Types of Chronic Stress

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Sources of chronic stress can vary, but often fall into one of four different types:

 
  • Emotional stress (difficult emotions such as anger, sadness, or frustration)
  • Environmental stress (where you live and work)
  • Relationship stress (how you relate to friends, family, co-workers, partners)
  • Work stress (challenges and pressures related to your job)
 

In many instances, these types of stresses affect multiple domains in a person's life. Work stress can create stress in your relationships. Relationship stress can make it more difficult to manage difficult emotions.

 

For example, if your family is struggling financially or with a severe illness, the stress can become chronic. Someone in your home may not be able to work, bills are piling up and your home is nearing foreclosure, and this can leave you stressed for months or even a year or more.

 

Your constant worry wears down your body, making you feel tired and anxious. You may be working harder than ever to make ends meet and make unhealthy choices about food and exercise, which can make you feel even worse. This can lead to a number of significant health concerns.

 

We can also have chronic stress related to work. Many jobs require a lot from us, and it can often feel like you never get a break or are always under pressure to perform.

 

Working overtime, constant travel, and high-pressure business relations can keep your body in a constant state of excitement, even when you get home to your family. This can also add to the wear and tear on your body, and continuous stress can contribute to serious health issues like heart disease.

 

Impact

Because chronic stress is so prolonged, it can have a detrimental impact on your health and well-being if left untreated. Some potential complications related to chronic stress include:2

 
  • Acne
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Eczema
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Low sex drive
  • Ulcers
  • Weight changes
 

Finding ways to manage chronic stress is important for overall well-being. This may involve professional treatment, but self-help and relaxation strategies can also often be effective.

 

Treatment

If severe chronic stress is causing significant distress or impairing your ability to function normally, professional treatment can help you develop new coping skills and find ways to lower your stress levels. Options include:

 
  • Psychotherapy: Approaches such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you learn to identify negative thought patterns that contribute to chronic stress. Working with a therapist, you can then begin to change these thoughts to more realistic, helpful ones. You can also learn coping tools that will help you to better manage your response to stress. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is another approach that can help people utilize mindfulness and meditation to cope with chronic stress.
  • Medications: Your doctor may prescribe different medications to help you manage some of the symptoms of stress. If you are also experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant. Your doctor may also prescribe medications that can help you sleep or reduce stomach upset.
 

Coping

Chronic stress can often be managed through self-help approaches. It is important to begin using stress management techniques as early as possible when you recognize chronic stress in your life. This works for a few reasons.

 
  • Provides quick stress relief: Fast-acting techniques can reverse the stress response so your body has a chance to recover and your mind can approach problems from a proactive stance rather than reacting from a stressed or even panicked perspective. When you're making choices from a more relaxed and confident place, you tend to make choices that better serve your best interests and avoid creating more stress for yourself.
  • Develops stress resilience: Longer-term healthy habits can also be important, because they can build resilience and give you chances to take a break from stress on a regular basis. This can help you avoid staying stressed so constantly that you don't realize how stressed you are, which can keep you from taking steps to reduce the stress in your life. It can also save you from the more negative effects of chronic stress. Some of the most effective habits include exercise, meditation, and journaling, as they have been shown to promote resilience to stress
  • Creates new coping skills: Changing how you respond to stress can help as well. Taking steps to reduce the stressful situations you face (saying no more often, for example) and to change your perspective (reminding yourself of the resources you can use and the strength you possess) can both help. Approaching stress from a proactive stance can help reduce chronic stress.
 

If you have tried self-help strategies and feel you need more assistance, or if you feel these will not be enough to help, don't hesitate to talk to your doctor about your concerns. Effective help is available.

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Tuesday, 17 May 2022

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