In today’s modern world, we simply cannot avoid a life without stress. Long-term chronic stress can create an imbalance in your body and can be detrimental to your health and wellbeing if not proactively dealt with- but did you know there’s another type of stress that is actually good for you?
How can stress be good for you?
When we are stressed, our heart rate increases, and our body goes into fight or flight mode. The muscles tighten, our body pumps adrenaline, and we have a higher degree of concentration. The entire body charges up in defence of things that cause us fear or anxiety.
However, stress can become beneficial when you get the same response but without the harmful effects of fear and anxiety. Psychologists call this good stress ‘eustress’.
It is a positive type of stress that keeps you excited, energised and engaged, and has a rewarding effect on your health, motivation, performance and emotional wellbeing.
How do you know what’s good or bad stress?
How we process and make sense of what’s happening around us, and to us, can help or hinder the stress cycle. A great place to start is by recognising that some stress is good for you.
Without eustress in our lives we would lack motivation or any meaning in life. Not striving for goals or not having a reason to wake up in the morning would be detrimental to our wellbeing, so eustress is pretty important when it comes to keeping us healthy and happy.
This is because a certain amount of stress is needed to meet life’s challenges. Too little stress leads to boredom, while too much stress leads to distress. Eustress is a good state of balance between these extremities.
We are likely to experience eustress as we strive to achieve our goals, and while it can be challenging to progress towards them, such as getting a promotion or securing a new job, the stress we face fuels us to achieve them and occurs as a result of our pursuits on a journey to fulfil our aspirations.
Stress can often be a helpful sign that something needs our attention and with mindful awareness, we can begin to listen to what our stress is telling us. Is your stress the result of a perceived ‘threat’ or ‘challenge’?
We naturally respond differently to these feelings, often with ‘threats’ causing a greater level of stress due to fear and anxiety because we see them as scary and unnerving. Meanwhile we see ‘challenges’ as exciting and rewarding because they present us with opportunities to achieve something good.
Changing your perception of stress
We can have a healthier relationship with stress once we form a better understanding of what stress is, as well as how we perceive it. A way to deal more effectively with stress is by changing how we view many of the stressors in our lives to ‘challenges’ rather than ‘threats’. We can then begin to manage these ‘challenges’ more easily and with more enthusiasm to tackle them without feeling overwhelmed.
Trying to approach stressful situations in life in the way we’d approach eustress enables us to deal with stress more efficiently and lessens our chances of becoming distressed.
Can you turn distress into eustress?
How we react to a stressor depends on a range of factors, but our mindset and our lifestyle play an important part. You can begin to reduce stress by:
- Eating healthy
- Exercising more
- Sleeping better
- Practising self-care
As well as a change in your mindset around stress, a great support system and good sense of self-esteem also are necessary elements that keep stress levels low.
Try to live in the moment- you can do this by practising breathing techniques which relaxes the muscles, slows the heart and changes the body’s psychological response.
When you do this, you’ll find that distress can be tackled through a process in which you learn to react to the same stressors with positive emotions like gratitude, enthusiasm and hope.
When we understand that stress can be good for us we are able to develop a mindset equipped to deal with challenges rather than fear them- and this can build resilience.
While it’s not easy to change our reactions to stressors, changing them is possible and indeed beneficial for our health.
Positive self-talk and affirmations can be very effective to remove negative beliefs of some stress responses. Sadly, you’ll never be stress free- even so, here’s hoping the next time you hear the word stress, you don’t associate it with detrimental distress, but rather your exuberant eustress instead.