According to the American Psychological Association (apa.org), there are three primary types of stress. They include: 1) Acute, 2) Episodic Acute and 3) Chronic Stress.
In the minds of many, the concept of being able to “withstand stress and do my best”, means having the ability to remain stoic in tough times, it is the presence of mind to keep moving forward without complaint when life is challenging. While there are times when this concept of endurance may be accurate with some stressors; there are other times when this approach is counterproductive. This is why understanding the types of stress can be helpful in making wise choices. Ironically, the “inner strength” needed to press on in challenging times is the same inner strength needed to recognize that doing “my best” may require choosing a different path, slowing down or making peace with what cannot or will not be.
Acute Stress is the most common. We experience this type of stress when we feel overwhelmed by deadlines, the loss of a key account, problems at home, etc. Because this stress is short-term, the effects on us also tend to be temporary. We may experience headaches, back pain, stomach problems, or elevated blood pressure. Talking to a friend or counselor can help us deal with this type of stress but if it persists for more than a month, it could be important to receive help from a professional
Episodic Acute Stress is often dismissed as “having a Type A personality” or “having a lot of energy.” Those with Episodic Acute Stress can feel overwhelmed by their schedule. They tend to take on too much work, constantly worry, and struggle to find relief from extended periods of acute stress. Instead of seeking help, it is common for people enduring this type of stress to blame others for their challenges. They are likely to experience things such as chest pain, hypertension, persistent tension headaches and heart disease. To combat this way of thinking and to help people do their best, leaders must be willing to model the behavior they expect from others such as taking time off or seeking help. One company I appreciate makes it clear to employees that working extraordinarily long hours may actually negatively impact your consideration for promotion. They make it clear that employees’ families are important and do not want to create a culture that makes them have to choose between work and family.
The final type of stress is Chronic Stress. Chronic stress is when the pressures and demands of life are so great and so persistent that people give up hoping things will ever get better. In many cases, this type of stress begins in childhood and the person affected by it becomes so accustomed to it they are often unaware of its impact on their life. As a result, they are left more vulnerable to suicide, stroke, and heart attack – and in some cases cancer. The good news is there is hope for a better path forward through medical treatment and stress management.
Endurance is not simply ignoring stress. It requires working through it and finding better solutions moving forward. As a leader, it can take great inner strength to be more open about the stressors in your own life, but by doing so, you are likely giving hope to others about their own situation.