A little stress isn’t the end of the world. Brief, or acute, stress is harmless and can actually help you stay alert in times of crisis.1 Chronic stress, by contrast, lasts for long periods of time, doesn’t come with any perks, and can threaten your mental and physical wellbeing.2 By adopting healthy coping techniques, you can minimize this more dangerous form of stress and the complications that come with it.
Acute versus chronic stress
If you’re wondering whether your stress is acute or chronic, ask yourself the following questions:
What’s the source?
Acute stress typically has a concrete source: perhaps your car broke down, you got in a fight with your partner, or you’re struggling with a task at work. Stress is a natural response to these challenges and usually goes away when the problem resolves.
Chronic stress is more difficult to manage because it’s often driven by an ongoing challenge or an abstract problem without an obvious solution.3 Consider, for example, stress related to climate change or the COVID-19 pandemic. These are not the types of problems that go away in a couple hours. They may therefore trigger chronic stress in people who lack effective coping strategies.
How does it affect my body and mind?
Acute stress is part of your body’s fight or flight response. As such, it’s linked to rising levels of cortisol and adrenaline–hormones that, among other things, increase your heart rate and blood pressure.4 These physiological changes may make you feel excited, anxious, alert, irritable, or even aggressive. The good news is, these symptoms go away relatively quickly and don’t cause any lasting damage.
The same cannot be said for symptoms of chronic stress. When the same hormones are elevated for an extended period of time, your mind and body begin to suffer. Chronic stress has been linked to a number of health conditions, including:
- Difficulty remembering or concentrating
- Chronic pain
- Decreased energy
- Appetite changes and weight gain
- Cardiovascular disease
As well as skin problems5. If you feel tense day after day and experience one or more of the above challenges, there’s a good chance that you have chronic stress. Fortunately, these changes needn’t be permanent.
Build resilience to stress
One of the best ways to ward off chronic stress is to change the way that your brain and body react to stressors. Cove was designed to help you do just that. During each session, Cove’s patented vibration technology activates a brain pathway that helps you feel calm. With regular use, this pathway grows stronger, building your resilience to future stressors.
 Sanders, R. “Researchers find out why some stress is good for you.” Berkeley News. Available at: https://news.berkeley.edu/2013/04/16/researchers-find-out-why-some-stress-is-good-for-you/.
 Bailey, E. “Acute stress vs. chronic stress.” HealthCentral. Available at: https://www.healthcentral.com/article/acute-stress-vs-chronic-stress.
 Porter, JE. “What’s the difference between acute stress and chronic stress?” HuffPost. Available at: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/whats-the-difference-between-acute-stress-and-chronic_b_58dcf585e4b0fa4c09598655.
 Scott, E. “All about acute stress.” VeryWell Mind. Available at: https://www.verywellmind.com/all-about-acute-stress-3145064.
 Marks, H. “Stress symptoms.” WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-symptoms-effects_of-stress-on-the-body.