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Understanding Positive Stress: Eustress Explained

December 01, 20238 min read

“We feel distress instead of eustress when we perceive something to be a threat rather than a challenge.”

Stress is often seen as a negative emotion that can cause harm to our mental and physical health. However, not all stress is bad. Eustress is a type of stress that can have a beneficial impact on our lives. In this post, we will explore the concept, its science, and how it differs from distress. We will also delve into real-life examples in personal and professional settings. Furthermore, we will discuss the importance of our perception of stressors and a resilience toolbox in maintaining mental well-being and strategies for mindfully supporting optimal stress levels for you. Finally, we will address the question of whether too much eustress can be harmful and why some people may feel worse while trying to biohack your way to health. Read on to change your perspective and how Stressology can help you lead a more balanced life.

Defining Stress and Stressors

Understanding stress and its impact on our lives is crucial. It can either be a catalyst for growth or a source of distress, depending on our perception. The man who coined the term stress, Dr. Hans Selye, defined it as any nonspecific demand for change. The things that are making that demand is called a stressor. Eustress, which is commonly associated with positive aspects of daily life, can be beneficial for our overall health. Learning to manage the emotions and energy generated by stressors can lead to a healthier lifestyle, helping to effectively navigate the highs and lows of life. It's important to recognize that while eustress is often seen as 'good' and distress as 'bad', the power to differentiate between the two lies within us. How we view and perceive the stressors life determine the quality of it. As stated by Dr. Hans Selye, “It’s not the stress that kills us, it’s our reaction to it.”

Understanding the Concept of Eustress: The Positive Side of Stress

Eustress encompasses emotions of excitement, anticipation, and a positive stress response, differing from distress due to its association with exciting activities and new experiences. What is a positive stress? It can be likened to the thrill before a first date or taking up a new hobby. Situations like riding a roller coaster or anticipating a new job exemplify eustress, and understanding it is vital for managing stress healthily. Eustress is pivotal in altering our perspective on stress and its role in personal growth. The American Psychological Association acknowledges that eustress involves a positive stress response, which can ultimately lead to a healthy life, promoting better immunity and mental wellness.

Distinguishing Between Eustress and Distress

Eustress, a positive stress, can lead to feelings of excitement and anticipation, triggering a healthy movement through the activation. In contrast, distress, when chronic, can result in negative health effects such as high blood pressure, headaches, and feelings of anxiety. Identifying when activated and changing your perception of the situation or stressor, is crucial for managing stressful situations effectively. Recognizing the difference between these types of stressors is essential for mental wellbeing and overall immunity. According to the American Psychological Association, acute stress, if not managed, can lead to chronic issues like insomnia and compromised immunity.

Key Differences and Similarities

Both eustress and distress impact overall health and immune system response differently. While eustress has positive effects on health, distress can lead to negative health outcomes. Both trigger the stress response but with contrasting results. Our flight or flight response is only meant to last about 90 seconds as it is designed to give us the boost of energy to survive. Eustress tends to be something positively perceived and so we hold onto it far less than those experiences we perceive as bad that can keep us stuck in a negative loop for years or a lifetime.

Perception of Stressors - Is there a Positive or Negative Stress?

Perception plays a key role in how stressors are experienced, with some finding thrill in situations that terrify others. The amygdala, a part of the brain, influences our stress response. Whether a stressor is viewed as eustress or distress depends on perception. Mindfulness practices can help shift the perception of stress towards eustress. Changing the perception of stressors can have an incredible impact on overall well-being.

Instances of Eustress: Real-life Examples of Good Stress

Experiencing eustress in personal life often arises during major life events or new challenges, like a first date or pursuing a new hobby. It encompasses the anticipation of enjoyable activities and novel experiences such as joining a new group, traveling to a new place, making a new friend, learning a new skill, being courageous, and experiencing new forms of pleasure. Dr. Hans Selye describes these things as the 'spice of life'. Recognizing the power you have to perceive and react to stressors in personal life and the workplace is critical for overall mental wellbeing. Normalizing the anticipation of optimal changes in daily life is beneficial and has powerful health effects.

Examples of Positive Stress in the Workplace

Eustress at the workplace arises in new job situations or when employees face work pressure. Examples can be winning a new client, getting a promotion, speaking in front of a group, learning a new tool or program, meeting a deadline, solving a complicated problem for a client, being the hero of your team, etc. It can elicit a wave of positive emotions, contributing to overall mental wellbeing. Recognizing and learning how to navigate the highs and lows of work is crucial for true integrative wellness. Employees experiencing healthy pressure to perform may experience innovative thinking and increased motivation to overcome new challenges, promoting a healthy work environment. Wondering why you're a procrastinator? You might be addicted to the rush of hormones from risking hitting deadlines, using adrenaline to deliver at the last minute.

Biohacking with Positive Stress

Biohacking involves utilizing technology and lifestyle changes to enhance physical and mental performance. Eustress can be a valuable tool in this practice. Activities such as exercise, exposure to varying temperatures, and intermittent fasting are examples of this. These positive stressors trigger the body's adaptive response, resulting in improved physical and mental resilience. The primary benefits come from training your mind and body to have healthy copying techniques to move though the activation to an extreme stressor through habitual exposure. Breathwork is often utilized as one of those tools.

Successful biohacking requires personalized experimentation and careful monitoring of individual responses. The use of technology and lifestyle interventions to optimize physical and mental performance is at the core of biohacking with positive stress. When engaging in biohacking, it's important to listen to your body and optimize your total stressor load effectively. Pushing yourself too hard without breaks or proper stress management can lead to negative effects.

Man In Ice Bath - Eustress

Mindful and Positive Reactions to Stress

One concept that is central to the work we do at Stressology is the Total Stressor Load. There are 12 categories of stressors that feed into filling up your Total Stressor Load, and Eustress is just one of them. Incorporating relaxation techniques, like breathing is considered vital for regulating the nervous system. Having a toolbox of practices and skills that support your ability to navigate change with ease is pivotal in this regard. It's crucial to try to gain new resources to add to the toolbox when times are good as they aid in supporting you the most during the lows of life. While meditation can be seen as a luxury when time is stretch thin, even guided sleep meditations can provide extreme benefits to your overall wellbeing.

Strategies to Transform Negative Stress into Eustress

Implementing the practices and skills in your resilience toolbox, when needed, is crucial for overall health and wellbeing. Converting distress into eustress is key to a healthy life, leading to positive reactions to stressful situations. Changing perceptions of stressors is the most effective way to have an impact on the activation levels of your body Stressology clients work on a subconscious level using guided meditation to support this effort. Honestly, any relaxation technique like meditation or deep breathing can aid in transforming negative distress into eustress, reducing feelings of anxiety and high blood pressure. Additionally, anticipating stressful events in a positive way can shift the body's acute stress response, promoting a optimized Total Stressor Load.

Hands holding iPad with the cover of the Root Cause Roadmap

Can Too Much Eustress Be Harmful?

If we circle back to the concept Total Stressor Load, which is explained in detail in the Root Cause Roadmap, we all have a bucket of how much stress we can process at a time. If your bucket is too full, even things that should be good can have detrimental effects on health and well-being. Chronic eustress can take a toll on the body, impacting both physical and mental health. Excessive danger seeking can lead to risky behavior and additions that put your life and wellbeing in danger. Knowing yourself and your body what it needs is crucial to prevent negative health consequences. Supporting your body in its ability to process and respond to mental, physical, and spiritual changes and stressors is key to overdoing it accidentally.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, navigating the stressors of life is part of being human and embracing eustress is an essential aspect of a balanced and fulfilling life. It helps us stay motivated, engaged, and resilient in the face of challenges. By understanding the concept and recognizing its value in our lives, we can harness its positive effects and use it to our advantage. However, it is crucial to gain the skills to change our perceptions and to be mindful of our Total Stressor Load. Too much of a good thing can indeed become harmful if not intuitively guided. So, listen to your body, prioritize self-care, and seek support when needed. Remember, with the right mindset and strategies, you can transform negative stress into eustress and lead a healthier, happier life.

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Monique Lauria

Monique Lauria is a multi-passionate leader who is on a mission to empower as many people as possible to rise above the ashes and navigate the stress of life with ease.

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