Most people generally consider stress to be a bad thing—something that weighs on you when bills are piling up, friends are upset with you, or you have too much to do in a single day. But on the opposite side of the coin from bad stress, or “distress,” there’s a positive form called “eustress”—and it comes with a bounty of benefits.
The term is coined by endocrinologist Hans Selye. He defines Eustress as beneficial stress that can help an individual to grow and remain healthy. Selye states that our bodies are specifically designed to store energy and produce the required strength to deal with stress. For example, if you are facing a challenging task like giving a presentation, initially you might feel stressed. But once it’s done, you feel better. In fact, when you do your homework before facing a stressful situation, the entire process could be a rewarding one. The positive experience derived from finishing the task can boost your motivation, influence your creativity and can energise you.
We’ve all felt the drive to achieve something great. While that drive can be considered stressful, most wouldn’t see it as a bad thing. That’s eustress in action. Some forms of eustress are obvious, like starting a new job, getting married, or moving to a new city. In general, this type of stress is motivating and energizing, providing incentives to do well.
Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference between eustress and distress. Eustress tends to be a short-lived type of pressure, one that’s exciting and feels relatively easy to cope with. Distress, on the contrary, can last for any amount of time, and can make you feel like you don’t have the capacity to cope with it all. That kind of stress has the tendency to make you perform below your abilities, and can even cause physical problems.
So how do you bring more eustress to your life? Instead of perceiving a demanding project at work as negative, stop and remind yourself that stress can be good for you. When experiencing distress, we tend to focus on external factors with thoughts like, “My boss gave me an impossible project.” To transform your situation into eustress, try focusing internally with thoughts like: “I’ve got this! This project will be hard work, but I’m capable, and it’ll be rewarding.” It’s all about perspective!