Acute stress can be episodic, meaning that one stressful event follows another, creating a continuous f low of acute stress. Someone who is always taking on too many projects at once may suffer from episodic acute stress, rather than simply acute stress. Workaholics and those with the socalled Type A personality (i.e., perfectionists) are classic sufferers of episodic acute stress.
I sometimes refer to acute stress as the good stress. Often, good things come from this kind of stress, even though it feels stressful or bad in the short term. Acute stress chalxii lenges us to stretch ourselves beyond our capabilities. It is what makes us meet deadlines, push the outside of the envelope, and invent creative solutions to our problems. Consider a few examples of good stress:
• Challenging projects
• Positive life-changing events (moving, changing jobs, or ending unhealthy relationships)
• Confronting fears, illnesses, or people that make us feel bad
These situations can be difficult to endure, but often the outcome is good for us in the long term.
Essentially, whenever a stressful event triggers emotional, intellectual, or spiritual growth, it is a good stress. It is often not the event itself but your response to the event that determines whether it is a good or bad stress. Even the death of a loved one can sometimes lead to personal growth. For example, we may see something about ourselves we did not see before, such as new resilience. In this case, grieving a death can be a good stress, though we are sad in the short term. What I call the bad stress is known as chronic stress. Chronic stress results from boredom and stagnation, as well as prolonged negative circumstances. Essentially, when no growth occurs from the stressful event, it is bad stress. When negative events don’t seem to yield anything positive in the long term, but more of the same, the stress can lead to chronic and debilitating health problems. Some examples of bad stress include stagnant jobs or relationships, disability from terrible accidents or diseases, long-term unemployment, chronic poverty, racism, or lack of opportunities for change. These kinds of situations can lead to depression, low self-esteem, and a host of physical illnesses. In addition to acute and chronic stress, stress can be defined in even more precise ways:
• Physical stress (from physical exertion)
• Chemical stress (from exposure to a toxin in the environment, including from substance abuse)
• Mental stress (from taking on too much responsibility and worrying about all that has to be done)
• Emotional stress (from feelings such as anger, fear, frustration, sadness, betrayal, or bereavement)
• Nutritional stress (from deficiency in certain vitamins or nutrients, overindulgence in fat or protein, or food allergies)
• Traumatic stress (from trauma to the body such as infection, injury, burns, surgery, or extreme temperatures)
• Psychospiritual stress (from unrest in your personal relationships or belief system, personal life goals, and so on—in general, the factors that define whether or not you are happy)
The bottom line is that stress can make you sick. You have to reorganize your priorities so that you can reduce chronic stress as well as to incorporate a few new healing strategies to help combat acute stress. Finding ways to downshift while incorporating hands-on healing herbs and nutrients, inner and outer workouts, and self-care into your daily routine may dramatically reduce your current stresses.