Chronic stress is a persistent and constant state of stress for a long period of time that can become overwhelming and negatively impact a person’s mental and physical health.
What is Stress?
Stress is a normal response that everyone experiences in times of pressure, threat, or real, physical danger. Stress is physical and mental tension that creates physical changes in the body also known as the fight-or-flight response. The human body is designed to react in the face of danger for survival. When there is a threat, stress hormones are released into the body to prepare the person to act quickly. The physical changes during the fight-or-flight response include an increased heart rate, muscle tension, increased respiration, vision changes and sharper senses. When humans foraged and hunted for their food, the stress response occurred to protect them from physical danger such as a wild wolf or bear. Today, there are mental stressors from modern day problems such as money, school, work and the other responsibilities of everyday life. Mental tension, worry, pressure from yourself or others, and trying to manage it all elicits the fight-or-flight response.
Short-term Stress vs Chronic Stress
Stress can be positive and negative. Short term stress that occurs, for instance, when you’re taking a test or finishing a work project can give you a burst of energy, motivation, and alertness you need to complete it on time and do well. Afterwards, the stress reaction stops and the body relaxes again. Chronic stress, however, is a persistent and constant state of stress for a long period of time that can become overwhelming and negatively impact a person’s mental and physical health. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), constant stress can cause anxiety, high blood pressure, insomnia, muscle pain, and a weakened immune system. Research shows that chronic stress can lead to the development of medical and mental health conditions including heart disease, depression, and obesity (APA. 2021).
Tips to help alleviate chronic stress:
- Re-evaluate your priorities, pare down your to do lists, delegate a few tasks, and set limits each day.
- Make time each day to unwind and relax.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Do something good for your physical health such as moving your body (e.g., exercising or taking a walk a few days a week) and/or adding nutritious foods to your diet.
- Reach out to family and friends. Ask for help when you need it.
- Do something you enjoy. Getting a break from daily demands and having fun can reduce stress levels.
- Practice mindfulness- staying in the present moment.
- Learn to reframe negative thinking to create a more positive perspective. For instance, viewing obstacles as challenges and opportunities for learning and personal growth.
Stress Management at CHE Behavioral Health
Having chronic stress can be both mentally and physically draining. If you are feeling overwhelmed by stress, struggling in work or your personal life, or suffering physical symptoms of stress, working with a mental health provider can help reduce your symptoms and improve your overall well-being.
With CHE Behavioral Health Services, you don't have to face life's challenges on your own. Our network of experienced mental health professionals can teach you how to manage stress more effectively and provide you with tools for improving your quality of life. With comprehensive stress management services, we address the source of your stress, allowing you to find lasting relief.
For more information about stress management and treatment options offered by CHE Behavioral Health Services, please call 888-515-3834. We are ready to talk, and ready to listen.
American Psychological Association. “Stress Won’t Go Away? Maybe You Are Suffering from Chronic Stress.” Apa.org, 2021, www.apa.org/topics/stress/chronic.
Makenzie Pacubas, MSW, LCSW
CHE Quality Assurance Associate
Makenzie is a clinical social worker who has worked in the mental health field for over a decade and now works in clinical quality assurance with CHE Behavioral Health Services. Makenzie lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her partner, Justin, and their three pets. She likes music, singing, art, exercise, reading, getting outdoors, and trying new restaurants.