Acute and Chronic...what are the differences?

In my previous blogs, I have shared what I have learned on how stress works in the body and the science behind it.  How exactly does stress even enter our life?  As mentioned, there are two different kinds of stress:  acute and chronic


Acute stress is temporary.  Sources of acute stress, for instance, would be:

  • feeling crowded by others
  • being too isolated
  • public speaking or performing
  • immediate or perceived danger
  • sudden noise, sights, or smells
  • being in a cluttered environment
  • learning a new skill
  • first day in a new job, school, or home
  • strong feelings of hunger or thirst
  • remembering a past event that caused emotional distress

When you have an acute stress response, your body gradually returns to the normal, relaxation mode.  When you never leave the stress response, that is when your hormones of cortisol and adrenaline never level out and return to normal.  Short bursts of these hormones are good, but flooding the body can be deadly if it gets too much.  When your body doesn't return to normal and remains in the stress mode, this is called chronic stress and it is all too common today.  Sources of chronic stress would be:

  • financial trouble like being fired or not being able to find a job, excessive amount of debt or an unforeseen expense that causes a shortfall in your budget.
  • being alone.  Physical or psychological limitations.  Social dyefunction
  • work-related issues.  A high-pressure job, working in an unpleasant atmosphere, not making enough money for the work put in or physical demands of a job.
  • relationship problems.  Divorce or death of a spouse.  Being around negative people.  Caring for our elderly parents and confrontations constantly with others you see regularly can add to your levels of stress.
  • your environment.  The conditions you live in.  High crime, poor housing, no jobs, etc. can make life harder to cope with.
  • trauma.  This could be past or present.  Those who have been bullied, or abused.  Racial prejudice, war, victim of a crime or severe accidents
  • health.  You or those close to you.  Poor health can drain your resources and the stress of the situation can become overwhelming
  • major life changes.  Getting married, having a baby, starting your own business, moving, etc.  This can add to the day-to-day stress in your life.
  • aging.  Oh yes, the aging factor :-)  My whole reason for starting this blog.  The  physical disability, brain degeneration, overall poor health, the loss of possibly your independence and the loss of losing people close to you.
  • multi-tasking.  Taking on too much in life can lead to too much stress.  Prioritizing tasks and learning which ones are most important to you and then learning to say "no" to others.  We aren't superhuman.   

Stress is not necessary.  It's not something we HAVE to have and the longer we allow it to control us, the more we are at risk of emotional distress, disease, and death.  95% of all disease today is caused by chronic stress.  There are tools to help us control and eliminate stress and put it in it's place.


Stay tuned to the next blog to learn ways to do just that :-)