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Eustress: The Good Kind of Stress

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January 8, 2020 | Published by


If there’s one topic we’re well-versed in, it’s stress. Often when we discuss stress, we focus on the negative side. This might be how it affects our immunity , its contribution to anxiety, or even the role it plays in our current political environment. Today, we want to focus on a different type of stress. It’s called eustress, and it can actually feel good and even be healthy.1

What is the difference between eustress and distress?

Distress

If stress has a spectrum, on one side is distress, which we associate with negative experiences. Distress can make you feel overwhelmed when your resources, whether they be physical, mental, or emotional, are not able to sufficiently meet the demands you’re encountering.1

Examples of distress include2:

  • Divorce
  • Unemployment
  • Losing contact with friends or family
  • Legal problems
  • Injury or illness (oneself or a family member)
  • Being neglected or abused
  • The death of a loved one
  • Separation from a significant other
  • Conflict in interpersonal relationships
  • Bankruptcy/money problems
  • Sleep Issues
  • Children’s problems at school

 Eustress

On the other end of the stress spectrum is eustress, which “produces positive feelings of excitement, fulfillment, meaning, satisfaction, and well-being,” says licensed professional counselor Casey Lee, MA. He explains that eustress is positive because you feel confident, adequate, and stimulated by the challenge you experience from the stressor.1

Examples of eustress include1,2:

  • Receiving a promotion or raise at work
  • Riding a rollercoaster
  • Starting a new job
  • Taking a vacation
  • Getting married
  • Holiday seasons
  • Watching a scary movie
  • Taking educational classes or learning a new hobby
  • Purchasing a home
  • Having a child
  • Moving
  • Retiring

Understanding Eustress

According to Clinical psychiatrist Dr. Michael Genovese, eustress is “exciting or stressful events that cause a chemical response in the body.” He adds, “eustress helps us stay motivated, work toward goals, and feel good about life.”1

Psychologist Dr. Kara Fasone says eustress is all about adequately challenging yourself without expending all your resources. This type of stress can help you grow in the following areas1:

  • Emotionally, eustress can result in positive feelings of satisfaction, inspiration, motivation, and flow.
  • Psychologically, eustress helps us build our resilience, self-efficacy, and autonomy.
  • Physically, eustress can help us build our body (e.g., through completing a challenging workout).

Understanding eustress can help us to more easily manage other types of stress as well. Research shows that when we perceive an event as a threat, we respond to it differently than if it is seen as a challenge.

Threats are prone to elicit a greater stress response from us and create larger levels of anxiety.1 Unlike threats, challenges can be exciting, and even enjoyable to conquer. Threats are frightening, while challenges are chances to prove ourselves and learn how much we are capable of accomplishing when we put our mind to it.3

Reframing and maintaining balance

In our blog about reframing we talk about how looking at a situation from a different angle allows your attitudes or beliefs about it to change. This can be applied to a situation in which you may be feeling the results of distress.

Focusing on the positive outcomes of an event that brings negative stress, or even approaching negative stress as a challenge, can help us tackle our stressors head-on without a feeling of being overwhelmed or unhappy.3

While this tactic can certainly be helpful, it is worth noting that having too many challenges in your life can be overwhelming, causing eustress to become chronic stress.3

Knowing your limitations is an important part of maintaining balance in your life, which sometimes means cutting out unnecessary obligations or becoming more comfortable saying no to activities. With a little practice and understanding, we can hopefully view stress as an opportunity to maintain or even regain balance in our lives.3

References:

  1. Legg, T. Eustress: The Good Stress. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/eustress#overview
  2. Types of Stressors (Eustress vs. Distress). https://www.mentalhelp.net/stress/types-of-stressors-eustress-vs-distress/
  3. Scott, E. Why Eustress Can Be Your Friend. Verywellmind. verywellmind.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-eustress-3145109

 


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