Types of Stress – What We Need To Know

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Four Types of Stress To Know & Understand

To cope well with stress, you need to understand the four types of stress. By understanding the four types of stress, we can much more easily avoid becoming victims of the effects of stress. The “Four Quadrant Stress Grid” below explains the four types of stress fairly simply.

Staying in any of the four zones for long periods can cause the body to create millions of free radicals. This over-production of free oxygen radicals by the body usually leads to plenty of free radical damage or oxidative stress, which then leads to serious chronic degenerative disease (CDDs).

Thousands of medical doctors now believe oxidative stress to be the core cause of more than 200 known CDD’s. On a quick side note, when it comes to chronic disease, about half are inflammatory diseases and the other half are auto-immune diseases.

Sorry, More Bad News About the Types of Stress!

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but the four types of stress are perfectly complemented by the four main fields of stress. If you’re not sure about those, they are chemical stress, physical stress, electromagnetic stress and emotional stress.

Most people think stress is just emotional, but there is far more to it than that. The reality is that being continually or repeatedly stressed out in any of the fields is extremely dangerous and should be avoided.

Of course, the “chronic” categories do the most damage, because the human body requires significant periods of non-stress from all four fields of stress and all four types of stress. Respecting the limitations of the body regarding stress, in any form, will allow you to achieve and maintain optimal health and wellness.

Definitions for the 4 Main Types of Stress


  • adjective:  being long-lasting and recurrent or characterized by long suffering (“Chronic indigestion”)
  • adjective:  having a habit of long standing (“A chronic smoker”)


  • having or experiencing a rapid onset and short but severe course (“Acute appendicitis”)
  • adjective:  extremely sharp or intense (“Acute pain”)

Eustress (Good Stress as in Euphoric Stress)

  • stress that is deemed healthful or giving one the feeling of fulfillment
  • the optimal state of stress to be the most productive

Distress (Bad Stress or Destructive Stress)

  • great pain, anxiety, or sorrow; acute physical or mental suffering; affliction; trouble.
  • a state of extreme necessity or misfortune.

4-Quadrant Stress Grid

Types of Stress Quadrant One: Chronic Eustress

Quadrant One is Chronic Eustress or long lasting, recurrent, good stress. This is, by far, the best of the types of stress out there. This is when the body can be in its most productive state.

This quadrant should be every person’s goal in life. While it is an excellent goal to stay in this quadrant as much as possible, the body also needs downtime from all types of stress. Be creative, be aggressive and be consistent because this is the quadrant where “real” productivity exists. However, be sure to build in significant amounts of rest and relaxation.

Don’t get me wrong, if things happen in life, that take you out of this quadrant for a time, it’s more than OK. Just do your best to deal with the problem and move back to this safer quadrant as soon as possible. Even here, the body will make many free radicals, so we still need effective stress management always.

Choosing Positive

Emotions like fun, happiness, success, peace, joy, laughter, fulfillment, spirit and love exist in this quadrant. When we are in a state of chronic eustress, our bodies have very high levels of the feel good hormones and neurotransmitters like Dopamine, Endorphin, Serotonin, Nitric Oxide, DHEA, BDNF, and Oxytocin.  These brain and body chemicals make it possible for us to have high levels of self-esteem and to have really strong relationships in all areas of your life.

When the shiny newness of marriages or long-term relationships starts to wear off, all a couple must do is get into this quadrant again and it will feel like the honeymoon phase all over again.

However, relationships are just one challenging area of life assisted by an awareness of the four types of stress. By understanding all the different types of stress as well as the 4 main fields of stress, we can all keep our bodies in the optimal state of stress or non-stress in all areas of life and we can do it by design.

Types of Stress Quadrant Two: Acute Eustress

Quadrant Two is Acute Eustress or rapid onset, short, intense good stress. On a ‘types of stress’ scale of 1-10, with 1 being bad and 10 being good, this quadrant sits at about 6-7.

Feeling Great and Loving It!

When you get some really great news or you have an awesome workout or when something wonderful happens to you, you experience this kind of stress. In these times, the human stress response system temporarily floods the body with feel good hormones like Dopamine and Oxytocin.

Of the four types of stress, this type is desirable and it does a body good to experience acute eustress often.

Types of Stress Quadrant Three: Acute Distress

Quadrant Three is Acute Distress or rapid onset, short, intense bad stress. As far as types of stress go, this one is no fun but is not terribly dangerous and in fact it can save your life.

Of the four types of stress, this one is the most respectful of your body’s built in stress response system. This type of stress response happens when we feel shocked or threatened and your fight or flight stress response system kicks into gear.

The HPA Axis in the body sends out a flood of emergency response hormones such as Adrenaline and Cortisol. These hormones allow us to be alert, to have increased strength, endurance, speed and energy, thereby allowing us to respond to danger.

Survival Realities

This type of stress happens is serious situations like car accident or if you feel extreme fear. While this type of stress can be thought of as bad stress, it is not dangerous in the long term, assuming it is not over-used, because it does not last a long time and the body will wash away these extra hormones when the danger or threat has passed.

We need this part of the human stress response system. It’s what helps us survive. What we don’t need is the residual Cortisol hormone that gets left behind after the stressor is over. Thankfully, there is a simple solution to this problem. If you follow this acute stress response up with cardio exercise, you can eliminate most of the Cortisol. However, it’s not a great idea to expose yourself to acute stressors often. The human body does not like being threatened constantly or repeatedly.

Types of Stress Quadrant Four: Chronic Distress

Quadrant Four is Chronic Distress or long lasting, recurrent bad stress. This is by far the worst of the types of stress in our lives. Unfortunately, it is also the most common. When this situation goes unchecked, the body produces extreme free radicals leading to plenty of oxidative stress.

Chronic distress is the cause of most people’s problems. This quadrant leads to the constant flooding of the body with emergency response hormones like Cortisol and Adrenaline. When we mis-use the Endocrine System this way, things easily begin to malfunction.

It’s just like the Pancreas. The Pancreas easily wears out from constant over use when we spike our blood sugar levels several times each day.  The Pancreas can’t process that much sugar all the time and the Endocrine System can’t process that much hormonal activity all the time.

When we stay in a state of chronic distress all the time, we overproduce the emergency response hormones and we under-produce the feel good hormones.

Time for Serious Changes

Every effort should be made to get out and stay out of this zone at all cost.  Do whatever you have to do.  Change your expectations, change your job, get out of a bad relationship, ask for help, pray to a higher power if you need to, but get out of this quadrant NOW! As far as types of stress go, this quadrant is a non-starter on every level.

If you stay here for long, you will get sick. You can develop Panic Attacks, Anxiety, Depression, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and a whole host of other illnesses.  Oh and by the way – you will very likely gain a lot of weight and get very fat, too. All these diseases and problems come from a messed up HPA Axis in the body. It’s just the same as Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome come from a messed up Pancreas.

Staying here will kill you sooner that you might like. However, long before this quadrant gets around to that, it will more than steal your quality of life. So get out now, while you still can and stay out.

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Types of Stress Infographic