Types of Stress and How to Cope with Them


Stress seems to be ever-present. Most people have experienced the way that stress could lead to a sick stomach or a sleepless night. The effects of stress can be especially challenging for young people whose brains are still developing. There are three distinct types of stress. They affect people’s body and mind differently.


Positive, Tolerable, Toxic

Positive stress is a normal stress response to challenges that can even promote growth and development. For example, attending a new school for the first time could cause a positive stress response. Normally, responses to positive stress are mild and infrequent. With the support of a loving family, positive stress helps to make young people more resilient.

By contrast, tolerable stress responses are more severe, last longer, and are more frequent. Tolerable stress also has a more dramatic effect on the body, and can even affect the way that young people’s brains develop. An example of an event that could cause a tolerable stress response in teens would be if their parents were to divorce.


While tolerable stress is more serious than positive stress, the young person’s brain and body can fully recover from tolerable stress. The support of family and other loved ones is critical to helping young people recover from tolerable stress.

Toxic stress is more severe than tolerable or positive stress. When young people experience an adverse situation and do not receive the support of their caregivers, the result can be toxic stress.  Examples of toxic stress include abuse, neglect or extreme poverty. Toxic stress may have a lasting, negative effect on the way young people’s brains and bodies function.



Resilient people can cope and adapt when life gets tough. An individual’s level of resiliency plays a big part in how that person will adapt to different kinds of stress. This helps to explain why not everyone who experiences repeated childhood adversity also experiences poor health. Resilience may provide a natural buffer.


Many different factors affect resilience, and these factors might change throughout a person’s life. Some factors that can make children more resilient are: higher IQ, easy temperament, a positive self-concept, social problem-solving skills, healthy relationships with family, and a supportive teacher. Helping people to build resilience can help them cope with stress.


There are many ways to build resilience. For some people, learning to develop their relaxation response through Mindfulness practices, breathing techniques or biofeedback may be helpful in promoting resilience and combating the effects of stress.


We Can Help

Discovery Ranch is a residential treatment center for teens that helps young men build resilience by building healthy relationships, experiential therapy, and learning coping skills. DR will not try to shield your teen from negative experiences but rather help them to learn from those experiences and grow stronger.


Because each person’s needs are different, we develop a customized treatment plan for each teen. If you are interested in learning more about our program, please contact us at 855-662-9318.