In my recent article about stress at work, I mentioned that stress isn’t all bad. Stress can be used to motivate you to work harder and be more productive. To take that conversation a little further, I want to talk about Eustress, also known as good stress.
The term eustress was created by Hungarian endocrinologist, Hans Selye. Eustress is positive stress that is healthful, improves your well being, and results in satisfaction. It’s counterpart is distress which has all of the negative effects of stress we hear about like physical and mental illness.
Some great examples of eustress are:
- Watching a suspenseful movie
- Competing in a contest
- Riding a roller coaster
- Giving birth
With each of the experiences/activities above, you are under a certain level of stress. However, the stress results in a feeling of accomplishment, satisfaction, and general happiness. When you’re out jogging, you’re putting physical stress on your body. Your legs are aching, your heart is racing and you feel like stopping. But after the run is over, you feel much better about yourself. Your lungs are stronger, your muscles are building, and you’re mentally refreshed. Another added benefit is that your body releases endorphins, which improves your mood and combats emotional problems such as depression.
Why IS Eustress Important?
Eustress provides fun and excitement in our lives. It gives us a reason to wake up every morning and strive for something. I like to think of eustress as a form of motivation. If everything in life was easily attainable, there would be little to no reason to do anything challenging or difficult.
Eustress also gives us an appreciation for life and the ordeals we encounter every day. Think of a pregnant mother who goes through physical and mental stress for 9 months carrying a child. Once the child is born, the attachment the mother has to the baby is a direct reflection of all of the stress she endured to give birth.
When a student works hard, studies faithfully and is dedicated to their education, getting a college diploma is one of the greatest feelings in the world. In the case of a pregnant mother or a hard working student, the stress they go through to achieve positive results provides them with a new level of satisfaction and appreciation.
Positive stress will also make you look at life differently. Since the word stress is seen as negative, stressful situations are thought of as pitfalls and setbacks. Eustress turns those stressful situations into challenges instead of threats. This is why you get the feelings of excitement and joy from finishing a project at work, home or school.
No Pain No Gain
I want to make it clear that eustress isn’t the same as the satisfaction you get from receiving a gift. If you were part of a successful group project but you didn’t participate at all, that’s not eustress. The people in the group that worked hard and put in the effort are experiencing a different kind of satisfaction than the person who contributed nothing, but reaped rewards.
The benefits and positive feelings come from enduring the stress.
Downsides of Eustress
Notice that some of the activities that I told you cause eustress can also have negative results? Some mothers fall into depression after giving birth and some students can overwork themselves striving for excellent grades. Here are some tips that can help you avoid causing distress instead of eustress:
- Don’t overexert yourself
- Have a support system (family and friends)
- Make time for fun activities during stressful times
- Keep a positive attitude
Benefits of Eustress
We get several benefits from eustress. The great thing about it is that there are both immediate and long term effects associated with good stress. In the short term, you get an extra boost and motivation to keep pursuing an activity or goal. For example, when you’re watching a scary movie, you want to see what’s going to happen next. Even if you’re scared out of your mind, you want to keep watching to see the plot unfold and finish the movie.
In the long term, eustress gives life balance, makes you feel complete, gives you purpose, and provides a context for a lot of circumstances we go through daily. One of the biggest benefits of eustress is that the positive feelings it gives you will help minimize the chance of developing mental and physical issues that are often caused by distress.