Stress management: Know your triggers
Your response to the demands of the world determines your stress level. Take time to consider common stressors and how they affect you.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
The kids are screaming, the bills are due and the pile of papers on your desk is growing at an alarming pace. It's undeniable — life is full of stress. Understanding the types and sources of stress — short term and long term, internal and external — is an important part of stress management. So what stresses you out?
Main types of stress
Stress is your body's reaction to the demands of the world. Stressors are events or conditions in your surroundings that may trigger stress. Your body responds to stressors differently depending on whether the stressor is new or short term — acute stress — or whether the stressor has been around for a longer time — chronic stress.
Also known as the fight-or-flight response, acute stress is your body's immediate reaction to a perceived threat, challenge or scare. The acute-stress response is immediate and intense, and in certain circumstances it can be thrilling. Examples of acute stressors include having a job interview or getting a speeding ticket.
A single episode of acute stress generally doesn't cause problems for healthy people. However, severe acute stress can cause mental health problems — such as post-traumatic stress disorder. It can also cause physical difficulties such as tension headaches, stomach problems or serious health issues — such as a heart attack.
Mild acute stress can actually be beneficial — it can spur you into action, motivate and energize you. The problem occurs when stressors pile up and stick around. This persistent stress can lead to health problems, such as headaches and insomnia. The chronic-stress response is more subtle than is the acute-stress response, but the effects may be longer lasting and more problematic.
Effective stress management involves identifying and managing both acute and chronic stress.
April 28, 2016
See more In-depth
- Stress: The different kinds of stress. American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-kinds.aspx. Accessed March 29, 2016.
- Stress and your health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/stress-your-health.html. Accessed March 29, 2016.
- Seaward BL. Essentials of Managing Stress. 4th ed. Burlington, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2017.
- Olpin M, et al. Stress Management for Life. 4th ed. Boston, Mass.: Cengage Learning; 2016.
- Seaward BL. Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being. 8th ed. Burlington, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2015.
- Creagan ET (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 6, 2016.