Observed since 1992, National Stress Awareness Month aims to raise awareness of the causes and strategies for coping with stress. Furthermore, people are encouraged to raise awareness about current myths and misconceptions about stress and share information about the dangers of stress.

In April, we observe Stress Awareness Month, a time to reflect on stress’s role in our lives and explore ways to reduce it. Even though Stress Awareness Month has been observed since 1992, stress has become an everyday companion for many people in today’s fast-paced world. After all, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with work deadlines, financial burdens, relationship challenges, and technology.

Americans are the most stressed-out people in the world, with 55% of us experiencing stress during the day.

Thankfully, this blog is a great resource not just for Stress Awareness Month but all year long. In addition to discussing the different types of stress, we will also discuss how to regain a sense of calm.

Understanding the Body’s Fight-or-Flight Response

The concept of stress isn’t new. Biologically, it’s ingrained in us. During prehistoric times, the “fight-or-flight” response was crucial to survival. Whenever we’re faced with a threat, our bodies go into overdrive.

“The fight-or-flight response, or stress response, is triggered by a release of hormones, either prompting us to stay and fight or run away and flee,” explains psychologist Carolyn Fisher, Ph.D. “During the response, all bodily systems are working to keep us alive in what we’ve perceived as a dangerous situation.”

This response served us well in the past. However, most “threats” today are psychological. Even though they don’t involve physical fight or flight, deadlines, arguments, and financial worries can trigger the same physiological reaction.

Leaving this response unchecked can lead to chronic disease. In addition to negative health consequences, such as anxiety, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Understanding Stress: Three Types and Their Triggers

Like ice cream, stress comes in different flavors. What’s more, the intensity and duration of each flavor vary. Stress can, however, generally be classified into three types:

Acute stress: short burst, big impact.

An example of this is the “fight-or-flight” response. Whenever you have a challenge, your body releases a short-term surge of energy. Everyday events, such as deadlines, arguments, and exciting adventures, can trigger this response. It can be motivating, but too much intensity can be draining.

Common triggers:

  • A task or expense that is unexpected.
  • Changes, either positive or negative, that occur suddenly.
  • Arguments.
  • Situations that are exciting or scary.
  • Disruptions caused by the environment, such as a noisy office or bad weather.

Coping strategies:

Practicing mindfulness can help manage anxiety and the adrenaline rush caused by acute stress.

Episodic acute stress: the cycle of stress.

When acute stress becomes a regular visitor, this happens. The result is that life feels chaotic and overwhelming. Overwhelming work demands, juggling multiple responsibilities, financial stress, and excessive technology usage are all common culprits.

Common triggers.

  • The constant overload of work and deadlines.
  • Balancing multiple roles, like being a parent, student, and employee.
  • Uncertainty and stress related to finances.
  • Overloads of technology, such as notifications and new gadgets.

Coping strategies:

Incorporating mindfulness practices into your daily routine can help you calm down amidst the chaos. Spending even a few minutes focused in silence can make a big difference.

Chronic stress: the long grind.

Among the types of stress, this is the most damaging. It feels endless and insurmountable, like a soul-crushing job. It occurs for many reasons, including ongoing issues in relationships, finances, health, and work. Existential concerns and personal anxieties can also play a role.

Common triggers:

  • An ongoing conflict in a relationship or loneliness.
  • Financial concerns and poverty.
  • Mental health or chronic illness.
  • An unrewarding and demanding job.
  • Perfectionism and deep-seated anxieties.
  • You’ve got background worries, like climate change or the economy.

Coping strategies:

When chronic stress becomes a constant companion, professional help may be needed. Several therapies can be helpful, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and EMDRI. Daily practice of promoting well-being and calm is vital to achieving this feeling.

Knowing the different types of stress and their triggers will allow you to develop strategies for better managing them and achieving a healthier, more relaxed state of being.

The Consequences of Stress

Even though a bit of stress can motivate us, too much can damage our minds and bodies. Here are the far-reaching consequences of chronic stress and why addressing it is essential before it takes hold.

The physical costs, from headaches to heart disease.

There is more to stress than just mental strain. Physically, it manifests in many ways. As a result of chronic stress, you may develop:

  • Weakened immune system. A stressed body’s lowered defenses may cause you to get sick more often.
  • Muscle tension and headaches. Have you ever clenched your jaw or had a tension headache? One of the most common causes is stress.
  • Digestive issues. As well as triggering or worsening ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome can be triggered or exacerbated by stress.
  • Elevated blood pressure and heart disease. You are more likely to develop serious health problems if you suffer from chronic stress.

Your mind is under siege when you are stressed.

As we all know, chronic stress also affects our mental well-being. Here’s how:

  • Anxiety and depression. Both anxiety and depression are exacerbated by stress.
  • Difficulty concentrating. When you’re overwhelmed by stress, you cannot focus and be productive.
  • Burnout. As a result of chronic stress, burnout manifests as mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion. With an increasingly pessimistic outlook, it is often accompanied by self-doubt and feeling detached from the world.
  • Sleep problems. When your mind is racing with worry, falling asleep and staying asleep become difficult.
  • Irritability and mood swings. The constant feeling of being on edge can lead to you snapping at loved ones and having difficulty managing your emotions.

Stress puts a strain on relationships.

Chronic stress affects not only you but also your relationships. Listed below are some reasons why:

  • Reduced patience. When you are stressed, you are more likely to be less tolerant and more likely to lash out at others.
  • Social withdrawal. As a result of feeling overwhelmed, you may isolate yourself from your family and friends.
  • Strained work relationships. A toxic work environment can result from chronic stress, which makes it difficult to collaborate effectively.

Recognizing the Signs of Stress

It is common for stress to creep in subtly. Fortunately, there are some signs you should notice before stress sets in.

  • Physical. You may experience unexplained aches and pains, frequent headaches, disturbances in appetite or sleep patterns, fatigue, or digestive problems.
  • Emotional. Anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating, feeling overwhelmed, blowing up, or withdrawing from social activities.
  • Behavioral. An altered eating pattern (overeating, undereating), an increase in alcohol or drug consumption, procrastination, neglecting responsibilities, or trouble relaxing.

If you notice any of these in yourself, you must act as soon as possible.

Don’t Let Stress Win: Strategies to Stay Calm and Collected

From quick stress-busters to lifestyle changes that can make a lasting difference, you can take back control of your well-being.

Fast-acting stress relief:

  • Deep breathing. Take slow, deep breaths through your diaphragm. Breathe in for four counts, hold for four, and exhale for eight. Repeat this for a few minutes to quiet your mind and body.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation. Start at your toes and work your way up, tensing and releasing different muscle groups. As a result, physical tension is released, and relaxation is promoted.
  • Mindful moments. Don’t forget to take a mental break. Take a moment to notice your senses – what do you see, hear, smell, taste, or feel? Grounding exercises help you regain your focus and get away from stressful thoughts.

Building resilience:

  • Exercise regularly. Exercise can be as simple as a brisk walk or some light yoga. Through physical activity, we release endorphins, our body’s natural mood boosters, and combat stress hormones.
  • Prioritize sleep. Having a good night’s sleep will help you handle challenges more easily. Every night, try to get at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep.
  • Healthy habits. Keep your body nourished by eating nutritious foods and limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption. You can significantly reduce your stress levels by making these smart choices.
  • Mind-body practices. Meditation, yoga, and tai chi combine physical postures, breathing exercises, and mindfulness to reduce stress and promote relaxation.

Long-term strategies:

  • Find out what your stressors are. Are there any situations or people that trigger your stress response? The sooner you recognize them, the sooner you can develop coping mechanisms or, if possible, avoid them entirely.
  • Say no more often. Setting boundaries isn’t something to be afraid of. After all, overcommitment can lead to a lot of stress.
  • Engage with others. Social support is essential for maintaining a healthy emotional state. Consider spending time with loved ones, confiding in a trusted friend, or joining a support group.
  • Practice gratitude. When you focus on the positive things in your life, your perspective will shift, and your stress levels will decrease. As such, remember to keep a gratitude journal or simply take a moment to appreciate what you have each day.
  • Seek professional help. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you’re having trouble managing your stress. A therapist can help you learn coping mechanisms and provide support.

It is important to find a stress management technique that works for you. Until you discover a toolbox of calm and collected strategies, experiment with different techniques and lifestyle changes.

Ultimately, you can regain peace of mind and live a happier, healthier life by managing stress effectively.


What is stress?

A challenge or threat triggers your body’s stress response. Work deadlines, financial difficulties, relationship problems, or even happy events like getting married or moving to a new home can cause stress. It is expected to experience some stress, but chronic stress can negatively affect your physical and mental well-being.

What are the symptoms of stress?

Symptoms of stress can vary from person to person, but some of the most common are:

  • Emotional. A feeling of anxiety, irritability, overwhelm, and sadness.
  • Physical. Changes in appetite, headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping.
  • Behavioral. Having trouble concentrating, procrastination, social withdrawal, smoking, or drinking excessively.

How can I manage stress?

Among the healthy ways to manage stress are:

  • Relaxation techniques. Practicing deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Exercise. The best way to relieve stress is to exercise.
  • Healthy sleep habits. Each night, try to sleep between 7-8 hours.
  • Healthy diet. Eat a balanced diet to give your body the nutrients it needs to cope with stress.
  • Time management. The best way to manage your time is to prioritize your tasks and delegate when possible.
  • Supportive relationships. Seek support from friends, family, or a therapist.
  • Activities you enjoy. Don’t forget to take time to enjoy your hobbies and activities.

Is some stress good for me?

It is possible to perform better if you experience little stress. Chronic stress, however, can harm your physical and mental well-being.

When should I seek professional help?

When stress interferes with daily life or you are having difficulty coping, it is important to seek professional help. A therapist can help you learn coping mechanisms and develop a stress management plan.

Image Credit: Anete Lusina; Pexels