November 25, 2020

Acute Versus Chronic Stress

chronic stress

Stress is generally associated with negative thoughts and feelings. Chronic stress (long-term) can be quite bad for our health. However, acute, (short-term stress) can actually be helpful.

Helpful Benefits of Acute Stress

Acute stress motivates us to get things done on time, win the race, finish the project, take a risk, or make a leap. Our bodies are quite good at handling acute stress like a traffic jam, a fight with a friend, trying to find a lost object, or even a minor injury. Once the activity is over, the stress dissipates and is no longer needed.

According to an article on the health website Well+Good, “Many scientific studies show that small bursts of stress can actually help you live longer, a process called hormesis. In this context, it is defined as “a phenomenon in which a harmful substance gives stimulating and beneficial effects to living organisms when the quantity of the harmful substance is small.” Basically, if an otherwise-toxic substance can be beneficial to the body in very small amounts, it is considered to be hormetic.”

The article suggested that three easy (and safe) ways to induce a state of beneficial hormesis are cold showers, high-intensity interval training, and intermittent fasting. It explains that all three methods stimulate the body’s mitochondria, which in turn stops cells from accumulating damage as quickly.

So, short bursts of stress can stimulate and help the body. This is not the case with chronic stress.

What is chronic stress?

If you experience constant stress over time, your body has to work a lot harder to maintain a normal balance. Long-term stress can increase things like:

  • resting heart rate
  • blood pressure
  • breathing rate
  • muscle tension

These types of things can then lead to more health issues like:

  • high blood pressure
  • abnormal heart rhythm
  • heart attacks
  • stroke
  • heart disease
  • chronic pain
  • depression and other mental health disorders
  • loss of sleep
  • obesity and eating disorders
  • menstrual problems
  • sexual disfunction
  • skin and hair problems (acne, psoriasis, eczema, and hair loss)
  • Digestion issues (GERD, gastritis, ulcers, and irritable colon)

How to Combat Chronic Stress

If you are experiencing chronic stress, chances are you have created some habits that need changing. Dealing with long-term stress doesn’t happen overnight and can be challenging. However, considering the long list of negative health consequences, it should not be ignored. In fact, given enough time, chronic stress will rear its ugly head in devastating ways. The sooner you can change your bad habits or stressful situations, the better.

First, make sure any medical issues are being treated by your doctor. If you have developed high blood pressure, you may need the help of medication to get it under control and out of the danger zone.

Second, incorporate some coping skills that will help you reduce stress, such as exercise, meditation, yoga, relaxation techniques, and deep breathing. Set aside time every day and try one or two techniques to see which ones work best for you.  Start with just 5-10 minutes and increase your time as you feel more comfortable.

Third, evaluate your diet and determine if there is anything you can add or eliminate that will help your stress levels. Drinking too much caffeine is a common trigger for stress. Read Top 10 Foods for Stress Relief for some ideas on adding to your diet.

Fourth, work on improving your sleep through relaxation techniques, massage therapy, and chiropractic care.

Related: Massage Therapy is Magical for Stress Relief

You might not immediately think of chiropractic care in association with stress relief. However, when the body is in alignment all of your systems are able to function properly and support your mental and emotional state better. If you are experiencing chronic stress, keep your body in alignment, eat healthy foods, and practice some calming techniques. These are all easy things you can do right now to reduce your stress.

We’d love to partner with you on your journey for better health and less stress.

To find more about us, Dr. Ryan and Dr. Allyson, and our chiropractic practice and philosophy, click here.

To make an appointment please call (517) 781-4884

Cheers to better health and less stress!