The 4 Different Types of Stress: Which One Are You Experiencing?

By Roy Krebs

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Stress is a normal part of life, but if you're struggling with ways to cope on a daily basis, it might be causing serious harm to your health. 

From a biological perspective, stress responses like faster heart rate or rapid breathing are important, since it’s our body’s way of telling our brains that we’re in danger. And on a day-to-day level, small amounts of stress can even motivate us to stay energized and complete important tasks.

But too much stress can put a ton of pressure on our bodies, leading to insomnia, illnesses, anxiety, headaches, and high blood pressure, just to name a few possible health problems. The longer chronic stress goes untreated, the greater the likelihood that you'll develop serious mental and physical conditions that can rob you of your daily well-being.

In this article we shed light on the different types of stress we all face, then suggest some ways to keep it in check.

What causes stress?

There is no shortage of stress in life, from day-to-day activities like work and relationships, to one-time events such as deaths or divorces. Everyone responds to stress differently, and often we may not even realize the toll its taking on our mental and physical well-being.

But the good news is that making a commitment to optimal health on a day-to-day basis--even by making small changes--can help to protect your brain and body in the long term, and may even help you prevent premature death.

Related: Dietary Prebiotics May Improve Sleep and Reduce Stress

What are different types of stress?

First, you need to know what the different types of stress disorders are so you can understand better how to cope. The four main types of stress are: 

  • Time stress
  • Anticipatory stress
  • Situational stress
  • Encounter stress

Let's explore each one and discuss some strategies for solutions.

Time stress

Are you chronically facing tight deadlines at work? Are you terrified of being late for events, even casual social events? If so, you are experiencing time stress.

Time stress is the most common type of stress, and might be especially acute if you are in a high-pressure job, or if you are a stressed-out parent who fights traffic every day to try to get their kids to work and activities on time.

What to do about it:

Dealing with time stress is simple in theory, but will most likely require that you cut back on any activity with strict deadlines.

For instance, if you have a lot of school work but constantly get distracted by Facebook, you can try using the Pomodoro technique to help you stay on track.

Or if you spend a lot of time on groceries and food preparation, designating one day a week for meal prep or signing up with a grocery delivery service are examples also go a long way to saving you time through a given week.

There will always be only 24 hours in a day and if you are constantly facing a time crunch, you must find ways to adjust your schedule so that this stress doesn’t become chronic and start ruining your long-term health.

Related: 5 Research-Backed Methods To Instantly Boost Your Mood

Anticipatory stress

Have you ever had a feeling of dread about the future, but you just can’t place your finger on why? That’s anticipatory stress.

This is a difficult type of stress to manage, especially if it’s ongoing and doesn’t have a specific cause. We may also attribute “causes” to it, making situations which are not actually stressful at all into stressful ones.

For instance, we may feel we “need” to clean the house top-to-bottom before a friend comes over, when in reality the friend will not notice or care if the house is a little bit messy. A more severe example is chronically worrying about car accidents or other bad things happening for no reason.

What to do about it:

We can learn how to understand and control this type of thinking through therapy and mindfulness techniques like visualization. Sometimes medication might be needed if we are in a chronic state of anxiety and depression. But meditation, a balanced diet and exercise will help no matter what. 

Sometimes when we are stressed out there may be a medical issue or even an imbalance in our brains. For instance, if we aren’t sleeping enough, we may be low in serotonin. Taking a serotonin supplement can help you to sleep better, drop your stress levels, aid sleep and even help digestion.    

Related: Could You Have A Serotonin Imbalance?

Situational Stress 

Situational stress or situational anxiety is what we use to describe immediate events that cause us stressful feelings and tension but that are typically short lived – that is, they are related to a single event, and once the event is over, we normally recover when the event is over.

 If you think about the nerves you experience before you speak publicly, or the way that sometimes you can’t think clearly before a job interview, these are examples of situational stress responses. Some people get so stressed out that they break out in hives or have panic attacks.

Some amount of situational stress is normal and maybe even healthy, however, for those who experience extreme reactions (like hives, migraines or dizziness) to this type of stress, it’s a good idea to examine your day-to-day moods, and why you have such extreme reactions to medium-level (but not life-threatening) types of events.

What to do about it:

Therapy and relaxation techniques are good places to start if you find you have severe situational stress reactions like this. You’ll also need to examine your overall health – for instance, sleep problems can lead to an inability to cope with minor or medium level daily stressors.

Taking a high quality magnesium supplement can help you get a better sleep and improve your day-to-day mental calmness. 

Related: Magnesium Glycinate Benefits: Maximizing Health, Performance, and Brain Function

Encounter stress

Encounter stress is the result of overwhelm from dealing with a lot of people at one time. The more introverted you are, the more likely you are to this type of stress more deeply, and the more you may need more time alone to recuperate.

What to do about it:

One of the ways to avoid encounter stress is to choose carefully who you interact with, and when. On a social level this might be as simple as establishing better boundaries with friends and loved ones. But when it comes to your job, if you are a highly introverted person who is working in a customer service role, for instance, you may want consider a different career path in order to save your long-term health.

The point here is to stop putting yourself in stressful situations when they are not necessary, and to limit social interaction if this is something that wears you out.

However, if you are involved in in a highly social job or other activities and you can’t avoid it, you may want to consider taking a supplement like GABA. GABA is neurotransmitter in the brain that helps us stay calm. Gaba supplements are available at most health food stores, and can go a long way in helping you mentally relax and helping you sleep. 

Related: 7 Proven Ways To Prevent Burnout From Ruining Your Life

Stress In a nutshell

Life is stressful for all of us at times. And while it’s important to take steps to reduce and eliminate day-to-day stress, no one can avoid it entirely. Thus, our first line of defense is to gain a better understanding of how to stay calm through stressful situations, and how to keep our brains and bodies from being subjected to the harmful effects of stress. 

Eating a nutritious diet, incorporating exercise, meditation and mindfulness, getting enough sleep and taking the right supplements are all more important than you probably realize when it comes to stress management. 

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Now that you know which types of stress to watch out for, it's time to find out which types of stress make you stronger.

Check out this companion article called, "Hormesis: 4 Ways Stress Makes You Stronger"

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