1. Health

Chronic Stress

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Updated June 30, 2012

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Definition: Chronic stress results from a state of ongoing physiological arousal. This occurs when the body experiences stressors with such frequency or intensity that the autonomic nervous system does not have an adequate chance to activate the relaxation response on a regular basis. This means that the body remains in a constant state of physiological arousal, which affects virtually every system in the body, either directly or indirectly. We were built to handle acute stress, which is short-lived, but not chronic stress, which is steady over a long term.

This type of chronic stress response occurs all too frequently from our modern lifestyle, when everything from high-pressured jobs to loneliness to busy traffic can keep the body in a state of perceived threat and chronic stress. In this case, our fight-or-flight response, which was designed to help us fight a few life-threatening situations spaced out over a long period (like being attacked by a bear every so often), can wear down our bodies and cause us to become ill, either physically or emotionally. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 90% of doctor’s visits are for conditions in which stress at least plays a role! That's why it's so important to learn stress management techniques and make healthy lifestyle changes to safeguard yourself from the negative impact of chronic stress.

If you find yourself experiencing chronic stress and would like more resources on stress management, you can sign up for this site's Stress Management Newsletter, or use this quick self assessment tool to find stress relievers that would work best for your personality and lifestyle.

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