The 7 Different Types of Stress—and How to Ease Them

Stress can simmer over time, hit you like a sudden jolt, or blast you out of the blue every so often. Here's expert advice for taming stress.

Ambient anxiety

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Out of all the types of stress, ambient anxiety can be potentially chronic, and it gets fed by current events and world unrest. It can strike anytime you turn on the news or hear about someone else's ill fortune. Ambient anxiety is not empathy, but rather, a stress-laden, intense reaction to bad news—a nearby robbery, for example—coupled with fear that it will happen to you or to a loved one. Like most types of stress, this can lead to body issues: Learn how to deal with weight gain, body pain, and other physical symptoms. "People who suffer from ambient anxiety have not developed an internal psychological and emotional barrier. Things they see and hear penetrate them to their core," explains Beverly Hills-based psychotherapist, Fran Walfish, PsyD. Dr. Walfish is co-star of Sex Box on WE TV, and author of The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with You Child. Her tips for eradicating ambient anxiety include lots of self-care, plus limiting your daily intake of news. "It also helps to avoid negative people. When trying to keep a positive attitude, you must avoid people who thrive on negativity," she adds. Think you're not stressed out? Body pain and weight gain are often signs of stress.

Work

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There are some creative ways to reduce work stress, and being proactive is a good idea: According to the World Health Organization, work-related stress causes ill health, reduced productivity, and poor motivation. It also increases on-the-job accidents. "A recent study in Preventive Medicine, indicated that prolonged exposure to work-related stress is linked to an increased likelihood of specific cancers, including lung, colon, rectal, stomach, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma," adds Dr. Walfish. Some jobs, such as police detective and firefighter, have obvious, built-in stressors, but some of the most stressed out employees are those who have to answer to a boss, particularly if they feel powerless or underappreciated at work. Ways to combat work-related stress include physical activity. Commit to exercising, at least 30 minutes a day. This can be a brisk walk during your lunch hour, or as part of your commute home. It also helps to turn off the gossip machine. Avoid buying into or adding to negative feelings at work by discussing the situation with co-workers. Instead, discuss your feelings, calmly, and powerfully, with your boss.

Parenting

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It can start during pregnancy, and last your entire life—it could affect how you turn out or impact the baby you're carrying. Stress and parenting go together, in fact, the American Psychological Association even has an index for it. Whether you're worrying that your baby isn't hitting his or her milestones, are scared that your teen is dabbling in drugs, or feel concern that your college grad is spending too much time texting, and not enough time looking for work, parental stress can be all-pervasive, eliminating your ability to enjoy your own life. The old adage, "You can only be as happy as your unhappiest child," can be very true—if you let it. However, allowing this type of stress to take over your existence can negatively affect your relationships with everyone, and may even lead to behavioral issues in your child.

You're never going to stop worrying about your kids completely, but one way to reduce the impact of parental stress is through healthy habits. "The best way to deal with parental stress, and all types of stress, is to follow a holistic lifestyle. Healing stress occurs from inside. Cleansing the mind of rubbish emotions gathered during stress is a must to recover," says Aditi G Jha, MD, of JustDoc.com. Dr. Jha recommends exercise, meditation, and eating healthy food. These self-care habits will help provide you with clarity of thought, plus strength of body, and mind. "Sleep is an essential, non-negotiable aspect to stress reduction. A proper night's sleep is a must, for the body to replenish energy, and function optimally. When the body is happy, the mind is certainly happy," she adds.

Urban living

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Not all cities are created equal, but many are plagued with overcrowding, noise, dirty conditions, and frustrating commutes. City dwellers can definitely benefit from this science-tested, 10-minute anxiety fix that really works. A new study done at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute indicates that the travails of city life are associated with a greater, overall lifetime risk for mood disorders and anxiety. If you find yourself screaming at the driver who just cut you off, or at your drum-solo loving neighbor, you may be stressed out, and feeling the sting of urban living.

According to the study, the sounds, smells, and experience of urban living impacts significantly upon the amygdala and cingulate cortex—two areas of the brain tasked with regulating emotion and stress. Moving to more bucolic surroundings is one way to cope, but another, more practical solution may be allowing your brain to take a much-needed vacation, daily, through meditation. "Practices that train us to tune into these expressions of stress, such as mindfulness meditation, offer a way to effectively manage stress," says Jason Thomas, LEP, an educational psychologist, and meditation teacher at Evenflow Meditation. "This training gives us a greater capacity to be compassionately aware of our thoughts, emotions, body sensations, and behaviors as they are happening. With this compassionate awareness, we give ourselves an opportunity to step out of the stress cycle and regain a sense of emotional balance. When practiced like this regularly the cumulative effect can be profound, so that while we will continue to experience stress, we will not be so knocked off balance by it." Meditation workshops can be found in most yoga studios, and many gyms. You can also download a stress-busting meditation app to your phone.

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Childhood trauma

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It can result in lifelong consequences, including an inability to regulate emotion, difficulty focusing, memory problems, and chronic stress. (Researchers have even linked this difficult and awkward condition to childhood trauma.) The types include sexual abuse, natural disasters, war, and automobile crashes. Attempting to manage the stress of childhood trauma, ideally, begins in childhood. However, many adults find themselves still grappling with unresolved issues dating back years, or decades. This is often marked by feeling the world is an unsafe place, and that you are unsafe in it. Combating the stress caused by childhood trauma, may often be accomplished via talk therapy. Working with a therapist can help you identify the underlying cause of your stress, plus provide tools for building resilience. Medications, prescribed either long, or short term, can also help. "Chronic stress can be managed with coping strategies, but serious, institutional methods may become necessary," says says Gabriella I. Farkas, MD, PhD, founder of Pearl Behavioral Health & Medicine, and Pearl Medical Publishing. "Medicines like Celexa, Prozac, Sertraline, and Citalopram (to name a few) can be prescribed for symptom reduction, and therapies (including relaxation therapy, psychoanalysis, and cognitive-behavioral therapy) can help analyze the causes of stress, and address possible lifestyle changes to attack the stress at its origin."

Money woes

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If you can't make the mortgage, save a penny for retirement, or come up with cash to feed your kids, extreme stress is bound to occur. (Here are some money-management tips to memorize, particularly if retirement is coming up. This type of stress can be chronic, resulting in depression, feelings of helplessness, and even heart disease or cancer. Money-related stress is not easy to fix, but does respond to positive lifestyle changes. If unemployment is the issue, working with a non-profit employment counselor is a solid, first step. If you have some money in the bank, but are living above your means, it can help to analyze your spending habits versus your income, and working with a financial planner, to make adjustments. While you're fixing the problem, make sure to keep self-blame at bay. Self-recrimination is not a stress buster, but taking proactive steps, and self-forgiveness, are.

Life changes

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Clearly, huge events such as the death of a spouse, personal injury or illness, and divorce, can trigger stress. But even seemingly minor events, such as moving or getting a traffic ticket can exacerbate stress levels. The American Institute of Stress lists these and other life events as contributors to stress, and they can all add up to significant impact on your anxiety levels.

While it's true that dealing with all types of stress is part of life, recognizing just how stressed out you are, and why, can be a good first step in coping. You may not be able to change your stress-causing reality, but dealing with it is within your grasp. Having solid relationships can help. Making sure to cultivate and maintain friendships can greatly help reduce stress, by supplying a sympathetic platform for talking it out. A simple phone call, or get together for lunch, can help reduce feelings of isolation and stress.

Engaging in fun activities is also important. Do what you enjoy, whether it's a day trip, museum excursion, book club discussion, or concert. Just make sure to find activities that get you out of the house, and keep the Netflix binges to a minimum. Outdoor events give you a reason to look your best, and focus on something other than the stressor at hand. These types of outings will help keep you in the game, and keep stress at bay.

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