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Types of Stress and How to Manage Them

5 min read

By Jeff Hayward

Medically Reviewed by Greg Dorter, RP

Stress. It’s a word we often use to describe our reaction to certain situations that can make us feel overwhelmed or threatened. However, while we often use “stress” as a general term, there are actually different types of stress and ways to manage eachStress triggers an adrenaline rush that can actually cause health issues over time (more on this later).

However, not all stress is bad, and it can motivate you or help you avoid danger as part of your survival instinct. Take a deep breath, and read on…

Acute Stress

You might be having a great day and then suddenly, out of nowhere, your boss calls you to meet them in their office without an explanation. It could be that you get a bill in the mail you didn’t expect that completely blindsides you, or you realize you didn’t study any of the questions on the exam in front of you.

These are all examples of acute stress, which don’t last very long but put you into battle mode. Luckily, there are ways to counteract it, according to VeryWell Mind. For example, you could try some deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and even a short meditation session to get yourself back to calm mode, it offers.

Woman stressed looking at her computer

Psychosocial Stress

This type of stress usually relates to your relationships to other people, and can be brought on by having arguments in a marriage, for example. However, while it could be from relationship issues, it doesn’t have to be about a significant other – a boss or coworker can cause the same type of psychosocial stress, notes

Other triggers included in this category of stress are being isolated from others, as well as losing social support or a close friend or family member. While the source says keeping a positive attitude and being grateful are important, VeryWell Mind has some other helpful tips that are more specific to this stress type including boosting conflict resolution skills and avoiding drama.

Psychosocial Stress from spouse

Psychological Stress

This type of stress is caused by negative emotions. According to, psychological stress is triggered by fear, frustration, sadness, rage and even grief. However, it’s not necessarily just about outside factors, but also how you deal with them: “It basically refers to the emotional and physiological reactions experienced when an individual comes across a situation,” notes the source.

The source adds that “cognitive stress” falls into this category, and mentions that psychological stress can stem from jealousy, self-criticism, anxiety, and panic attacks. It’s no surprise that Healthline suggests being kinder to yourself as one way to cope with it, but also to reach out to friends and family for support and to get proper exercise and rest.

Woman experiencing psychological stress

Episodic Acute Stress

When moments of acute stress become more common, they become episodic, according to Psychology Today. Because you’ve been experiencing these acute “mini-crises” on a regular basis, you might “live in a state of tension,” notes the source. One example of when this can happen is if your boss keeps passing the buck to you on important matters (presumably without warning) or deadlines keep getting tighter.

The source says this type of stress is often the result of taking on too much or being overburdened in general. It warns that without taking action, the stress can eventually lead to depression and even heart disease – and could also lead to self-medicating to cope. Healthy ways to manage this stress include getting more exercise, or getting therapy to help you manage your responses to stress, it notes. You might also need to reconsider your circumstances – and that could mean changing jobs, for example.

Drawing of a frown

Chronic Stress

As you may have guessed, this is the type of stress that stays with you (unlike acute stress that comes and goes fairly quickly). This type of stress might be from external factors that are beyond our control, such as discrimination or economic conditions, it adds. But it can also be the result of other factors, such as being in an unhappy relationship.

Psychology Today says you might be more susceptible to this kind of stress if you had a traumatic childhood, and you might jump to negative conclusions more easily. It’s important to identify and address the causes of your stress, which can “pile up and stick around,” offers the Mayo Clinic. While you might not notice a chronic stress response as much as an acute one, over time it can lead to health issues such as headaches and lack of sleep, it adds.

Child appearing stressed

Physical Stress

While we think of stress as something that is primarily connected to psychological factors, it can also relate to physical problems, according to Physical stress can be related to an injury, infection, as well as lack of oxygen, environmental pollution, dehydration, dental issues, and more, it notes.

Of course, stress itself can manifest as physical ailments. For example, stress over time can cause headaches, eyelid twitches, aches and pains, weight gain, inflammation, a compromised immune system, and more. Exercise can help reduce stress levels, but if you’re injured or suffering then physical rehabilitation or proper treatment might be required to remove that stressor first. (We suggest consulting a physician on this one).

Woman experiencing physical stress, a sore neck.


Known as “the good stress,” eustress is the opposite of distress and can be a case of nerves before doing something fun. “Exciting or stressful events cause a chemical response in the body,” notes a psychiatrist cited by Healthline. The source says eustress is helpful to keep you motivated, and to generally “feel good about life.”

It adds that it pays to push outside of your comfort zone, and that eustress helps produce feelings of fulfillment and satisfaction from rising to the challenge. We’re not encouraging you to go skydiving (don’t overdo it), but this type of stress can help you enrich your experiences through visiting new countries, as well as tackling new challenges at work, says Healthline. It doesn’t need “managing” per se, but you can increase eustress by learning a new skill, taking on new responsibilities, and setting and tracking (realistic) goals, it offers.

Eustress - the good stress

RP, Registered Psychotherapist

Greg has a master's degree in counselling psychology and is a registered psychotherapist in Ontario where he's been practicing with individuals and couples for 15 years. He specializes in evidence-based treatments such as CBT and mindfulness, and produces a variety of online self-help content you can find on ( and twitter (@GregDorter).

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