Resistance is Futile?

Stress has slowly lurked in our lives, without anyone noticing it. And now it’s here to stay. Trying to neglect it or downplay its influence on our behavior is futile.

This is why it’s important to get to know the basic symptoms of stress, different categories of major stressors, and finally, learn how to discern the basic types of stress.


Sometimes, our definition of stress is far from reality. Due to our personal biases, beliefs, and avoidance of cognitive dissonance, we tend to ignore the first, insidious signs of stress, and then act all surprised when it hits us with its full might.

Different Types of Stress

When Hans Selye first introduced the concept of stress, this term primarily implied the meaning of physical stress. Selye exposed animals to different types of stressors and realized that all animals exhibited a similar physiological response. For instance, all animals release approximately the same stress hormones, like cortisol, when faced with adverse circumstances (including humans). Thus, stress was first seen as a simple reaction of the organism to outside stimuli – physical stressors. Selye also coined the two important terms- distress and eustress.

How to understand eustress and distress? Distress is linked with the bad outcomes- exhibiting the main signs of stress (below). Eustress is linked with good outcomes – finding new ways to adapt to the environment, learning new coping strategies, and becoming more resilient overall.

However, this simple scheme is untenable when generalized to human behavior. This is why the term “emotional stress” became popular in more recent years. Humans, while having a characteristic set of physiological stress reactions, experience emotional disturbance too. Thus, we can say that the two most basic kinds of stress are:

  1. Physical (physiological) stress
  2. Emotional stress

Furthermore, Lazarus, an authoritative figure in the field of stress, argued that people cognitively process and interpret different kinds of stress, and this decision-making process ultimately determines the outcome. More specifically, Lazarus thinks that different types of stressors all go through this basic decision-making scheme:

The person interprets whether a stimulus is good, bad, or neutral. If it’s bad (possibly negative), it can be further interpreted as a:
  • Threat
  • Loss
  • Challenge
The person then makes a general judgment about the soundness of her past decisions and makes (often unconsciously) the coping plan.

The first interpretation results in anxiety. We are more likely to apprehend some kind of bad event if we interpret it as a threat. The second interpretation results in depression. We tend to get sad when we lose something. Only the third type of interpretation possibly has a good outcome.

Types of emotional stress

This kind depends on the person’s emotional condition- unstable individuals are more likely to interpret something as a threat or loss, according to the aforementioned Lazarus’ theory. Emotional stress is linked to interpersonal relationships. Concerning different kinds of relationships we have different types of emotional stress:

  • Romantic relationship stress
  • Family stress
  • Problems with friends
  • Workplace relations issues (not to be confused with workplace stress)

One specific type relates to the stress of having a mental illness. For instance, anxious individuals know very well that they are stressed out all the time, which often makes them even more anxious and apprehensive (“ Just look how anxious I am. I will be even more anxious in the future!” (interpreting an event as a threat)).

Types of physical stress

Physical stress ensues after our organism encounters new environments that necessitate new adaptation strategies. Some strategies are efficient, others not so, but all strategies will eventually fail if stressors affect us long enough. These are the most common types of physical stress:

  • Fatigue- this is one of the most common forms of stress. Not sleeping enough makes you more susceptible to all kinds of annoying outside stimuli.
  • Workplace- feeling bad and frustrated after a busy day is common. Some people even go on to develop a burnout syndrome, which is one of the most serious complications of job stress. 
  • Having an illness- having a chronic illness like diabetes, cancer, or AIDS might cause secondary reactions like anxiety, tension, frustration, etc.

Acute vs Chronic Stress

All the categories we mentioned earlier have two “versions”- acute and chronic.

Episodic stress happens abruptly, such as when a relationship ends suddenly, or when the workload doubles in only one day. The outcome of stress-management strategies depends on the intensity of stress, the whole context or circumstances, and your personality. Most people can endure episodic instances of increased tension and anxiety. It is when the problems become chronic that most problems start. In this case, being resilient, and having a strong personality won’t help much- chronic stress, when ignored and neglected will cause mental health issues.

Even fairly mild stressors are dangerous when chronic. It has been found that some of the most severe stress and anxiety disorders, such as PTSD, are often caused by ongoing, chronic stress. Moreover, chronic type causes significant and pervasive hormonal changes in the body. PTSD patients often have chronically high levels of cortisol in their blood.

Different Types of Stress Symptoms

Knowing different types of symptoms will help you determine the type of stress you’re experiencing. For instance, workplace stress is often linked with a set of seemingly physical symptoms such as:

  1. Headache
  2. Fatigue
  3. Insomnia or Hypersomnia

These can be the first signs of burnout syndrome, which is another reason you should at least be acquainted with the most frequent stress symptoms:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Frustration
  3. Tension
  4. The apprehension of future events
  5. Hostility
  6. Lack of motivation 
  7. Difficulties with concentration
  8. “Feeling empty, dissociated or depressed”


    Once the problem appears, it needs to be addressed. That’s the point of our article – to help everyone become aware of the possible issues and problems, after which one can take the necessary actions to treat the conditions and hopefully win the battle against the symptoms. Awareness is the key step.

    There are many treatment options, and choosing the best one depends on the type of stress one is feeling. For instance, people having family issues might find it useful to start a Family Psychotherapy (Structural therapy, Transgenerational therapy, Narrative therapy, etc.)

    On the other hand, individuals who have difficulties relaxing and keeping a calm state of mind could start a Progressive Relaxation Training, Meditation, or Yoga. Numerous Mindfulness psychotherapies integrate various relaxation exercises, Eastern practices, and cognitive-behavioral techniques. We at Peace of Mind School offer courses, meditation and nutrition guidance, stress management techniques and much more, sign up for our online course and visit our Shop for some extra helping hand.