What's the difference between acute stress and chronic stress?

Stress is always broken down into two categories: acute stress and chronic stress. Acute stress is short-term stress. Chronic stress is long-term stress. So examples of acute stress would be any stress you suffer from for a short period of time like a traffic jam, an argument with your spouse, an unkind criticism from your boss or someone breaking into your house when you aren’t there.

However if you are a bus driver or a cop and you get stuck in numerous traffic jams every day, or if you are in a bad relationship and you argue with your spouse constantly, or you work for a toxic boss, or you live in a high crime neighborhood and break-ins are relatively common, all the examples of acute stress I cited above can potentially transform into examples of chronic stress.

The body is good at handling acute episodes of stress. We are designed to recover quickly from short-term stress. That’s actually how experts define resilience: How quickly you recover from an acute episode of stress. Your blood pressure, heart rate , breathing rate and levels of muscle tension may skyrocket for a short while, but - for most people, these markers of stress quickly revert back to their normal (pre-stressful event) levels.

The body ISN’T so good at handling chronic stress. Over time, chronic stress gradually increases our resting heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate and levels of muscle tension so the body has to work even harder when it’s at rest to keep you functioning normally. In other words, chronic stress creates a new normal inside your body. And this new normal can eventually lead to a host of health problems including heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain, high blood pressure and depression.

If you believe your stress is chronic, take steps to either eliminate unnecessary stress with problem solving, delegating, planning, and learning how to manage time better or focus on increasing your coping skills. Yoga, exercise, meditation and even doing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation can help you cope better with higher than normal levels of stress.

Another thing that can help you manage chronic stress is simply listening to a Relaxation CD like this one: A DAY AWAY FROM STRESS. People who have a difficult time meditating because their mind wanders, will usually get the same benefit from listening to a guided relaxation CD like this one you can download directly from the link above.

I write a blog about stress at my website www.StressStop.com. I’ve also written a book entitled STOP STRESS THIS MINUTE.

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