Stress is a concept that is entrenched in our everyday lives and vernaculars. ”Stress” has become a synonym for “distress.”
Eustress is a word you may not have heard before.
What is eustress?
On the opposite end of the spectrum, eustress is positive stress. Eustress can promote feelings of energy, focus, excitement, or fulfillment. It is typically caused by positive experiences, such as starting a new job or getting married. Eustress can produce positive effects, such as building mental resilience and even building physical strength (challenging workouts are another example of eustress). It helps with motivation and working toward goals.
Although humans respond uniquely to stress, there is a range of stressors that tend to be experienced positively by most people. A few examples include:
- Starting a new romantic relationship
- Starting a new job
- Buying a home
- Going on a holiday
- Having a child
- Affording to buy something expensive
- Learning a new hobby
In addition to these more significant life moments, eustress also plays out in simple instances of daily life where a personal boundary is nudged:
- Cooking a complex meal
- Playing a challenging video game
- Going on a hike
- Riding a rollercoaster
As long as the pushing of this boundary feels pleasurable or enjoyable, it is eustress. If it doesn’t feel good – even in a remote sense – it’s distress.
According to clinical psychiatrists, eustress is exciting or stressful events that cause a chemical response in the body. Eustress helps us stay motivated, work toward goals, and feel good about life. It’s about adequately challenging yourself without expending all your resources.
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 more significant stress response from us and create more massive anxiety levels. 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 can accomplish when we put our minds to it. Understanding eustress can help us to manage other types of stress as well more efficiently.
Listen to your body – because what feels good often does good. Research in psychology shows that those who experience eustress regularly reap several positive health benefits. The goal is to experience enough stress to strengthen you, but not so much that it causes other problems, such as HPA axis dysfunction (adrenal fatigue, chronic cortisol output) and inflammation.
Have a challenging (in a good way!) week.
Coach Christina MS, CNS, LN