stress: distress and eustressAll we hear about is stress. Perhaps rightly so since it’s pervasive. Precisely because it is may be the best reason to learn about its opposite. Yes, it exists. It’s ‘stress’ with the Greek eu as a prefix. This makes it eustress (pronounced YOU-stress). The ‘eu’ means well or good, so eustress is ‘good’ stress.

You may be thinking, “I don’t want anything to do with any kind of stress!” That’s understandable until you find out more about ‘positive’ stress.

Bad stress leads to distress which causes ill health and loss of productivity. The key to good health is to turn distress into good stress. Eustress encourages productivity and facilitates our actions.

There are three types of stress: Physical, psychological, and psychosocial.

  1. Physical stress is any extreme in the environment such as very hot or cold temperatures.
  2. Psychological stress stems from the way we feel about what is happening in our life, the attitudes we have and how we react to events and circumstances.
  3. Psychosocial stress involves stress coming from interpersonal relationships, conflict with family members, partners, friends, neighbors and coworkers. It can also come from being isolated.

Anything we put effort and energy into involves eustress. This kind of stress keeps us motivated and excited about life. To varying degrees none of the types of stress listed above are avoidable. Any of these can distress us. At the same time, each can be an opportunity to experience eustress. Here are the differences between the two:

Eustress:

  • Motivates, focuses energy
  • Is short-term
  • Is perceived as within our coping abilities
  • Feels exciting
  • Improves performance

Distress:

  • Causes anxiety or concern
  • Can be short- or long-term
  • Is perceived as outside of our coping abilities
  • Feels unpleasant
  • Decreases performance
  • Can lead to mental and physical problems

Stress is a leading factor in disease because it compromises the immune system and slows down its response. The way stress is perceived has much to do with how it affects a person. Perception can make all the difference between distress and eustress.

Stress is any challenge to homeostasis, with homeostasis being the state of internal balance. Even exercise causes a certain amount of stress, even though it’s healthy for us in the end. Similarly working on a project that’s meaningful involves stress, but because of the inherent satisfaction it’s enjoyable and exciting. Pregnancy and childbirth work in similar fashion.

Eustress is like peak performance. It’s the perfect balance of being focused, challenged, motivated, putting forth effort and having a satisfying end result. On one end we may be bored and apathetic. On the other end we may be overwhelmed and burnt out. Somewhere in the middle is an optimal point.

There are two types of stress, distress and eustress. Here are some ways in which we can reduce harmful stress:

  • Have a game plan for personal aspirations. Reestablish priorities. Balance talents and goals, long and short-term goals.
  • Be kind to yourself and do something nice for yourself everyday.
  • Manage your time without making it a stressor in itself. Leave time for play, creativity, family and friends.
  • Have a game plan for work and career. Be adaptable, inventive, ready for change and resourceful.
  • Have a financial plan.
  • Take non-work time away from home.
  • Take care of your physical health.
  • Ensure quality sleep.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Exercise.
  • Be socially connected.
  • Share feelings.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Have one go-to person, a confidant.
  • Have a pet.
  • Learn to laugh with life and at yourself.
  • Partake in quality entertainment.
  • Trust in higher power. Have a spiritual orientation and draw support from it.

Below are some helpful quotes, and a video excerpt from a presentation of mine which talks about stress in more detail.

  • Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.
    — Etty Hillesum
  • There is more to life than increasing its speed. — Gandhi
  • Stress is an ignorant state.  It believes that everything is an emergency. — Natalie Goldberg
  • Stress is inner biofeedback, signaling you that frequencies are fighting within your system.
    — Sara Paddison

If the video doesn’t show in your email or feed reader, you can watch it here.


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About Pamir Kiciman

Teacher of Reiki Classes in the original tradition and Japanese teachings of Mikao Usui (Sensei) in South Florida. Meditation, Healing, and Spirituality training and services.
Stress: Distress or Eustress? Plus a video