Stress is, and always has been, an integral part of the human experience. According to Vince Faust’s article, “Learning How to Control Stress for Better Health,” from the July 2015 edition of The Philadelphia Tribune, “stress is the mental, emotional, and physiological response of the body to any situation that is new, threatening, frightening, or exciting.” While stress typically has a negative connotation, this definition argues that stress occurs in both frightening and exciting situations. In other words, stress is just our body’s response to a situation. According to Faust, eustress is when people react positively to a situation and distress is when people react negatively to a situation. Furthermore, positive reactions elicit improved health but negative reactions elicit deteriorated health.
Christine Mohr’s study “Insufficient Coping Behavior Under Chronic Stress and Vulnerability to Psychiatric Disorders,” published by Psychopathology in June 2014, found that “an estimated 35-50% of college and university students drop out prematurely due to insufficient coping skills under chronic stress.” College is extremely stressful as students attempt to balance difficult classes, immense workloads, fast-approaching deadlines and underpaying jobs. However, by learning about the different types of stress and tips on coping with stress, we can combat distress and carry such lessons into the future when we have to balance difficult careers, immense workloads, fast-approaching deadlines and paying off student loans.
According to the American Psychological Association, there are three types of stress people endure: acute stress, episodic acute stress and chronic stress. An article titled “Stress: The Different Kinds of Stress,” found at www.apa.org, concisely summarizes each type of stress and its typical symptoms.
Acute stress is an extremely common type of stress associated with any thrilling, exciting or irritating situation in the recent past or near future. Some examples of when people typically experience acute stress are when thinking of last week’s job interview or when thinking about next week’s exam. The symptoms of acute stress include anger, anxiety, depression, tension headaches, stomachaches, dizziness, shortness of breath and chest pain.
The second type of stress is episodic acute stress. This is when a person is constantly suffering from acute stress. Usually “Type A” people suffer from episodic acute stress because they take on too many responsibilities and place an immense amount of pressure on themselves to succeed. In addition, people prone to over-worrying are also likely candidates to suffer from episodic acute stress. The symptoms of episodic acute stress include the symptoms of acute stress, but also can lead to hypertension and heart disease. Interestingly, people suffering from episodic acute stress typically do not seek professional help and are strongly resistant to changing their way of life. Oftentimes, these people blame external factors for their stress, rather than recognizing the internal traits responsible for welcoming stress into their lives.
The last type of stress is chronic stress. This is long term stress due to traumatic events, dysfunctional families, poverty, unhappy marriages or miserable jobs. In other words, chronic stress occurs when a person completely gives up hope for a better future. Chronic stress destroys mental, emotional and physical health. In fact, prolonged chronic stress can lead to suicide, violence, heart attack, stroke or cancer. Stress, whether acute, episodic acute or chronic, is a serious issue that without proper coping techniques can lead to serious and even fatal health problems.
Therefore, it is extremely important to not only understand the types of stress, but also healthy habits for coping with stress. The American Psychological Association also provides tips for dealing with stress in the article, “Coping with Stress and Anxiety” found at www.apa.org. First of all, anyone suffering from episodic acute stress or chronic stress should seek professional help in order to find individual causes of stress and create a unique plan for coping. According to the American Psychological Association, there are three therapeutic techniques that psychologists use to help patients cope with stress. The first one is cognitive behavioral therapy which helps patients understand their negative thoughts and why those thoughts are causing stress. The second method is helping patients learn how to relax through meditation. The third method is supportive therapy, where patients talk about their anxiety and therapists help validate the patients’ feelings. It is important to remember that just because stress is a part of everyday life, distress, or reacting negatively to stress, can lead to a lot of health problems. Therefore, anyone with symptoms resembling episodic acute stress or chronic stress should seek help before symptoms become out-of-hand.
However, professional help is not the only method for dealing with stress. The American Psychological Association’s article, “Coping with Stress and Anxiety” also includes simple techniques for coping with stress that people can integrate into their daily lives. First of all, taking care of your physical health goes hand in hand with taking care of your mental and emotional health. If you make sure to eat healthy foods, get about eight hours of sleep, and find twenty minutes to exercise every day, then you will feel energized and can attack the stressors in your life. Secondly, it is important to stay positive in stressful situations, so be sure to surround yourself with people, and pets, who enrich your life by adding joy and happiness to your day. Furthermore, try to carve out some time to plan fun trips or events with these people. Never underestimate how a dinner with friends or a weekend get-away can provide you with a relaxed breath of fresh air amidst a stressful schedule. Lastly, remember that attitude is everything. If you allow yourself to wallow in self-pity, then you will never have the energy to healthily cope with stress; instead, it is healthier to look at daily stressors as challenges that you can and will handle.
Unfortunately there are a millions of reasons for people to become stressed every day, and most of us do not understand the severity of stress. For example, those suffering from episodic acute stress view feeling distressed as simply a characteristic of their lives. However, this constant anxiety has serious repercussions. In essence, people are taught distress is normal and eustress is an oddity. However, the American Psychological Association suggests that distress can be combatted by taking care of physical health, socializing with optimistic people and keeping a positive attitude. However, while most people can see the validity of these tips, they fail to incorporate the tips into their lives. Therefore, one of the most important tips for coping with stress is time management, specifically making time to take a deep breath. Once you find time for calm breathing, you can be better attuned to your emotions and how to foster positive reactions and negate negative reactions.