My burn-out
My burn-out

Acute or chronic stress disorder – good and bad stress

We are not equal when it comes to stress. Each of us reacts and adapts differently depending on our history, experience, state of health, our own perception of the situation and our personality. Faced with this possible network of reactions, we will talk about good or bad stress or even acute or chronic stress.

Stress management must therefore be individualized.

Because we do not all react in the same way to a situation, it is preferable to follow a personnal care and support programme, especially if you are facing stress that is more and more invasive and difficult to manage. Because poorly managed, stress has a very negative impact on people’s health.

So there is no good or bad stress strictly speaking, there is only our ability to cope with it so that a small dose of acute stress does not turn into chronic stress.

Good stress…

The stress “function” is vital for our survival. It allows us to react quickly and respond to external threats or dangers. To give an example, this stress corresponds to the discharge of adrenaline and cortisol which will allow us not to be run over by a car even during a momentary lapse of attention while crossing a street. We are talking about acute stress in this case.

Such stress is a driving force, it gives us the energy necessary for a whole range of things such as getting up in the morning, carrying out projects, surpassing ourselves, feeling motivated …

So, as long as we are able to respond and adapt to it, stress will be positive. In this case, we are on forms of stress called punctual or also called acute stress. Our attention is focused on the stressful element, our body produces the hormones to respond to it and the situation remains punctual.

Bad stress…

On the other hand, stress becomes bad and dangerous when the body does not find the resources or the answers adapted to certain situations.

Indeed, when we face stressful situations that are long-lasting, then the stress becomes chronic. This prolonged and repeated exposure to stress puts our body and our brain on permanent alert. Hormones are secreted without interruption, without rest, our body burns out to the point of exhaustion. It is called chronic stress in this case.

This kind of stress is insidious because it creeps into your life and your routine without your realizing it. The stress and the person become one. That’s why you never see a burnout coming. It has become part and parcel of our life.

What is the impact of bad stress or chronic stress on our health?

When our sympathetic nervous system is activated, our parasympathetic nervous system is inhibited, our body can neither rest nor regenerate.

To respond to the stress factor, the body draws on its resources to supply sugar to the brain and fat to the muscles. The level of glucose in the blood is at its lowest and the cells (the components of our organs) do not have enough to function properly.

If this goes on over weeks or months, a person becomes exhausted. Then he or she gradually grows weaker and is more prone to illness.

This exhaustion can lead to more serious symptoms such as heart disease, hypertension, increased cholesterol, diabetes, stomach ulcers, reduced immune defenses etc.

The imbalance of our internal biology will negatively impact our behavior and our emotional state.

Repeated doses of acute stress gradually evolve into what is called chronic stress.

You can find all the symptoms of stress and burnout by clicking on the corresponding links.

How to fight against stress?

We all have our “little tips” to try to manage stress. Some will go for a run, others will eat chocolate, still others will vent their anger…

The principle is good because, often, action is the solution. It is a generally effective way to divert our attention from a situation which is too stressful and therefore difficult to manage.

Sometimes these actions are positive but sometimes they draw even more resources from our already weakened organism. It’s all about finding the right balance.

Here are some tips to help you learn to manage your stress:

  • Listen to your body and your “head” to detect the first harmful signs of stress
  • Learn to identify what are the elements that stress you
  • Understand your reactions when you are under stress
  • Find a suitable activity to reduce this stress

You can find different therapy or support proposals on the site.

I wouldn’t say one or the other of these techniques is better, it would be wrong. The best technique is the one that works for you, the one that you feel good about, confident in, the one that motivates you enough to start doing this work on yourself.

However, many scientific studies agree on good practices in stress management such as relaxation, laughter…

For those who go in for mental relaxation, spending time with friends or family, listening to music, reading, writing, meditating are beneficial activities that allow your body and mind to rest and recover.

It is now proven that all meditative techniques such as relaxation therapy or mindfulness meditation reduce symptoms of depression and stress in a more lasting way than a nap or even a vacation.

For those more inclined to go in for more physical relaxation, walking, running (but not a marathon!), going for a bike ride, playing with your children in the park… are very good stress relievers.

As for the techniques under guidance, we can cite gentle practices such as yoga and Tai Chi which combine movements, mastery of the gesture and concentration.

And above all, breathe !!! Breathing is the basis of every anti-stress technique, the ABC of your health.

Véronique About


An entrepreneur and sophrologist, I graduated from CEAS in Paris and from the Sophrology Academy in Ashford, which is a member of FEPS (the Federation of Sophrology Centers), I specialized in issues of stress and burn-out. Do not hesitate to contact me, for any questions or request for support in sophrology.