Experiencing stress is part of the human experience. Little bouts of stress, even daily, could be a healthy thing, as it pushes us outside of our comfort zones. Chronic stress, however, can be far more damaging. When we experience chronic stress symptoms, it can become a recipe for self destructive behavior and wreaking havoc on our health.
Through changes in my lifestyle, I’ve reduced the effects of chronic stress. However, that doesn’t mean that chronic stress symptoms don’t pop up from time to time. Realizing the difference between daily acute and chronic stress is essential for preventing a full-blown mental health episode. Here is my experience with the effects of chronic stress and some tips for handling it.
What is Chronic Stress?
It’s challenging to come up with a chronic stress definition. That’s because the answer to “what is chronic stress?” is unique for all of us. Each of us have individual anxiety triggers, interpersonal relationships, and mental health conditions.
If I were to narrow it down, chronic stress is a consistently negative feeling, with the dial turned up to 100. It’s a persistent feeling of dread mixed with a twist of hypersensitivity. It’s having our fight or flight response always on. It neglects taking care of everything else in our body.
When you experience chronic stress, you’re always on edge. You find that mere inconveniences are catastrophic. Oh, and sleep is interrupted.
Chronic stress takes the symptoms of acute stress and amplifies them. Then, it drags those symptoms out for an extended period of time. So, the key to curbing this constant feeling of dread is first understanding the differences between acute and chronic stress.
What is the Difference Between Acute and Chronic Stress?
Understanding the difference between acute and chronic stress can be confusing. That’s because acute and chronic stress symptoms are essentially the same.
Acute stress is short-term pressure. It’s when you have a fight with a spouse, get stuck in a traffic jam when you’re already late or have a meeting with your boss.
When you experience everyday pressures, your body produces stress hormones, mainly adrenaline and cortisol. Stress hormones activate our primal instincts. They keep us alert and put us in a reactive high-alert state.
Producing stress hormones is natural for the human body. They communicate with our mind and body, letting both know to be on their toes.
Thanks to this heads up, we can excel when the pressure is on. Our stress hormones are the knot in the stomach that lets you know you must bring your A-game to a work presentation.
That sense of alarm is what makes you step it up and crush the speech. Once a perceived threat (like a work presentation) is over, then your stress hormones calm down. This decrease in cortisol and adrenaline makes room for feel-good hormones that congratulate you for a job well done.
Herein lies the difference between acute and chronic stress. Those of us who experience chronic stress never feel that congratulations. It’s just constant pressure and anxiety. When the effects of chronic stress never cease, it can cause someone to lash out and promote self destructive behaviors.
What Are Chronic Stress Symptoms?
Chronic stress can cause several physical and mental problems. They will be different for each person.
Mental health issues don’t look the same for everybody. So, keep these signs of chronic stress in mind while analyzing yourself. Don’t use this information as a way to compare yourself to somebody else.
Chronic stress symptoms include:
- Trouble Sleeping
- Migraines and Headaches
- Racing Thoughts
- Negative Emotions
- Low-Self Esteem
- Challenges with Concentration
- Lack of Sexual Appetite
- Skin Problems
- Digestive Issues
- Bouts of Depression
- Changes in Appetite
You might experience a number of these symptoms, or just one of them very intensely. In some cases, you might encounter them all. If any or all of these symptoms happen every day, then you should speak to a physician about chronic stress treatment.
Long-Term Effects of Chronic Stress
It’s easy to see a list of chronic stress symptoms and write them off. However, there is levity to leaving any and all of these symptoms unchecked. Let’s take a look at some of the consequences of chronic stress.
When I had chronic stress, I started to become very irritated with everyone and everything. People were driving too slow everywhere I went. My coworkers were idiots. The list of negative things went on and on.
Eventually, I found my irritability getting worse. It would seriously turn into full-blown aggression. Little mistakes, like messing up my food order, caused me to be embarrassingly rude to people.
Inevitably, these negative emotions would follow me home. I found myself aggravated with the kids’ messes and being grumpy at my spouse. The long-term effects of chronic stress made me an unpleasant person to be around.
Through cognitive behavioral therapy, I learned that this aggression towards others really stemmed from my anger with myself. I was mad that I had no self-control and lashed out at others for my perceived shortcomings.
The pressures of life can sometimes feel crippling. When you experience chronic stress, it feels like there is never a light at the end of the tunnel. This tunnel can become a very dark place.
When my chronic stress was at its worst, I did what my spouse described as “crawled into a ball and hid.” I couldn’t sleep. So, I just laid in bed with negative thoughts running through my head.
When I wasn’t in hibernation mode, I was binge-watching and binge-eating. These behaviors only added to my withdrawal.
I felt like a slob and was looking like one, too. None of these effects of chronic stress did much for my self-esteem.
In turn, I stopped seeing my family and friends. I wouldn’t answer texts for days on end. Due to my chronic stress, I no longer felt compelled to partake in activities that brought me joy.
Lack of Motivation
Chronic stress can make your confidence drop. Consequently, you can easily become unmotivated. I know I did.
During my withdrawal period, I did a lot of reflection. My mind kept drifting back to a default: “What’s the point of anything?”
One of my biggest anxiety triggers is financial concerns. Bills are never-ending. So is chronic stress. For someone like me, who worries about building a nest egg for retirement, money issues will always be a source of pressure.
However, I know the physical and emotional toll these stressors are taking on me. This knowledge always makes me feel like grinding to be financially comfortable is pointless. So, it causes me to become unmotivated.
Truth be told, it’s not pointless. Working hard sets a great example for my children. Plus, it allows me to provide for my family.
Through cognitive behavioral therapy, I’ve learned that worrying about money dilutes all the positive things that having money can accomplish. I’ll never have enough money if I’m always worrying about it. Instead, I should be thankful for the money I do have and the privileges it affords me today.
Chronic stress is like a never-ending warning signal going off in your mind. Your stress hormones are constantly telling you that something bad is looming. So, you’re always on the lookout for that other shoe to drop.
Many people who experience anxiety symptoms show physical traits of this condition. However, chronic stress can also manifest with a lot of internal anxiety that others might not pick up on.
With chronic stress, you are always dreading the future, critiquing yourself, seeking perfectionism, and dwelling on current obstacles. All of these issues can plant seeds of doubt in your own mind. In turn, you can develop anxious thoughts that seemingly never stop.
I’ve learned that the most effective way to handle this chatter is to shut it off. Guided meditations for anxiety are an excellent way to ground yourself and rewire your thought patterns.
Self Destructive Behaviors
Left unchecked, chronic stress can cause you to partake in destructive behaviors. For me, I had a problem with drinking when I felt stressed. When things got tough, my go-to saying was jokingly, “I could use a drink right now!”
Self destructive behaviors vary for people. For some, a person in a fight with their spouse can implode their marriage. Others can find the pressure of a job promotion too much and purposely slack off with subconscious hopes of getting fired.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is excellent for realizing your self destructive patterns. That way, you can assess the issue at the moment and handle it accordingly.
Many physical and emotional symptoms of chronic stress can manifest in life-threatening conditions. You must be proactive in handling your mental health and your physical health, too.
For instance, changes in appetite from chronic stress can cause eating disorders, such as anorexia or binge-eating. These problems can balloon into organ failure, or heart disease.
Chronic stress causes a hormonal imbalance. When you endure stress, your body continuously produces cortisol and adrenaline. That leaves no room for other health-promoting functions, particularly hormone production of melatonin.
Melatonin helps us regulate our sleep patterns. Therefore, sleep problems can turn into insomnia when you endure chronic stress. I find that using Tranquility Labs’ Sleep-Fast gives me the fast-acting dose of melatonin my body needs in times of stress.
Also, long-term effects of chronic stress can cause mental health problems. Fleeting bouts of depression can turn into Major Depressive Disorder. Without managing your stress, you open the door for a litany of health-related issues.
Chronic Stress Treatments
I believe one of the most effective treatments for chronic stress is cognitive behavioral therapy. At the end of the day, your reactions to pressure are what creates your reality.
Your headspace is how you perceive the world. So, if you see the worst in life in everything, then your experiences will reflect those beliefs.
Cognitive behavioral therapy gives you insights into the inner workings of your mind. With that information, you can biohack your default thought processes.
How to Manage Chronic Stress
Managing acute and chronic stress is very similar. When you have chronic stress, you’ll just find yourself managing your emotional state more often. So, here are some stress management tips to help curb any potential self destructive behavior!
Your mind is a powerful tool. It can create a great experience or a negative one. Meditation is the ultimate way to calibrate this precious resource.
Studies show that meditation naturally lowers cortisol levels. In turn, you will go about your everyday task in a state that is more calm and less flustered. You’ll be able to cope with roadblocks more efficiently and experience better focus.
If meditation is too much for you, try yoga. Yoga is meditation, but with movement. Instead of dwelling in your racing thoughts, you will concentrate on marrying your breath to movement. Then, you will have a clearer head when you get off the mat, and more flexible body.
Speaking of yoga, do some exercise! Exercise is a great way to release stress and clear your head. Physical activity puts your anxious energy to good use.
In fact, your body typically produces cortisol as you workout. Since you have plenty on hand, your body will burn up the supply.
Once you’re done working out, cortisol levels decrease, and your body produces endorphins.
These feel-good hormones are your body’s way of thanking you for putting in the hard work. Essentially, it’s trying to train you to make exercise a habit.
Also, working out counteracts many of the negative long-term effects of chronic stress. It can decrease heart disease and blood pressure caused by binge-eating and or other destructive behaviors.
Tranquility Labs’ Tranquilene
I have not had a bigger crutch in beating my chronic stress than Tranquility Labs’ Tranquilene. This all-natural supplement is fortified with botanicals that are scientifically shown to bring balance to your hormones.
Tranquilene is formulated to naturally boost your feel-good hormones. It contains GABA, a neurotransmitter scientifically proven to calm the system. Their proprietary formula also contains L-theanine. This amino acid is the building block for more GABA production.
Also, Tranquilene has all of the necessary minerals for our body to produce serotonin. Serotonin regulates our mood, cognitive function, and focus.
This mind-soothing formula is enriched with 5-HTP, niacinamide, and Vitamin D3. Both of these compounds must be present for our body to produce serotonin.
Lastly, Tranquilene is crafted with a carefully curated blend of botanicals that promote calmness, happiness, and mental clarity.
This who’s who in holistic care includes passion flower, Brahmi, and ashwagandha. Using Tranquilene has been very beneficial as I’ve transitioned off Benzos. Plus, it helps keep my chronic stress in check!
Beat Chronic Stress and Live Happily
I used to think chronic stress was part of my life. At one point, I accepted chronic stress. Another time, I felt defeated by it.
All of this confusion made me unhappy.
Knowing the difference between acute and chronic stress is the first step in overcoming this daily struggle. Understanding your chronic stress symptoms and finding ways to react that are healthy are essential for mental relief.
If you don’t fix chronic stress, you can create unhealthy habits that jeopardize your health. These can all manifest in self destructive behavior and physical illness.
I have found cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, and Tranquility Labs’ Tranquilene effective for combating the effects of chronic stress. Hopefully, these tips will give you the same peace of mind.
- The difference between acute and chronic stress is that chronic stress is daily and persistent
- Chronic stress symptoms vary by person but can cause mental and physical issues
- Long-term effects of chronic stress can cause life-threatening conditions
- Cognitive behavioral therapy is the best chronic stress treatment