The Power in the way we Think

Acute and Chronic Stress

How did you enjoy Linda’s guest posts over the last 4 days? She was very kind to help me out as I have been attending a conference and have been incredibly busy. Those conferences certainly take a lot out of you! Three full-on, amazing days of connecting, talking, listening and thinking. Oh, and eating huge quantities of food! They fed us literally every 2 hours! Seriously scrummy though. Delish to the N-th degree! And the view from my room was just as scrummy. Let me tease you with a few photos. The first 2 are taken from the balcony of my room and the 3rd was served at the gala dinner we attended on the first night …

view 2

Just after sunrise

Afternoon view

Afternoon view

Concoction with marshmallow, turkish delight and what tasted like icecream but wasn't because it didn't melt. Super delicious!

Concoction with marshmallow, turkish delight and what tasted like icecream but wasn’t because it didn’t melt. Super delicious!

Put all that together and out walks one incredibly tired and frazzled Ali! I have 2 more days before I get to take 3 days to do nothing but sleep, recoup my energy and write more blog posts for you guys!

So I guess today’s post is somewhat timely given my life for the past 3-4 days. We’re talking about acute versus chronic stress. What are they and how do they work?

Let’s break them down like we have in our earlier definitions on physical, emotional and mental stress. When I look at the word “acute” I think of grade 9 mathematics classes at school. Angles. Acute angles in fact. Those that measure less than 90 degrees with a compass. They’re small.

If we consider this word paired with stress, it makes sense that the stress would be small too. Or, more accurately, short. Acute stress lasts only a short time. If you think about the time right before you make a speech, or almost being in a car accident, you would have your heart beating right out of your chest, you’re feeling hyper-vigilant (easily startled) and so on.

This is where your amygdala does its thing, makes the assessment that you’re in danger and activates the stress response. But since the situation is over pretty quickly, the response also settles quickly and you can go about your day.

However, when the stress is repetitive, or when things happen in quick succession, your stress response is activated again and again. And this is when your stress becomes chronic. Or long lasting. A little like diabetes is classed as a chronic illness. It just keeps on giving and giving.

You may have picked up on the fact that the majority of our posts this month have been focused on chronic stress. This is because it has such dire consequences. When our body releases all those stress hormones, the impact can be huge. As we already mentioned, it puts us at risk for all kinds of lifestyle illnesses; heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and so on. you might like to refresh your memory on those by re-reading that post.

So, when it comes to my attendance at this 3 day conference (which was added to 2 full on days of travel and other work related activities), would you say my stress was chronic or acute?

Rather than give you the answer (my opinion), I’d like to give you a test to see how much you’ve all learned by reading the series so far. Tricky of me, isn’t it?

In the comments below, tell me which type of stress you believe my experiences to be, and to challenge you a little more, add what you believe would be great for me to do in order to reduce that stress.

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