Stress Management, Well-being and Self-Care

What is acute stress and what are some examples?

by James Porter March 30, 2017


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 stress is simply listening to a Relaxation CD like this one.

This question was originally answered on Click here to see more of his answers on Quora. Do you have a question for Jim? Email your question to with "Ask Jim" as the subject line.

James Porter
James Porter


Also in Ask Jim

What stresses you out?
What stresses you out?

by James Porter December 07, 2018

Read More

How can you explain a PTSD
How can you explain a PTSD "trigger" to someone who isn't familiar with PTSD?

by James Porter November 30, 2018

Read More

How Can I Relieve Stress After Work
How Can I Relax After Work?

by James Porter September 21, 2018

Read More