When many think of stress they think only of the negative effects that come with it. Did you know that some types of stress can be good for you? That’s right! Some forms of stress can be good for you, but other types of stress disorders can cause major health problems and even be life threatening. Stress is a natural function of the body, but understanding the different types of stress, such as distress and eustress, helps you to better understand how to deal with the stress you find in your life. Stress comes at us from all directions. It comes from the big and small events as well as the positive and negative events of life. Sometimes life seems so stressful that people will claim they would like to learn how to have no stress, at least, for a short while. They want to be “stress free.” This is unfortunate because we have a word that is used to describe people who have no stress. The word is “dead.” Most people do not want to be this relaxed. Life is inherently stressful, and we are always confronting potential “Stressors” – those events that can cause stress. As long as you are alive, stress will not be avoided.
Without some stress life would be boring. Sometimes when we do not have enough stress we intentionally seek some. Can you remember what you were doing the last time you went looking for stress on purpose? A certain amount of stress creates motivation and challenge. If you have ever gone snow skiing, white water rafting, or to an amusement park on purpose to ride the roller coaster, then you have been seeking stress. During these activities your body will be showing all the physiological indicators of stress. However, if we ask what you are doing, you will probably reply that you are, “Having fun.” Since you have voluntarily entered the situation, you feel in control of it. You have also redefined what it means to you. It is exciting, fun, and a challenge. If someone was making you do these things against your will then you might be terrified. These same activities would create significant distress for you.
So we can see that stress comes in two flavors. There is positive stress, which is called “Eustress”, and negative stress, which is “Distress”. Positive stress is what turns you on, and distress is what wears you out. Positive stress involves such changes as getting married, having a baby, or accepting a promotion that requires you to relocate. With positive stress as we adapt and adjust we feel competent, challenged, and satisfied with our ability to cope.
Not all stress is bad. There are positive effects of stress and it has its own unique characteristics. When it comes to feelings such as anxiety, worry, fear, pain or anger then these are linked to negative stress and this is what many people associate stress with. However, the positive effects of stress are something that can help motivate individuals to accomplish something good. Positive stress helps an individual to make any necessary changes in their lives. It gives you the energy to throw yourself into something where you want to make some contribution. Approaching exams enhance a student’s concentration and learning capability. Eustress is one of the helpful types of stress. What is the definition for eustress? It is the type of stress you experience right before you have the need to exert physical force. Eustress prepares the muscles, heart, and mind for the strength needed for whatever is about to occur increasing the heart rate and blood pressure. Eustress can also apply to creative endeavors. When a person needs to have some extra energy or creativity, eustress kicks in to bring them the inspiration they need. An athlete will experience the strength that comes from eustress right before they play a big game or enter a big competition. Because of the eustress, they immediately receive the strength that they need to perform. As soon as the event or danger passes, the body will eventually return to its normal state.
Positive Stress is essential for bringing zest to the life. Life without any kind of stress will be very distressing indeed – verging on boredom. When you are bored you crave for stress, you feel a kind of lifelessness. Not a very happy prospect for anybody. Positive stress makes life worthwhile. A very interesting question is – Will you do anything if you don’t feel any kind of stress? It is very doubtful. Seeing man’s proneness to inertia, in the absence of any stress, the man will be a dead body!
Characteristics of Positive Stress
Many discoveries and creative solutions that an individual comes up with is the result of positive stress. Positive stress can even help a person to take up a new job, change their schedule, leave during a threatening or dangerous situation and make necessary lifestyle changes. Basically the positive stress is something that is productive, good and useful. Positive stress adds anticipation and excitement to life, and we all thrive under a certain amount of stress. Deadlines, competitions, confrontations, and even our frustrations and sorrows add depth and enrichment to our lives.
Our goal is not to eliminate stress but to learn how to manage positive stress and use it to help you achieve your goals. Insufficient stress acts as a depressant and may leave you feeling bored or dejected; on the other hand, excessive stress may leave you feeling all mixed up inside. What you need to do is find the optimal level of stress which will individually motivate but not overwhelm each of us.
How Can I Tell What is Optimal Positive Stress for Me?
There is no single level of stress that is optimal for every person. We are all individual creatures with unique requirements. As such, what is distressing to one may be a joy to another.
And even when we agree that a particular event is distressing, we are likely to differ in our physiological and psychological responses to it. That’s just human nature.
The person who loves to arbitrate disputes and moves from job site to job site would be stressed in a job that was stable and routine, whereas the person who thrives under stable conditions would very likely be stressed on a job where duties were highly varied.
Also, our personal stress requirements and the amount which we can tolerate before we become distressed changes with our ages. It has been found that most illnesses are related to unrelieved stress; for example, anxiety disorders, bowel disorders etc.
If you are experiencing stress symptoms, you have gone beyond your optimal stress level; you need to reduce the stress in your life and/or improve your ability to manage stress by creating conditions for positive stress.
When negative stress overwhelms positive stress the following symptoms can often be noted:
- Hair falling out
- Anxiety attacks
- Loss of appetite
- Increase of appetite