there isn’t one universal definition that everyone agrees on. That’s because it’s hard to measure each person's idea of what stress is and what it feels like. 

But what we all can agree on is that stress flips the ‘ON’ switch of mental, physical, and emotional tension inside our bodies. Any event, news, thought, or change in life can throw your body and mind into feeling tense, nervous, overwhelmed, jittery, frustrated, mentally foggy, weary, angry, sad, or a whole host of other symptoms.

That’s because when you feel stressed, your body actually releases certain hormones that make you feel alert, sometimes on edge, and ready to take action. These stress hormones are adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. 

When you encounter a stressor, your heart rate increases, your blood pressure rises, and you’re now experiencing what science calls the “fight or flight” response. 

But this response isn’t always perceived as stressful or frightening. In some cases, the fight or flight response can be seen as “your body's reaction to a challenge or demand”, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Which means, in essence, that not all stress is bad. 

Let’s take a look...

Stress Awareness Month

What are the different types of stress? 

The American Institute of Stress (AIS) suggests there are 4 different types of stress: 

  • Acute Stress 
  • Eustress 
  • Distress 
  • Chronic Stress 

Let’s start with acute stress, also known as the fight or flight response. 

Sure, if you were to sit down with someone and ask them about stress, you’ll likely hear an outpouring of all the bad things in their life. But acute stress isn’t always bad. In fact, acute stress can help your physical, mental, and emotional muscles do their job. Which, in turn, helps prepare you to take action and later cope with a particular challenge.

In most cases, acute stress prepares your body to defend itself. It’s ready to take action in a given situation. (Think: jumping out of the way of a moving car.)

Animals in the wild also experience the fight or flight response. Like a zebra running from a lion, or a cat running from a dog. 

Eustress is another form of stress that usually involves events like getting married, having a baby, winning money, receiving a job promotion, graduating, working out, taking an exam, etc. 

Eustress is considered a good form of stress. Good things are happening in your life, but they’re challenging and engaging.

Distress, on the other hand, is considered a bad form of stress. It usually involves negative events like divorce, having financial problems, losing your job, receiving bad medical news, enduring a punishment, maintaining a grueling work/school schedule, losing a loved one, etc. 

The issue with distress is that it can turn into chronic stress

For example, financial problems are often pushed to the side until they rear their ugly heads at the worst possible time. Like a mountain of overdue bills, or a big increase in your daily living expenses. While you’re just trying to make ends meet, bill collectors are calling, and final notices are being issued. 

Ignoring or pushing down the feeling of being overwhelmed is usually a recipe for chronic stress.

Not to mention, we live in a world where unhealthy lifestyles, demanding work/life schedules, poor eating habits, and a “go, go, go” mentality is the norm. No wonder more and more people feel chronically stressed out. 

So, when does stress become a problem? 

The health risks of untreated stress

Prolonged stress can wreak havoc on your body, causing immune issues, hormonal imbalances, digestive issues, inflammation, cardiovascular problems, migraines, and mental health disorders. 

Now, stress isn’t a diagnosis of a mental disorder. It’s a process that your body goes through to protect itself and adapt to a situation. But chronic stress can lead to mental health problems like anxiety, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), etc. 

And if you’re already suffering from health conditions like diabetes, asthma, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, or obesity, then stress, especially the chronic kind, can worsen those conditions. 

You see, what’s most intriguing about stress is that it can be caused by a pleasant or unpleasant situation, news, thought, or stimuli. And in this modern world, it’s impossible to avoid stressors

That’s why it’s incredibly important to know what your stress triggers are, and how to recognize when you’re stressed out. Because it’s only then that you can begin to learn how to manage your stress successfully in the long run. 

It’s like the clock that had a nervous breakdown. He ticked and ticked, until he ticked himself right into a psychiatrist’s office. Oh, wait! We’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit… 

Stay tuned for our next article, where we reveal to you what the symptoms of stress are, how to identify what triggers your stress in the first place, and what happened with our friend, the clock.

Until next time… Take care, and take a few deep breaths.


–– Naternal Wellness