Stress has quickly become an ongoing phenomenon in America, with 60% of US adults reporting daily worry.
Even if you don’t know the difference between acute vs. chronic stress, you likely experience one or both on a regular basis. Stress can affect our bodies and health in the long- and short-term, and it’s critical to know when it’s time to reach out for professional help.
Read on for a practical guide to acute and chronic stress, and what you should know about finding help.
What Is the Difference Between Acute vs. Chronic Stress?
As the name suggests, acute stress occurs over a short period and has a definite endpoint.
You might experience acute stress when you’re at the back of a traffic jam and you’re already late for work, or when you have a single argument with a family member. Acute stress occurs when we face a specific event or situation.
During these periods, you may experience muscle tension, a higher heart rate or blood pressure, or faster breathing.
However, our bodies are designed to recover from acute stress once the “threat” has passed, allowing us to return to our pre-stress health in no time at all.
Chronic stress, on the other hand, occurs over a longer period of time. It happens when we face ongoing situations that cause our bodies to release stress hormones.
For example, you may experience chronic stress if you end up in traffic jams day in and day out as a delivery driver, or if you’ve been having ongoing conflicts with a family member for weeks.
Where our bodies recover from acute stress quickly, we have a harder time recovering from chronic stress. This means that we experience higher breathing rates, blood pressure, and levels of muscle tension. These higher, stress-induced levels become our new baseline, which can lead us toward serious health issues in the long run.
When Should You Seek Professional Help?
While the effects of chronic stress may sound scary, there are many steps you can take to reframe your perspective and alleviate the strain on your body. Getting into the habit of using healthy coping skills can be a huge help in terms of chronic stress relief. Even periodic breaks for breathing exercises or yoga can make a big difference.
That said, there are certain times when you may need professional help.
A good rule of thumb is to seek help when your stress has a significant impact on your eating, sleeping, work, or relationships. You should also consider it if stress makes it hard to concentrate, or if it leaves you feeling trapped and depressed.
You can also try using a bioenergetic scan from Creating Balanced Health to understand the stressors in your system. This can help you see where you stand to know whether professional help is right for your needs.
Get the Help You Need for a Stress-Free Life
Now that you know the difference between acute vs. chronic stress, it’s important to consider your next steps. Managing ongoing chronic stress can take a toll on your mental and physical health, which is why you should reach out or the help you need if this is an ongoing issue for you. With a professional to guide you, you can work toward coping habits to help you deal with your stress in a safer, healthier way.
Looking for more health tips? Our other posts are packed with helpful guides, so check them out for more information!