Four Types of Stress-Which Group Are You In?


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My late grandfather used to say “Don’t be stressed, kick stresses’ (behind).” The thought of stress can be enough to make you stressed. Everyone experiences stress at some point in their lives. Some people have more effective ways of coping with stress resulting in a quicker recovery, while others struggle to find ways to cope. Stress management has become one of the most sought after interventions, especially during the holiday season. Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. A stressful event can trigger the fight, flight or freeze response (see here for more information on fight, flight, freeze); causing hormones to “surge” through the body.

Oftentimes when we think of stress, we think of “bad stress” because again the term stress itself usually carries a negative connotation with it. Managing the “bad stress” and the stress that can be life threatening can be complicated and confusing as there are different types of stress that will require unique interventions. However, there is some good stress. Some stress can even save your life and boost your immune system. This good stress is referred to as eustress. It also gets the heart pumping, increases your breathing rate, makes you perspire more and causes chemicals reactions throughout your system. The big difference is in the type of chemicals you produce when you are excited and happy; verses being excited and apprehensive or unhappy. When we are in a “good” stress situation, you get a “runners high” type of chemical combination. Let’s take a look at the different types of stress and the most effective ways to manage them.


Acute Stress: Acute stress is the most common form of stress. It comes from demands and pressures of the recent past and anticipated demands and pressures of the near future. Acute stress is gripping and exciting in small doses, but too much is exhausting. For example, a combination of fast runs up and down a challenging hill can be exhilarating early in the day. That same run late in the day can be trying, tedious and wearing. With that being said, overdoing short-term stress can lead to psychological distress, tension headaches, back pain, upset stomach and other symptoms.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA) acute stress is short term, and doesn’t have enough time to do the extensive damage associated with long-term stress. Fortunately, acute stress symptoms are recognized by most people. It is a lengthy list of what has gone amiss in their lives: the loss of an important contract, an overdrawn bank account, deadlines they’re rushing to meet, their child’s occasional problems at school and so on. Most of us can probably relate to this laundry list of things going wrong in our lives, as life happens on life’s terms. No need to hit the panic button! However, if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms on a consistent basis (several times per week) as a result of these problems; click here for a free consultation.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Emotional distress (anger, irritability, feeling overwhelmed, depression)
  • Gastrointestinal problems (upset stomach, digestive problems, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome.)
  • Muscular Tension (tension headaches, back pain, shoulder pain and son on)
  • Over arousal-which can lead to increase in blood pressure, sweaty palms, rapid heartbeat, dizziness and so on

How can I cope with Acute Stress?

  • Recognize the signs. Listen to your body. If you are exhausted, over aroused, overwhelmed; it may be time to “take 5.” Start by taking 5 minutes to step away from whatever you are doing in order to give your mind a chance to slow down in order for you to re-group.
  • Set priorities: Decide what has to be done today and what can wait. Do not overextend yourself by adding additional tasks that will add more stress. Learn to say no (to stress) and yes to you.
  • Lean on your support: Stress can take over your life if you allow it. No one can live in this world without help. Seek out support groups of individuals with similar experiences. You do not have to go through this alone. You are bigger than your stress. You will defeat this!
  • Exercise/Stress coping programs: Take a walk, attend a yoga, meditation or tai chi class. While exercise (in moderation) is good for us, it is important to listen to your body so you do not over train, thus creating more stress.

Episodic Acute Stress occurs in people who suffer acute stress frequently, whose lives are so out of control that they live in chaos and crisis. They’re always in a rush, but always late. If something can go wrong, it does. They take on too much, have too much on their plates, and struggle to organize the numerous self-inflicted demands and pressures screaming for their attention. People who suffer from episodic acute stress typically describe themselves as having “a lot of nervous energy,” they tend to be abrupt and sometimes their irritability comes across as hostility. Another form of episodic acute stress comes from ceaseless worry. In this form, one sees disaster around every corner and pessimistically foresees tragedy in every situation. As a result, interpersonal relationships deteriorate rapidly when others respond with hostility, thus causing the world to become a very stressful, dangerous, unrewarding, punitive place where something awful is always about to happen.

The most common symptoms of episodic acute stress include:

  • Frequent bouts of over-arousal, which include persistent tension headaches, migraines, hypertension, chest pain and heart disease.

How can I cope with Episodic Acute Stress?

  • Recognize the signs and symptoms: If you are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, contact your primary care doctor. To find a primary care doctor within your geographical location, click here.
  • Lifestyle changes: You may be used to operating with a full plate and possibly adding seconds to that plate when the main course hasn’t even been touched. Consider holding off on the seconds and focusing on the main course. I promise you will remain busy with just the main course as your task and you may even complete a task. Give it a try!

Chronic Stress is a state of prolonged and continuous stress. The (sympathetic) nervous system that helps you deal with the fight-or-flight response is always turned on. As a result this type of stress wears people down day after day, month after month, and year after year. Chronic stress destroys bodies, minds, spirits and lives. It’s the stress of poverty, dysfunctional families, being trapped in an unhappy marriage, or in a despised job or career. Chronic stress sets in when a person can’t see a way out of a bad situation. It’s the stress of relentless demands and pressures for extended periods. With no hope, the individual gives up searching for solutions. Some chronic stresses stem from traumatic, early childhood experiences that become internalized and can remain painful and present.

The worst aspect of chronic stress is that people become immune to it; they suppress it. People are immediately aware of acute stress because it’s new and it affects our day to day situations; they ignore chronic stress because it’s old, familiar, and, sometimes comfortable.

The most common symptoms of chronic stress include:



Difficulty Concentrating

Lack of Sleep

Social isolation,


Abdominal pain, back pain


Panic attacks

Cardiovascular diseases

How Can I Cope with Chronic Stress?

  • Recognize the signs. If you are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms as a result of any past trauma, contact a physician or mental health professional.
  • Treatment of chronic stress may require extended medical as well as mental health therapy, and stress management.

Traumatic Stress: Trauma is defined as experiencing or witnessing life-threatening events such as war, natural disasters, serious accidents, or violent personal assaults such as rape. Threats to psychological or social integrity can also be traumatic. Studies have shown that most survivors of trauma return to normal within about six months. However, for some people, the intense reactions can persist or worsen over time. People experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often experience flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, uncontrollable thoughts, uncontrollable shaking, heart palpitations, tension headaches and increased arousal (overly alert, easily startled, difficulty sleeping). For more information on PTSD, click here.

How can I cope with Traumatic Stress?

  • Write about what it means to you that the traumatic event occurred. How did it affect your beliefs about yourself, others and the world? How did it affect your sense of trust, safety, relationships and intimacy?
  • If you are feeling stuck, seek help from a counselor trained in PTSD.

The information I shared with you was not designed to cause more stress but to bring awareness to the different types of stress, the impacts they have on the “whole person” and to provide resources for the help that is available to assist you in coping with stress.

Feel free to share some strategies you have used to deal with any of the 4 types of stress Acute, Episodic Acute, Chronic or Traumatic Stress.


Sharise Hemby-Nance is a licensed therapist and award winning author with 15 years of experience in relationship building and work-life balance. For more information or assistance with stress management, please contact me at


Unwrap your goals: Tips for Staying Focused during the Holiday Season

All year long you have worked hard to be productive and achieve your goals. You make daily or weekly to do lists, you read morning inspirational quotes, you have even improved in prioritizing and limiting distractions and then it happens again; right on schedule…holiday season. Holiday season makes its annual visit into your life and you find yourself struggling to stay focused personally and professionally.

There are so many competing demands and expectations during the holidays that it is very easy to get overwhelmed and even burn out. Your “to-do” list swells as your time shrinks. Travel planning, guest preparations, gift shopping, children’s events, parties, and so on, must be crammed into already-full schedules, which causes stress. Personal stress often affects work performance. It distracts people and diminishes productivity. You may become less productive at work during the holidays because you simply lose motivation.

You’ll be surprised at what a little focus can do to help make this the most wonderful time of the year. How can you rise to a more demanding schedule and manage your focus through all the chaos?

Here are 4 ways to manage your focus through the chaos of the holiday season:

Planning: One of my favorite saying is “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” The holiday season arrives at the same time each year, yet most of us find ourselves unprepared and operating in ‘crisis mode’ which increases our stress levels. A great way to plan would include creating holiday shopping lists on days off or the weekends (if you do not work on the weekends).

Take time off: During this time of year our personal lives can get just as busy as our work lives. It is imperative to schedule time off from work to focus on the task of preparing for holiday festivities (shopping, hosting family, decorating and children’s events). This falls under the work-life balance category. Click here for more information on balancing the two.

Say NO more often: This may be a tough concept to grasp especially around the holiday season where many are focused on giving. Oftentimes there is a lot of pressure to buy gifts for co-workers, family members and friends; which can lead to more stress. Or maybe, you host dinner at your house every Christmas, so you may feel added pressure to cook new recipes from scratch. However, you cannot be everything to everybody and you will need to set boundaries for yourself and others. Be realistic about what you are able and willing to do. Instead of purchasing gifts for every co-worker, friend and family member; suggest a “Secret Santa” for each group (Three gifts is much more realistic than 20 plus gifts). Instead of attempting to cook every dish from scratch, have each guest bring their favorite dish for dinner. You will have enough on your plate balancing your professional and personal life. Be mindful of the additional tasks you take on during this period. It is okay to say no!!!

Prioritize: For those of you with “perfectionist personalities,” it may be a struggle to choose the priorities that really matter and the ones you may need to let go in the short term. There will be so many tasks and festivities that may seem to hold equal importance. If your December calendar is filled with social events and January is completely open; consider shifting some of these events to January. Also, take the time to reflect on your value list. Allow this value list to guide you in prioritizing during this holiday season in order to meet your goals and avoid burn out. It is not realistic (or healthy) to run around trying to make an appearance at every party or get together just to say you were there.

Most people will find themselves juggling family, friends and work even more during this hectic season. Now that you have multiple tips to guide you in staying focused; you can have the best of both worlds in your professional and personal life during this holiday season. Enjoy and take in each moment.


Sharise Hemby-Nance is a licensed therapist and award winning author with 15 years of experience in relationship building and work-life balance. For more information or assistance in these areas, please contact me at

The Ups and Downs of Yo-Yo Dieting: Tips for Maintaining Your Waistline during the Holiday Season

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Those of us raised in African American families are well aware of the dietary concerns in our community. For these reasons, we find ourselves eating cleaner in the 21st century. The importance of this article is to reinforce awareness of an ongoing problem of high blood pressure and diabetes especially in the African American community.

Last summer you reached your weight goal and fit into that dress you haven’t worn in over 5 years. In fact, you were able to show off your weight loss by wearing that dress to your 30th year class reunion. Fast forward to 6 months…life happens. You are experiencing work stress, having trouble finding the time to exercise and as a result of all the stress you resort to emotional eating. Food has become your outlet. Since this occurrence, you find yourself on the weight loss roller coaster also known as “yo-yo dieting.”

Do you find yourself in search of the latest diet every few months? Are you consistently looking for a detox after another weekend of bad eating? Maybe you feel guilty because you were sticking to your diet and over-indulged on Thanksgiving! You are not alone! Recent studies have shown that 54 percent of Americans are currently trying to shed pounds. Most people have tried everything; including detoxes, supplements, diets and packaged foods guaranteeing weight loss. Are you ready to say goodbye to yo-yo dieting and hello to lasting results? Before we go any further, allow me to elaborate on yo-yo dieting. Yo-Yo dieting is the cyclical loss and gain of weight resembling the up and down motion of a yo-yo.   In this process, the dieter is initially successful in the pursuit of weight loss but is unsuccessful in maintaining the loss long-term and begins to re-gain the weight. One seeks to lose the regained weight and the cycle begins again.

Tired of watching your weight go up and down…and up again? Check out these tips for maintaining your waistline!

Define your “WHY”: Most people begin their weight loss journey because they want to look good (on vacation, on the beach, in an outfit, for a major event). These are great external motivators. What happens once vacation ends or the special occasion you targeted as your reason for losing weight comes and goes? Having trouble searching for your reason “Why?” What will inspire you to make maintaining your weight a lifestyle and not just a trend or a hobby? Do you want to be around for your children? Do you want to be the example for your family? Do you want to prevent health related medical conditions? Your “why” will carry you through those moments when you feel like quitting.

Find a Healthy Outlet: This will require being proactive. Create a list of 5-10 activities you can engage in during times of distress. When you feel overwhelmed, instead of grabbing that bag of chips or box of cookies go to your list and choose something you can do for the next 10 minutes to allow your stress levels to subside. This can include taking a walk, writing a letter, listening to your favorite song or reading an article.

Balance: The holiday season is upon us and a common theme in most, if not all families include food. Food should not be your enemy. You can and should enjoy yourself at holiday parties without feeling guilty for having a slice of your favorite pie. However, this will require some planning on your part. If you plan to attend two holiday parties during the course of a week, be mindful of your eating throughout the week so that you do not have to feel guilty or suffer at those holiday parties. A big part of practicing balance with healthy eating habits includes making good food choices through meal planning.

Have a Plan: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. The holiday season is also a busy time for many people. The shopping, cleaning, cooking, entertaining family while fun; can also become overwhelming. Plan your meals for the week. Spending a couple extra hours at the beginning of the week meal planning and organizing is imperative in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Unforeseen circumstances will take place throughout the course of the week and if you are prepared with good food choices, you reduce your chances in making bad food choices. For assistance with meal planning click here.

Accountability Partner: Find an accountability partner or group. Choose people who will challenge, support, inspire and encourage you. Share your goals and your weaknesses with your partner. However, it is not an accountability partner’s responsibility to change your life; you must be willing to take responsibility by owning your weaknesses, shortcomings, habits and mistakes. “You will only hold yourself accountable to goals others know about. Tell someone what you’re up to.” ~Unknown


Dieting is temporary; lasting weight loss requires making lifestyle changes that will work long term. The journey is in fact just that; not a stroll in the park, not a hike in the woods, but a journey. You do not have to go through this journey alone. You can contact me at for assistance with health coaching and meal planning.

How have you maintained your weight loss goals through the holiday season? What strategies do you use as outlets when feeling overwhelmed during the holidays?