Many people feel stress after dealing with the loss of a loved one, while going through a divorce or even after a tough day at work, but most people don’t realize is that there are different kinds of stress. The types of stress relate to how the stress comes on or what symptoms are associated with the stress, but psychologists typically differentiate between the different types based on how long the periods last. Learning more about the different types and periods of stress can help individuals learn how to battle stress.
A common type of stress is physical stress, which refers to actual physical activities and events that wreak havoc on the human body. One good example is travel. Traveling frequently can send you to different time zones, which makes sleeping and waking difficult. Physical stress also includes stress brought on by sleeping too much, not getting enough sleep, spending too many hours on your feet or working long hours. If you ever spent a day chasing your kids around an amusement park or stuck in an airport and dealing with flight delays, you have likely experienced physical stress.
Out of all the different kinds of stress, emotional stress is the most common. This can occur after you go through an intense break up or divorce, lose a loved one, have a fight with your spouse or experience any other problem that causes you to feel depressed or anxious. Emotional stress often manifests in the same way that depression does. You may experience weight changes, changes in how you fall asleep or how long you sleep, feelings of isolation and mood swings. Emotional stress can also occur when you feel overwhelmed at home or at work.
When thinking about the types of stress, many people don’t think about traumatic stress. Traumatic stress is a type of stress that occurs because of some type of trauma to the human body and may lead to intense pain, coma or even death. It often relates to some kind of physical change that occurs. If you went through an operation, your body may experience stress until you recover from that surgery. A car accident, second or third degree burns or even a case of pneumonia may all cause traumatic stress.
Acute vs. Chronic Stress
In addition to the different types of stress, psychologists differentiate between acute stress and chronic stress. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress refers to an extended type of stress that impacts people every day of the year and can last for years or even decades. Acute stress is a type of stress that only occurs for a set period of time or only because of certain factors in the environment. This may include the stress you feel after a fight with your kids, a meeting at work or an encounter with another driver on the road. The APA also identifies something called episodic acute stress, which refers to intense periods of stress.
Coping With Different Types of Stress
Different types of stress require different remedies. In other words, what gives you relief for physical stress may not give you relief for traumatic stress. It’s also possible that you’ll see some overlap in treatments for stress, meaning that one type of stress-relief activity will work for more than one type of stress.
It’s additionally critical to understand that you may be required to undertake more than one anti-stress regiment before you feel better. Finally, as you’re working on dealing with your stress, it’s useful to remember that you should continue with your anti-stress routines even when your stress levels have calmed.
Self-care works best when it becomes a lifestyle choice and not something you do only occasionally. The benefits of many of these self-care routines become stronger the longer you practice them.
Below, you’ll find some different types of anti-stress regiments that you can adopt. They will help you deal with your rising stress levels. Each require a different time commitment and skill levels. Many of them work together.
Deep Breathing Exercises: Breathing deeply is a quick way to blow off some situational stress. It lowers your heart rate and your blood pressure, as well as adding oxygen to the brain, allowing you to think more clearly when you’re under stress.
Physically, deep breathing sends a signal to your brain and your body that it’s safe to relax and return to a calmer state. Best of all, you can do deep breathing exercises anywhere. For example, if you’re at work, you can take five minutes in the bathroom to breathe in 10 deep breaths.
To get the most out of your breathing routine, you’ll want to breathe in from your abdomen. Take a long, steady breath in through your nose and hold it for a few seconds. Release the breath through gently pursed lips until the breath is gone from your lungs.
If you’re not sure if you’re breathing all the way down into your abdomen, place your hand on your tummy and feel your stomach rise as the breath comes into your solar plexus area. Repeat this exercise up to 10 times. If it’s possible, find a comfortable spot to lie down while you’re doing it.
This type of breathing helps with all types of stress, though you’ll probably not find permanent relief from traumatic stress using only breathing exercises. You’ll want to include other types of coping mechanisms as well. That being said, if you’re having an anxiety attack due to a traumatic stress condition, deep breathing may help to quell the anxiety momentarily.
Meditation: People have been using meditation for thousands of years to deal with stress and to make themselves healthier mentally, physically, emotionally and even spiritually. Meditation is particularly good for chronic stress conditions, because studies show that meditation changes the brain for the positive over a period of time.
The longer you meditate, the more benefit you get from the practice. However, studies indicate that even the least experienced meditation practitioners gain benefit from meditation. Additionally, deep breathing is at the heart of many meditation disciplines, so if you do take up meditation, you’ll be adding in deep breathing as well.
Different types of meditation exist from guided imagery meditation to mindfulness meditation. Each has their benefits. Right now, transcendental meditation is popular, but all have their benefit. The key to getting good results from meditation is consistency and finding the right meditation practice for you.
Exercise: Taking up a regular exercise routine allows you to burn off the tension that accumulates in your muscles and joints. It strengthens your heart and lungs and sends blood and oxygen to the brain, two critical elements that help you cope with stress.
Many types of exercises have been touted as remedies for stress. Yoga, tai chi, qi gong and pilates count among the most popular and the most gentle. Yoga, qi gong and tai chi have a spiritual element to them, which some people find additionally comforting when they’re dealing with stress.
More conventional exercise routines include walking, running, spin classes, weight lifting or kickboxing. Doing exercise in a class or in the gym may offer additional stress relief due to the social aspect of the class. Many people who deal with a lot of stress find comfort in having emotional and mental support from the people around them.
Journal Writing: Sometimes, it’s difficult to share our thoughts with those around us. The problem with this, of course, is that talking about what’s bothering us can reduce stress significantly: Not talking about what’s bothering you compounds the stress. For those who find it difficult to open up to others while they’re experiencing stress, there’s journal writing.
Journal writing has been shown to play a significant role in mental health and whole therapies have grown up around journal writing. Fans of journal writing soon discover that journaling has both short- and long-term benefits.
In the short-term, journaling allows you to blow off steam and get what’s bothering you out on paper, where you can look at it and eventually deal with it. In the longer term, journaling helps you see the progress you’ve made.
If you’re going through a particularly dark time, you can write about it. As you start to feel better, you can go back and read about the difficulties you were experiencing. You’ll begin to feel better because you can see the progress you’ve made.
Additionally, if you keep journals for years and years, you can build on this progress. In other words, if you make it through a number of difficult times, you can go back through your journals and read about other challenging times you’ve been through.
You can see how you’ve conquered your difficulties. You’ll remember many of the coping skills you’ve used to conquer different types of stress. You’ll get not only ideas for how to deal with your current stresses, but you’ll also bolster your self-esteem in the process. It feels good to know that you’ve conquered something difficult, a fact that your journals can remind you of regularly.
Art Making: Few things calm the nerves like a good sketchbook and some pencils, though really any kind of art materials will do. Art is so healing that whole therapies have grown up around it, just like journal writing.
What’s cool about drawing or painting or any other kind of art is that these activities have been shown to have a direct impact on mood. Sitting down to draw a picture or make a clay sculpture will eventually distract you from what’s bothering you, allowing you to shift your mood and eventually, calm your stress levels down.
Making art doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby, either. Most dollar stores carry basic art supplies, like sketchbooks, pencils, acrylic paints and brushes.
Additionally, you can get even more out of your art practice by combining it with your journaling activities. Doing this allows you to bring together your left and your right brain because you’re adding text, a left-brained activity, to your drawings, a right-brained activity. This allows you to integrate what you’re learning during your journal activities.
Spend Time in Therapy: Many people turn to therapy when stress gets the best of them, and fortunately, there are many types of therapies these days. This means you’re likely to find a therapy that’s right for your situation.
Progressive therapies, like art therapy and EMDR, have been shown to be particularly helpful for addressing serious trauma-related stress issues. Other types of therapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy, allows you to quickly develop problem-solving skills. This can be helpful if your stress arises partly from having poor problem-solving or coping skills in the first place.
Additionally, there are some more “fun” types of therapy now, too, like superhero therapy, which embraces superheroes as archetypes in the therapy setting. People who find these characters inspiring may want to try this type of therapy.
Finally, some therapists may also suggest that you spend time in group therapy situations. This does a couple of things for you. First, you meet people who face the same or similar issues. This helps you see that you are not alone. A lot of people experience troubling situations. This allows you to feel supported but also to get advice from people who may be further on the path to healing.
Second, like certain types of exercise settings, group therapy introduces a social element. Many times, people feel stressed in part because they feel lonely and don’t have anyone to share their burden. Group therapy situations allow you to feel connected to people and in the process help you alleviate some of the stress you feel.
Make Lifestyle Changes: A lack of exercise and healthy food will eventually take a toll on your body, making it more difficult for you to cope with stress on a daily basis. Stress changes your body chemistry, causing free radicals to move through your system, creating an oxidative stress condition in the body.
Left unchecked, this condition leads to health problems, like high blood pressure and heart disease, diabetes, cancer, inflammatory conditions in the body and Parkinson’s disease to name but a few. You also age faster when your body has to deal with too much oxidative stress, making it even more difficult to deal with the stress in your life.
Antioxidants found in fresh fruits and vegetables rid the body of free radicals, making it easier for your body to cope with the stresses that are thrown at it. A diet that’s free of chemicals and processed food helps nourish your body and helps you deal with the effects of stress on your body in the process.
Final Words About the Different Types of Stress
Stress can wreak havoc on the human body. It causes people to feel sick and tired and may lead some to contemplate suicide. Psychologists can help you learn more about the different kinds of stress, show you how to combat that stress and learning coping mechanisms for use at home and work.