In a medical sense, the word ‘chronic’ refers to disorders which are ongoing or repetitive, while ‘acute’ refers to short- term disorders. Acute disorders, including acute stress, may disappear without any specific treatment, while chronic disorders normally require intervention and management.
What is stress?
Stress refers to mental, physical and emotional changes that occur in the body in response to a stimulus. It essentially puts the body into a higher state of alert. It is the body’s way of coping when we are under threat, for example, or when we are excited.
Stress in itself is perfectly normal, but we can easily over-stress ourselves. For example, if we overdo some physical exercise, we can stress our bones and muscles. Chronic stress is not normal and poses health risks.
Chronic stress can be described as an inability to calm down. The body remains in a heightened state of alert, and people find it difficult to relax or switch off. You may have chronic stress if you find it hard to relax or you have trouble sleeping.
Health risks associated with chronic stress
Chronic stress has many negative effects. These can range from discomforts, such as migraines or headaches, to serious conditions like hypertension and heart disease. Many of our bodily functions are altered when we are under stress. When those functions are altered for prolonged periods, they have adverse effects.
We breathe more rapidly and more deeply. That can cause problems for people with respiratory illnesses. Our livers release extra blood sugar to boost our energy levels, but if there is no corresponding increase in activity, that can lead to developing diabetes. Our digestive system produces extra acid, increasing the risk of ulcers. Chronic stress also reduces our ability to fight off infection.
Our hearts beat faster, and our blood pressure is elevated. When we suffer from chronic stress, our blood pressure remains above normal levels for prolonged periods. That increases our risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Chronic stress can also lead to substance abuse. People may turn to drugs or alcohol to try to relieve stress. These may provide relief in the short term. However, they do nothing to address the underlying issue, and people can become addicted or dependent on substances through continual use.
How to deal with chronic stress
Chronic stress can often be eliminated by changes to our lifestyles. There are mobile apps that can help you find the triggers that cause you stress or anxiety. Pacifica and My Mood Tracker are two examples. When you know what factors increase your stress levels, you can take steps to change them.
Other apps can help you relax or occupy your mind with healthy activities. Undertaking simple but enjoyable activities is a great way to relieve stress. One of the Apalon Apps for Android is a coloring app that works really well to help you relax.
In general, leading a healthier, more active lifestyle while avoiding triggers is a good way to deal with stress. You can use apps anytime, anywhere to keep your mind occupied and your stress levels lower.