Acute stress is the fight or flight reaction that occurs in response to a specific, identifiable stressor.
Acute stress goes away when the stressor goes away. For example, you may be stressed when riding a roller coaster, but once you get off the roller coaster the stress disappears after a few minutes.
This form of stress can be healthy and beneficial but only when experienced in moderate amounts and is short-lived.
While stress is often viewed as bad for you, stress is often useful in many situations. Everyone experiences stress. By reacting to important situations with stress, your body enables you to be alert and ready to respond.
For example, the positive feeling of excitement involves a certain level of stress that can occur when you’re on a fun roller coaster ride or watching an intense action movie. That’s not to say all stress is good. Stress can be harmful if it is too intense or if it occurs too often.
Many people can find themselves experiencing stress most, if not all, of the time. When acute stress does not end, it turns into chronic stress.
Your body was designed to only experience stress during short periods of time when it is facing a specific threat, like a lion. Constantly being in a state of chronic stress can have a variety of negative effects on your physical and mental health.
The effects of chronic stress are tied to the underlying fight or flight reaction. Because your heart beats faster when stressed, chronic stress can cause high blood pressure.
Because your body redirects energy away from your digestive system, chronic stress can cause various gastrointestinal disorders. Because your blood is being flooded with sugar for extra energy, chronic stress can make blood sugar harder to control and exacerbate diabetes. Because your mind is constantly alert and on guard, chronic stress can cause anxiety, depression, and insomnia.