Do you think stress is good or bad? Do you wish you could get a better handle on stress in your own life?
Stress is often given a bad rap.. and for good reason: too much stress can lead to serious health repercussions – mentally, emotionally and physically.
But here’s the thing: stress is actually not all bad.
Good stress is known as Eustress. Bad stress is experienced as Distress. Let’s understand and compare eustress vs distress.
There are five key things to understand eustress vs distress?
- Eustress is a motivator. Distress results in anxiety.
Stress is often thought to cause frustration or worry, however, when stress is optimal it promotes high performance and is more likely to lead to fulfillment in life. Eustress is more closely related with positive emotions. Unfortunately, distress is the complete opposite. Distress leads to feelings of hopelessness, panic, and anxiety, potentially leading toward serious mental health implications.
- Eustress feels manageable. Distress doesn’t.
Eustress is manageable stress. Inevitably, a person’s resilience may determine the exact amount of stress one can take on without it becoming negative or overwhelming. Eustress is also known as the ‘Goldilocks effect’ ie. not too much stress, not too little stress – just the right amount of stress to motivate peak performance with available resources. Distress occurs when the perception of stress is greater than your available capacity (not to be mistaken with capability). Distress leads to feelings of overwhelm which may give way to other negative emotions and disorganisation.
- Eustress is usually short-term. Distress can expand to be experienced or perceived as long-term.
Eustress propels us forward to act, however, it usually doesn’t last long. Distress, depending on the cause, may be short-term but can be experienced for a longer-term eg. distress can arise from loss, which may take a longer time to come to accept and move on from.
- Eustress can actually improve physical health. Distress is likely to have an adverse affect on health.
The weight of stress over time can wreak havoc on the mind and body. Eustress and resilience are closely linked. In fact, eustress can actually increase your resilience – mentally, emotionally and physically. Conversely, distress, especially long-term, is most likely to lead to negative health consequences, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and more.
- Eustress is more likely when you’re feeling confident. Distress is more likely when your confidence is perceived as low.
This highlights the significance of taking care of our mental and emotional health. Stress can be good, but if our sense of confidence isn’t healthy, a little stress can be considered distress, depending on the situation.
Eustress vs Distress factors and examples
What factors impact eustress vs distress? They include:
- Financial standing
- Coping skills
- Social support
- Family history
- And more…
Individually, whether something is eustress or distress depends on the individual. At the same time, distress can widely be categorised as a lack of resources, such as feeling overwhelmed due to a lack of time or money.
Examples of distress include:
- Financial crisis
- Death of a loved one
- Relationship issues
- Illness or injury
Examples of eustress include:
- Exercise (Yes, exercise is a stressor!)
- Accomplishing a goal
- Listening to cheerful music
- Hot/cold therapy
When is Stress “Good”?
Short-term and motivating stress is considered good, which is what eustress is generally defined as.
However, any stress over the long term can have negative consequences. The key is to keep your stress levels manageable. This allows the body and/or mind to adapt accordingly.
So, how can you encourage more eustress over distress? Here are a few ideas:
- Take up a new hobby or learn a new skill
- Play games or practice puzzles
- Teach or help others
- Set reasonable goals and deadlines for yourself
- Practice healthy coping strategies, such as meditation, journaling, or gratitude
Some Final Thoughts…
Generally, change and stress can feel unpleasant.
Yet, it doesn’t necessarily mean bad things are about to happen. Perhaps personal growth is on the horizon and maybe you’ll come out wiser, better and stronger than before.
Aim for more eustress vs distress in your life.
Change can be good and stress can be positive. Equip yourself to handle most of these stressors so you can forge your way toward your best self and best life.
I leave you with this quote by Hans Selye, founder of the Stress Theory, who said: “Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.”
I hope this article helps you get a handle on stress. May your attitude raise your altitude for eustress over distress.