What’s the first thing that comes to mind when hearing the word “stress”? Maybe you think of your heavy workload, the loan you need to pay off, or familial problems. Oftentimes, stress is perceived as something negative but not all types of stress are bad. Eustress, or good stress, can produce positive outcomes and prompt you to have an optimistic outlook on life.
Everyone experiences bouts of stressful moments in their lives, which is beneficial for mental and physical health. As long as it’s not chronological, studies have shown that it can boost the immune system, improve memory and learning, and improve decision-making. Harvard Health also recognizes that positive stress can help develop resilience and is an advantageous skill to have.
Medline Plus describes stress as, “a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous.” This notion we’re familiar with is referred to as distress, or stress associated with negative feelings. In the long run, this type of stress can affect your wellbeing and lead to depression or anxiety.
To differentiate the two stressors, MentalHealth.net indicates eustress to have the following characteristics: serves as motivation, is short-term, used as a healthy coping mechanism, gives the feeling of excitement or anticipation, and improves mental and physical performance.
Researcher and endocrinologist Hans Selye coined the terms eustress and distress to point out that stress could be a good thing. The prefix “eu” stems from the Greek word that translates as good, and Oxford defines it as, “a moderate or normal psychological stress interpreted as being beneficial for the experiencer.” Some examples are planning for a vacation, working towards a promotion, pushing harder during workouts, or even the thrilling sensation of a rollercoaster ride.
The next time you’re feeling stressed, deliberate whether it’s the good or bad type. If it’s eustress, see how you can turn it into a positive experience.