Understand your stress

Acute vs. chronic stress

There are two kinds of stress, each with different effects on the mind and body:

Acute stress

This is stress resulting from specific events or situations that involve novelty, unpredictability, a threat to the ego, and leave us with a poor sense of control N.U.T.S. This ‘on the spot’ type of stress can be good for you because the stress hormones released help your mind and body to deal with the situation.

i.e.: Almost getting into a car accident or giving a speech in front of people. You feel your heart beat in your throat, you become hyper aware of everything around you, and feel pumped. These are signs that your stress hormones are hard at work!

Chronic stress

This is stress resulting from repeated exposure to situations that lead to the release of stress hormones. This type of stress can cause wear and tear on your mind and body. Many scientists think that our stress response system was not designed to be constantly activated. This overuse may contribute to the breakdown of many bodily systems.


Chronic stress brings us close to the edge of a cliff and our predispositions (e.g. genetics and/or lifestyles) can push us over. We call this the bulldozer effect!

In fact, chronic stress has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type II diabetes, and depression. But the effects of chronic stress are worst for people at risk for developing these and other problems. For instance, if one has a family history of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or has unhealthy lifestyle habits, then chronic stress can flip the switch that turns on these health problems.

When the stress response system is activated, this automatically affects other systems.

i.e.: Increasing our heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and decreasing our immune responses.

If the stress response system goes out of whack, then other body systems like blood pressure and blood sugar stay in fight or flight mode. In essence, chronic stress causes our bodily systems to deregulate. We call this a domino effect. If the first one falls, then the others will soon follow.

Take-home message
There are two kinds of stress. Acute stress is a normal part of everyday life and helps our stress response system stay on the ball. Problems arise when we are repeatedly exposed to the same stressor of many different stressors for an extended period of time. When this happens, we can fall prey to the effects of chronic stress. But how does this all start? How do I know that I am under chronic stress