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When you think about the stressors in your life, where does your mind go?
Maybe your career? A certain relationship in your life? Or simply just your everyday schedule?
Stress is one thing that doesn’t discriminate when it comes to age, sex, religion, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. Even infants can experience stress in a way that has a negative impact on them later in life.
I think we can all agree that, as a society, we are stressed out–and this is having a negative impact on public health. According to the American Institute of Stress, 77% of people report stress having an impact on their physical health as well as their mental health.
This global problem can be caused by a variety of things, such as:
But when you think of the stress involved with these topics, you probably don’t consider that some of the stress you experience is beneficial.
It’s true, though. The stress you feel isn’t always a negative thing. We typically shorten the term to “stress” when referring to adverse situations, which makes us think all stress is bad. However, there is a difference between eustress and distress. Eustress refers to positive stress, which ignites a similar chemical response in your body that distress does, however, eustress feels motivating and exciting–not defeating and overwhelming.
Negative stress–or distress–happens when you’re overwhelmed because you don’t have enough physical, mental, or emotional energy or resources to handle the adversity you’re facing. Alternatively, eustress occurs when you have the necessary tools to overcome a situation, it will just take more energy than normal to do so.
So, in this article, we will define eustress and then look at 9 examples of eustress that you can use to grow as a person.
Let’s get started.
(Side note: One of the best ways to get what you want from life is to create and set SMART goals. To get started, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.)
What You Will Learn
What Is Eustress?
We already know that getting outside of your comfort zone is important for personal growth. It’s when you get so far outside of that zone when things get negative and overwhelming feelings start to take over because you recognize you don’t have the necessary resources to handle whatever situation you’re facing.
Studies have found that chronic stress accelerates biological aging through the process of oxidative damage. This damage accumulates over time and leads to the onset of age-related diseases. However, it has also been found that experiencing manageable levels of stress throughout life, or eustress, can enhance one’s resilience to the impacts of chronic stress and oxidative damage.
That space where you’re outside of your comfort zone–but still feel motivated to conquer a task–is exactly where eustress lies. This is where feelings of positive excitement, satisfaction, and fulfillment start to take place. Feeling eustress is good for you because it helps you feel confident and empowered by the challenge of the stressor you’re facing rather than defeated.
Think of how you start to feel focused and motivated when you’re working on a strict deadline. As that deadline gets closer, you feel a level of stress that allows you to get your work done in time to meet your deadline. So stress acts as a positive factor in your ultimate success.
There are three areas of life in which experiencing eustress can help you grow: physically (by getting you through a tough workout), psychologically (through building resilience), and emotionally (feeling inspired and motivated).
Now, it’s important to keep in mind that different people react in different ways to situations. However, we can generalize some examples of eustress that are usually seen as being positive to most people under most circumstances. Let’s take a look at some specific examples of eustress.
9 Eustress Examples of Good Stress in Your Life
1. Starting a New Job
Starting a new job can feel very stressful, as you’re excited to meet new people and learn new things, but in your first few weeks, you’re recognizing just how much you have to learn. However, the stress you feel in this situation has a few very specific characteristics that make it positive.
First, this stress is short-term. Every day you finish at your new job is another day that you’ve learned new things and become accustomed to your new position. You’re becoming increasingly confident in your role.
Secondly, this pressure motivates you to focus on the task at hand so you can perform well and impress your new co-workers. Lastly, because you were hired, your new responsibilities have been deemed as being inside your realm of capabilities, so you have the tools that you need to overcome the challenge in front of you.
2. Physical Exercise
If you can get into the mindset that your workout is a challenge rather than a threat, you will experience the positive benefits of eustress. Setting and working toward achievable workout goals is exciting and motivating, and it also requires you to train your body to work efficiently as you push through that last bit of exercise that seems near impossible.
Think about training for a marathon–your determination increases as you push your way through the long runs and your dedication becomes stronger as you work out the winning combination of sleep, fuel, and hydration to prepare for a successful run.
Plus, the rewarding feeling you get after finishing your goal and completing the marathon is worth all of the work that you have put into it.
The process of traveling is stressful no matter what, especially when you’re in a completely unfamiliar and faraway place where a different language is spoken and cultural customs are far from your everyday norm.
Navigating through airports around the world and connecting with international flights through unfamiliar customs is sure to cause stress, but after each successful step you take, you build confidence and get closer to the end result–which is sure to be worth the work.
Gaining new experiences through travel also helps you grow by expanding and shaping your worldview. So, while traveling is stressful, it is also an eye-opening opportunity that’s usually seen in a positive regard.
This transitional period in a relationship is new, exciting, and nerve-wracking all in one. As you silently hope to yourself that you’ve made the right decision while you part ways with your favorite table that has no place in your new, combined, abode–there are a lot of changes and challenges that you see coming your way.
As studies show, even desirable changes in a relationship status can cause a stress response. Many depend on their relationship with their partner to ensure their emotional needs are met, so there is a certain level of stress involved with maintaining that positive relationship and knowing one’s partner is equally as invested.
Let's face it: holidays are stressful. Trying to find that perfect gift for your loved ones, working with complicated family dynamics to make sure everyone gets special attention, and meeting the expectations of any children you may have is a tall order.
A huge increase in activities, from tight-knit family gatherings to department-wide “secret Santa” parties at work, these holiday occasions often lead to the excessive consumption of alcohol, rich foods, and spending–which can have impacts that last long after the holiday season is over.
However, the excitement and anticipation of finally getting everyone together and celebrating around the dinner table is rewarding after going through all the trouble that you did to actually get there. Plus, holiday stress is predictable. Unlike other types of stress, you know exactly when it will show up every year and just how long it’ll last, which can help you keep the negative aspects of this stress under control.
6. Buying a House
There's a lot of stress that goes along with buying a house– from the process of looking for the perfect one and putting in an offer, to waiting impatiently for a response from the seller. And once you determine a closing date, the paperwork, stress of packing up all of your things, and planning what you're going to do with your new place is certainly overwhelming.
But this stress is good because it's a temporary means to an end that will have a big impact on your everyday life. Whether you're upsizing because you're having a baby, you're moving closer to work, or you just need a change of scenery, buying a house is an exciting time and every step you take in the process motivates you to move closer to the day you sign those final papers.
7. Having a Child
This is a big one. Whether it's your first or your fourth, adding another child to your family is a huge life event. But the anticipated expenses that come along with it and the personal time you know you will be giving up are some factors that may feel a little nerve wracking–in addition to the fact that you have a human’s wellbeing in your hands.
The joys of having a child obviously outweigh these things or else people wouldn't be so inclined to procreate, but the pressure you face in the process is undeniable.
8. Moving Long Distances
In addition to the stressors we mentioned above with buying a new house, moving to a whole new city is a huge life change that requires an abundance of planning such as finding a new job, new doctors, new friends, and a new local hangout spot.
You have a whole new city to discover and it's all unfamiliar and exciting, but also stressful as you're leaving behind the familiarity of your everyday life. With a whole new life ahead of you, there's no doubt there is a positive end to these means, but until it's all said and done, you're definitely stepping outside of your comfort zone for a decent amount of time.
Letting go of that security of having a steady income is scary–but letting go of the stress that comes along with your career is probably not. As you head into retirement, there's a mixture of possible emotions, from the satisfaction of finishing a long career to the fear of entering the last stage of life, to the excitement of having the free time that you've worked your entire life to earn.
But finishing up those last few weeks of work is motivating as you're looking at the new adventures you want to tackle and the idea of finally spending more time with your family than you do with Bob from accounting. Retirement comes with a mixture of feelings and coping with this great life change certainly involves eustress.
[Cure some of the worries from retirement by reading these books that will help you prepare for retirement.]
Final Thoughts on Eustress Examples to Help You Grow
The common denominator that you've probably noticed in all of these examples is that they're major life events–which you probably also recognize as being associated with negative stress. And it's true– these examples aren't about feeling only positive and inspiring feelings.
The truth is, there's a mix, and you have to learn to channel your energy toward the GOOD stress you can feel from these situations rather than the bad.
You can turn distress into eustress–you just have to be able to recognize what eustress is and get into the mindset to focus on it. Not every challenge in your life is automatically going to benefit you– of course you're going to feel a negative stress when you go through a divorce or lose your job.
But when you feel overwhelmed and defeated, think about the next step that may be able to offer you a chance to grow. Turn these situations into meeting someone new or starting a job search. Believe you can overcome these things, and you will feel a sense of motivation. The threat of losing something has come and gone–and now you're on a hunt to get something you know you're capable of.
Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.
Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.