Episodic Acute Stress: Signs, Causes, Effects, and How to Treat
We all feel stressed; it’s something of a fact these days, and while some stress can be good for us, too much stress can become too harmful, too quickly. We’ve been told that stress can have detrimental effects on our bodies and minds, but what we are not told is that stress can give us that push of energy that helps us respond quickly to adversities.
One such “healthy stress” is acute. It’s short-term stress that can last anywhere between a few minutes to an hour, however, at the end of it, it’ll leave you with a boost of energy and mental clarity. One such short-term stress is episodic acute stress.
Episodic acute stress is a stress response that is a result of going from one episode of short-term stress to another without a long break in between. It’s a common type of stress when you work in a demanding job, where you’re constantly chasing deadlines. Or when you’re a student going through tests after tests.
Leaving episodic acute stress unaddressed can leave you feeling mentally and physically exhausted and can eventually take a toll on your mental well-being. In this article, we’re learning the warning signs of episodic stress, what causes it, and how you can manage episodic acute stress.
The Warning Signs of Episodic Acute Stress
Episodic acute stress can be identified when you experience frequent bouts of acute stress symptoms. Here are some of the common signs that you’re experiencing episodic acute stress;
- Frequent headaches and migraines
- Feeling constantly on edge
- Feeling irritable and agitated
- Feeling overwhelmed and anxious without a stressor
- Experiencing excessive worry and rumination
- Experiencing physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, stomach problems, and sleep issues
- Feeling fatigued, mentally and physically
- Having trouble concentrating and focusing
- Experiencing heightened emotional reactivity
- Wanting to socially withdraw
- Poor decision-making abilities
What Causes Episodic Acute Stress?
It is believed that a mix of your lifestyle choices and personality traits can be factors that can contribute to your bouts of episodic stress. Other factors that can cause episodic acute stress can include;
- Over-commitment: If you’re likely to take on responsibilities beyond what you can handle at a time, then you may be more prone to experiencing episodic acute stress. When you’re constantly under pressure and overwhelmed by tasks, it may result in a constant state of stress.
- Being a Perfectionist: The pursuit of perfection can also make you more prone to episodic acute stress. Because you’re a perfectionist, you set exceptionally high standards for yourself that can make you feel overly critical of yourself and when you can’t meet those standards, you may feel stressed.
- Stressful Working Environment: High-stress work environments can also be a factor that can cause episodic acute stress. A highly demanding job, long working hours, intense workplace competition, and lack of control can result in you feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
- Major Lifestyle Changes: Persisting financial difficulties, relationship problems, and other major life events such as separation from a partner, loss of a loved one, moving to another country, etc., can also trigger episodic stress.
The Effects of Episodic Acute Stress
Episodic acute stress can have long-lasting effects on your well-being if it is left untreated and unaddressed. One of the effects of episodic stress can be on your heart health. It is believed that episodic acute stress can increase blood pressure, and heart rate, and can put you at risk of hypertension.
Experiencing stress without recovering can also weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
If we talk about the psychological impact of episodic stress, then this type of stress can contribute to the development of mental health disorders such as chronic stress, anxiety disorders, depression, and other mood disorders. If you’re already living with these disorders, then experiencing episodic stress can worsen your existing disorders.
Moreover, experiencing episodic stress can impair cognitive functioning as well. When you experience stress, your body releases hormones such as cortisol that can impair memory retention, concentration, and decision-making skills.
Other than impaired cognitive performance, episodic stress can also impact your sleep quality. You may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or having restless sleep. Left unaddressed, episodic stress can contribute to insomnia, sleep deprivation, and overall poor quality of life.
The chronic cycle of acute stress can increase mental fatigue and exhaustion. You may be constantly feeling a lack of energy and low productivity.
How to Manage Episodic Acute Stress?
With the right steps and timely interventions, you can easily manage stress and reduce the risk of episodic acute stress;
Engage in Stress Management
Practice stress management techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, mindfulness meditation, or other relaxation techniques to manage stress and promote feelings of relaxation and calm. Practicing these techniques regularly can help you better cope with stress and improve your overall well-being.
Make Lifestyle Changes
Making healthy lifestyle choices can also help you prevent episodic stress. You can try engaging in regular self-care, and exercises, and getting enough sleep to combat episodic acute stress and its symptoms. Physical exercise can help release endorphins which can improve your mood. Getting enough sleep can help your mind and body relax and recover. Overall, adopting healthy habits can help manage acute stress effectively.
Managing Your Tasks
You can also manage your stress by managing your tasks so that they do not overwhelm you. Employing effective task management skills can help you reduce stress. Try to set realistic goals and realistic expectations, break down your tasks into manageable chunks, and organize your responsibilities effectively.
Seek Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a therapeutic approach that can help you identify negative thought patterns and replace them with positive ones. This therapy can also help you modify your behaviors, beliefs, and thoughts that contribute to your stress. With this approach, you can learn healthy coping strategies, stress management, and other skills to help you combat episodic stress.
Seek Social Support
Instead of withdrawing from your social support, actively seek people and connections who can help you reduce and manage stress. Having a strong support system can help you find emotional validation, understanding, and assistance in managing episodic stress.
In some severe cases of stress, a psychiatrist may prescribe medications to manage episodic acute stress symptoms. Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and other medications that target specific symptoms may be prescribed by a professional. Please note that you should not take any medication without a prescription as some medications may worsen your existing symptoms of stress.
Episodic acute stress is when you experience bouts of short-term stress one after the other. While acute stress is not harmful to your health and well-being, leaving it unaddressed and untreated can have long-term consequences. Understanding the signs and causes of episodic acute stress can help you manage it well and reduce its effects on your well-being.
I hope the ways listed in this article will help you manage your stress and live a stress-free life. With the right help and interventions, it’s possible to combat stress and live a balanced and healthy life.
Let me know what you think about episodic acute stress and its impact on mental well-being in the comments below.