Eustress vs. Distress (How to Benefit from the Different Kinds of Stress)

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Most people believe that all types of stress are bad. 

Sure, too much stress can have a negative long-term effect on your health and overall wellbeing. 

But sometimes stress can be a good thing.  In fact, when you regularly introduce positive types of stress in your life, then you will grow as a person.

That’s why it’s important to truly understand the kind of stress that you’re experiencing. There is eustress (which is often viewed as the good kind of stress) and there is distress (which is often viewed as the bad kind of stress.)

eustress vs distress

Too much stress can have a negative long-term effect on your health and overall well-being.  But sometimes, stress can be a good thing.

In this article, we will define both eustress and distress, and then talk about how to find the right balance of both in your life. 

Eustress vs Distress: What is Eustress?

Simply put:

  • Eustress is a positive form of stress that happens when you’re engaged in an activity that is both exciting and motivating.

With eustress, you still feel busy (and sometimes overwhelmed), but you also genuinely like the task that’s currently occupying your time. It’s the kind of pressure that gets you motivated to accomplish something or leads you to a fulfilling goal.

For instance, returning to college is a form of eustress because in the end it has helped you to make positive change in your life. (Even though you may feel some form of distress while you’re trying to get things done.)

11 Eustress Examples

To further elaborate on thus concept, here 11 eustress examples:

  1. Getting a promotion at your job
  2. Proposing to your girlfriend (i.e. buying the ring, planning the actual proposal, and then “popping the question")
  3. Buying a new home
  4. Planning a big event or party
  5. Starting an online business
  6. Organizing a fun vacation
  7. Crossing an item off your bucket list
  8. Having a child
  9. Retiring from your job
  10. Learning a brand-new skill
  11. Training for a challenging athletic event (like an obstacle race or marathon)
eustress vs distress: understanding the different types of stress

A great example of eustress or good stress is having a child.

What it boils down to is that when feel stressed because you are embracing or seeking change or an opportunity, then it is generally considered good.

Or the other hand, if your stress is just due to hopeless worry, frustration or it completely stymies you from taking any action or making any permanent (positive) changes; then you are probably damaging your mental and physical well-being because you’re introducing distress into your life.

So let’s talk about that next…

What is Distress?

When a person experiences distress in their life it can be paralyzing. Distress is always punctuated by a fear of the unknown and a lack of faith in the principle that life has something good to offer you.

Regardless of what you have mentally conditioned yourself to believe, your future and ‘destiny’ in this world is to be successful, happy and to live in a certain state of abundance that makes you feel fulfilled.

Distress occurs when you live under the cloud of believing the opposite, that you are doomed, stuck in your tracks and that the road ahead will only offer more of the same frustration you feel right now.

Examples of distress include:

  • Experiencing conflict in your romantic relationship
  • Experiencing conflict in one (or many) of your interpersonal relationships
  • Losing touch with important friends and family members
  • Going through a difficult health channel
  • Dealing with the death of a spouse or close family member
  • Getting sick or injured
  • Facing a hard financial challenge or even a bankruptcy
  • Not sleeping at night
  • Hating your job
Distress vs eustress

Not having enough sleep at night is an example of distress or bad stress.

Bottom line: When you experience distress, you are constantly under pressure and often feel unhealthy. Moreover, you’re always filled with anxiety about everything that could go wrong.

Moving from Distress to Eustress

The problem with distress is that few people take any action. When you turn your distress into eustress you are motivated to take the bull by the horns and work furtively towards your goal.

One of the most positive aspects of eustress is that it forces you to live out of your comfort zone.

For instance, you may want to make new connections in your life. You can stress about your loneliness, inability to find a suitable partner and remain stagnant or you can use this stress to push you out of your comfort zone.

Rather than spending Friday night alone, you venture out in an attempt to meet new people. You may feel nervous or out of your element, but your eustress has you taking a proactive action on your own behalf.

If you get stuck with how to remove distress from your life, then I recommend reading this article on 19 ways to relieve stress or even check out one of the books that we recommend on this page

You can move from distress to eustress by taking action.  When you turn your distress into eustress you are motivated to work towards your goal.

How to Add More “Eustress Activities" to Your Life

Pushing your boundaries is one of the fundamental ways to add more positive eustress to your life. When we get too comfortable in any area of our lives our inertia lags and we stop seeking out new opportunities, new people, new ideas, or taking any risks. Then we complain about how boring life has become.

Millions of people complain about their inability to make ends meet or the beat up car that they are driving. Others are constantly unhappy about their job situation regretting their choices and resenting their boss. Still others may dream of living at the beach and feel that life has let them down.

You can step out of your cozy little box of discontent and decide that now is the time to utilize your skills and your dreams to implement change. This takes courage and as you expand your comfort zone to include new activities, new people and new opportunities it is acceptable to feel stress; however the difference is that this stress (eustress) leads to something new.

So if you look at the list of both the eustress and distress examples, then you could add more positive change to your life by:

  • Joining a local Meetup to form new relationships.
  • Reconnecting with an old friend or family member.
  • Learning a new skill (we have a list of 101 to choose from.)
  • Organizing a fun vacation with your family.
  • Starting a new business or online venture.
  • Improving your communication skills, so you experience less conflict at home or work.
  • Improving your money habits.
  • Improving your health habits.
  • Joining a support group if you’re dealing with an uncontrollable health or personal issue.
  • Finding a new job if you hate the one that you have.
  • Training for that challenging athletic event.
eustress examples

Pushing your boundaries is one of the fundamental ways to add more positive eustress to your life.

Final Thoughts on Eustress and Distress

I’d like to end with a simple mathematical formula:

You + Eustress = Abundance

The mathematical way to change your life in a positive way is to reduce as much of the negative forms of stress and proactively introduce the good forms of stress. 

The alternative equation is one of subtraction.

Including more eustress in your life is easier than you think. Each time you notice yourself feeling stuck or distressed; ask yourself what changes you can make right now to make this stress work for you. Sure you might fail or make mistakes, but these are the things that help you grow as a person.

In many ways, the things that worry us the most and cause us the most unhappiness can cause the most change. You just have to take your bad stressors in your life, find ways to make them go away and commit to only having ‘eustress’ in your life.

Please share your thoughts on eustress vs distress, how to get more eustress and how to turn bad distress into eustress in the comments section below. 

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