Stress – An Overview – Part 1

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Graffitti on a wall saying "STRESS"

Introduction

Everybody has stress sometimes. When we oversleep and realise we have to be off to work within the next 15 minutes; when we are really busy and we are suddenly given another five urgent tasks to complete; when we’re having a quiet conversation and there’s a loud crash as someone drops a dinner plate on the floor behind us. These are the times that we experience stress.

Types of stress

There are different types of stress:

  • Eustress – low-level stress that assists you getting through a lot of work
  • Acute stress – a short episode of stress in response to something that has happened
  • Chronic stress – persistent or continuous stress that happens most of the time.

There are stressful times that most of us will be familiar with at sometime in our lives. They are moments of acute stress that stay with us for a short time and then dissipate. This is our natural response that says to us, “There’s something wrong – you need to do something about it now.”

Just as acute stress draws our attention to something that might be wrong, eustress (pronounced you-stress) is a low-level stress that stays with us for longer periods of time and helps us get through a lot of work. Many people enjoy the experience of eustress, as it makes them more productive and they get a thrill out of doing a lot.

However, chronic stress is stress that continues all day and every day – with barely a break. Eustress and acute stress on natural parts of every day life by people who enjoy a healthy lifestyle. Chronic stress, however, can lead to a lot of negative consequences.

Causes of chronic stress.

Chronic stress starts out with a lot of regular or continuous stressful events. These periods of acute stress run in to each other, so that the body is not able to recover from one episode of acute stress before another one starts. This means that the person is in a continuous state of stress.

One example of modern-day stress is a stressful job where the expectation is that you will do more work than you have time for, and you have to take your work home with you. This sort of job delivers a constant low or medium-level stress with very little let-up.

Other examples include people who find themselves in constant highly stressful situations that they are not able to get out of: A parent with a baby who doesn’t want to sleep night after night; someone who is bullied regularly who will not only be under stress while they’re being bullied, but also find themselves constantly stressed as they worry about being bullied.

In these circumstances, the brain reenforces the pathways that lead to stress, because they are being used all the time. The pathways that lead to relaxation and calm are not used and it becomes harder and harder to relax as those pathways are underused. The brain learns that a state of chronic stress is “normal” and so stays in that state, even when there is nothing to be stressed about.

References

Effects of stress on the body
https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body

Different types of stress.
https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/open-gently/201812/the-three-types-stress

Eustress
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/eustress-vs-distress


Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash

Tim Maude

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