What is Stress and Anxiety? The Differences Between Acute and Chronic Stress.


How do you know if you have stress or anxiety? Or perhaps you are wondering if you can have both.

Let’s define what stress is first:

  • Stress is the physical or mental response to an external cause, such as starting a new job or a loved ones illness. A stressor can be a one-time or short-term occurrence, or happen repeatedly over a long period of time.

  • Stress is the body’s reaction to harmful situations-whether there real or perceived!

  • When you feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in your body that allows you to act in a way to prevent injury. This reaction is known as “flight or fight” or the stress response.

  • During a stress response, your heart rate increases, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, and your blood pressure rises.

Stress is different for everyone. What may stress one person, may not stress another person.

Our bodies can handle small doses of stress, but we cannot handle long-term chronic stress.

Stress goes away once the situation is resolved.

Stress can be both positive and negative, such as having a baby or getting married. Sometimes, a small amount of stress can help is to complete tasks and feel more energized. But stress can become a problem when it last for a long time or feels very intense. In some cases stress can affect our physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Acute Stress:

  • Acute stress happens within a few minutes to a few hours of an event.It last for a short period of time, usually less than a few weeks, and is very intense. It can happen after an upsetting or unexpected event. This could be a sudden loss or natural disaster.

  • Our bodies are good at handling episodes of acute stress. We are designed to recover quickly from short-term stress.

Mental health experts define resilience as how quickly you recover from an acute episode of stress.

Chronic Stress:

  • You may experience this if you are under lots of pressure a lot of the time. You may feel chronic stress if your day-to-day life is difficult.

  • Our bodies are not so good at handling chronic stress. Over time chronic stress gradually increases your resting heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and levels of muscle tension so the body now has to work even harder when it’s at rest.

  • Chronic stress creates a “new normal” in your body. This new normal can eventually lead to a host of health problems including cardiovascular disease and chronic pai

What are the signs and symptoms of stress:

  • Irritable, angry, impatient, or wound-up

  • Overburden or feel overwhelmed

  • Anxious, nervous or afraid

  • Racing thoughts that you can’t switch off

  • Unable to enjoy yourself

  • Depression

  • Uninterested in life

  • A sense of dread

  • Worried or tense

  • Find it hard to make decisions

  • Unable to concentrate

  • Unable to remember things

  • Constantly worried or feel dread

  • Grind your teeth

  • Restless

  • Feeling bad about yourself

  • Excessive shopping, eating, drinking alcohol, or drug use