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Eustress vs Distress: What’s the Difference?

When we think of stress, we usually think of something bad that we wish would leave us alone. Three-quarters of Americans report suffering from moderate to high levels of stress and almost half of them report that it has increased over the last year.

Well, what if we were to tell you that there are two different types of stressors and that one can affect you positively? In this article, we’ll look at eustress vs distress to help you distinguish between the two.

Eustress vs Distress

It can be difficult to pigeon-hole different stressful situations into good and bad because everyone has their ways of reacting to different situations. However, it is easy to separate the key differences in how good stress and bad stress effects you.

What Is Eustress?

Eustress is a term used to describe positive stress. Positive stress is an essential part of our development as human beings. It can be responsible for driving our production levels and it plays a huge role in our cognitive development.

The main characteristics associated with eustress are:

  • It motivates you
  • It helps you to focus your energy
  • It’s short-term
  • It feels as if it’s within our coping abilities
  • It feels exciting
  • It can improve our performance

Think about coming face-to-face with work deadlines or deciding to try out a new activity. Eustress is the kind of stress we feel when we decide to better ourselves.

Trying Something New

Imagine deciding to take up a martial art. If you’ve never set foot in a martial arts class before, then you’re likely to be full of worries.

Will I get hurt? Will I embarrass myself? What if I’m useless at it and can’t get better?

All of those worries are normal. They act as a kind of test for us.

By being able to identify that these are common anxieties associated with trying new things, we quickly learn that deep down, we’re just excited. In stepping out of our comfort zones, we open ourselves up to growth.

When you walk into that martial arts class, all that eustress will keep you focused throughout. And once the class is done, you’ll realize that you had a great time and you feel like you’ve achieved something. You’ve leveled up!

Other examples of eustress include:

  • Starting a new job
  • Deciding to marry
  • Having a child
  • Buying your first home
  • Investing
  • Retiring

The one common theme to all of these examples is that they all involve stepping out into the unknown. But this is where the magic happens. When we learn new things, we improve our overall cognitive function, not to mention the improved sense of well-being and confidence.

Facing Deadlines

Deadlines are slightly different. You know what has to happen, and you know when it has to happen.

This kind of eustress isn’t trying to motivate you to step into the unknown. Instead, it’s motivating you to focus and increase your productivity.

The stress of a deadline might make you feel anxious at times, but that same nervous energy is what drives you to get the task done. If you feel nervous about the quality of a presentation, then it is that nervousness that motivates you to create a good quality presentation!

At times, eustress can feel a lot like distress, but it’s important to realize that those feelings are what drive us to take the steps we need to forward. There’s an old quote: “If you have the option of walking through one of two doors, always choose the one that scares you the most.”

What About Distress?

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then distress might be too! Distress is characterized as negative stress. It can:

  • Cause anxiety or concern
  • Feel unpleasant
  • Seem outside of our coping abilities
  • Decrease our ability to perform
  • Develop into mental and physical problems

As mentioned earlier, situations can affect people differently, but common causes of distress include:

  • The loss of a loved one
  • Hospitalization of oneself or a family member
  • Being abused or neglected
  • A breakdown in relationships
  • Financial problems
  • Losing your job

In all of these examples, it can feel as if no matter how hard you try, there is no escape from the stress. It feels as if the problems we face beyond our ability to cope.

Prolonged distress can lead to further mental problems, such as anxiety and depression. However hard it might seem, there is always a little eustress in distress.

Facing something difficult is distressing, but within it is a similar undertone to eustress. They both require adapting to change.

When you lose a loved one, a lot of the anxiety comes from facing life without someone who was a huge part of your life. When you lose your job, your concerns are with survival.

As human beings, we are designed to adapt, and the differences between eustress and distress can often be decided in the frame of our mind. If you lose your job, your worries about finances can either become depressing or they can drive you to find a new job so that you don’t have to face financial difficulties for long. Many distressing situations can also be viewed as opportunities.

 

How to Cope With Stress

Whether it is distress or eustress, you’re going to feel uncomfortable. Learning what to do when you’re under stress is key to coming out on top.

Regular exercise and a good support network can help reduce stress levels and fight off anxiety and depression. Supplements such as CBD for anxiety can help keep the mind calm in stressful times.

Both distress and eustress will find us all, so its important to have well-practiced coping mechanisms at hand for when they do.

Turn Distress Into Eustress

Now that you know the differences between eustress vs distress, you hopefully understand the similarities too!

Being able to stay calm and breathe deeply can be difficult at times. Knowing that stress can often be brought upon when facing a chance can increase our abilities to adapt and move forward.
Never be afraid to seek help and advice if you feel under pressure. Talking is often the best cure for stress.

If you found this article interesting, then be sure to take a look at the rest of our page for lifestyle tips.

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