What is Eustress? Eustress vs Distress : 5 tips for Positive Stress

May 17, 202410 min
A young women is feeling positive and know more about Eustress and tips for Positive Stress

What is Eustress? 

“Do not stress over it”, “Stress is not good for you” are some of the statements that all of us have heard at some point in our lives. While you may often hear warnings about the dangers of stress, it is also important to recognize that not all stress is harmful. In fact, some level of stress can be beneficial, serving as a motivator to accomplish tasks, meet deadlines, or overcome challenges. This positive form of stress, often referred to as "eustress," can enhance productivity, boost resilience, and promote personal growth.

In simpler words, eustress is positive stress (yes, stress can be positive), a kind of stress that pushes us to get better, to grow, and learn!

#5 Characteristics of Eustress

1.Focuses energy: When you are experiencing eustress, you are likely to be laser-focused on the task at hand. This can help you to be more productive and efficient.

2.Short-term: Eustress is typically short-lived. It's the kind of stress you might feel before a big presentation or competition, but it goes away once the challenge is over.

3.Manageable: Eustress feels like a challenge that you can overcome. You feel confident in your ability to cope with the demands of the situation and easily over come stress.

4.Enhances performance: A little bit of eustress can actually improve your performance. It can heighten your alertness and focus, and give you the energy you need to perform at your best.

5.Positive emotions: Eustress is often accompanied by positive emotions, such as excitement, anticipation, and determination. These emotions can help you to stay motivated and focused on your goals.

How does Eustress make you feel?

Eustress is like the spark that ignites a fire, driving you to take action and pursue your passions with enthusiasm and determination. Just as these metaphors illustrate, eustress empowers us to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and success. 

Examples of Eustress

Examples #1: Moving to a New City or a Country: 

Any major transition in our lives can feel overwhelming, and if it is something that you are looking forward to, the anticipation and excitement of exploring a new place can be energizing. Whether it is for studies, for a job, or a long-term project, with a valid fear of uncertainty, it can also serve as a learning experience. 

You might get to learn about a new culture, maybe become more flexible, and make new friends as you adapt to a new space!

Examples #2: Giving/Preparing for Performance

If you have a dance performance for example, you might find yourself anticipating how it is going to look like. However, the adrenaline rush of performing in front of an audience or even preparing for it, can be exhilarating and lead to a feeling of accomplishment. That in itself can feel rewarding and motivating enough to take more such opportunities!

Examples #3: Getting into a New Relationship 

Entering into a new relationship can serve as a source of eustress, offering excitement, anticipation, and emotional fulfillment. The thrill of getting to know someone new, coupled with shared experiences and deepening emotional connections, can create a positive buzz that energizes and motivates individuals. 

Moreover, navigating the dynamics of a new relationship often prompts personal growth and self-discovery, as you learn more about yourself, your values, and your boundaries. The support and companionship provided by a new partner also contribute to increased social support and a sense of belonging, buffering against the negative effects of stress. 

Overall, while embarking on a new relationship may involve some level of uncertainty and nervousness, which is natural, the benefits typically outweigh the challenges, resulting in a net positive impact on well-being and happiness.

new relationship is an example for eustress

Examples #4: New Job

A new job or your dream job can bring a sense of excitement, motivation, and opportunity for personal and professional growth. The anticipation of new challenges, responsibilities, and opportunities to learn and develop new skills can generate positive energy and enthusiasm. 

Additionally, the prospect of building new relationships with colleagues and mentors, as well as the potential for advancement and career progression, can contribute to feelings of fulfillment and satisfaction. 

While adjusting to a new role may involve some level of stress and uncertainty, the overall sense of purpose, accomplishment, and the potential for self-improvement make starting a new job a generally positive and rewarding experience.

Examples #5: Living Independently for the First Time: 

Living independently for the first time can foster a sense of empowerment, autonomy, and personal growth. The freedom and responsibility that come with managing your own living space, finances, and daily routines can be exhilarating and empowering, offering you the opportunity to make their own decisions and chart their own course in life.

Moreover, the challenges and learning experiences that accompany living independently such as budgeting, cooking, and maintaining a household, can promote resilience, self-reliance, and personal development. 

While there may be moments of uncertainty or adjustment, the newfound independence ultimately fosters a sense of pride, confidence, and fulfillment.

Examples #6: Becoming a parent! 

The anticipation of welcoming a new life into the world, coupled with the deep emotional bond formed with one's child, can create an unparalleled sense of happiness and contentment. 

The responsibilities of parenthood, while daunting at times, also offer opportunities for personal growth, selflessness, and unconditional love. The journey of nurturing and raising a child fosters a sense of connection, belonging, and legacy, enriching individuals' lives in ways they may never have imagined. 

Despite the inevitable challenges and sacrifices that come with parenthood, the overwhelming sense of pride, joy, and love experienced in watching one's child grow and thrive makes it a deeply rewarding and fulfilling experience!

These challenges push us out of our usual routines, helping us gain confidence and self-esteem by working with others in new ways. They also show how good we are at solving problems and make us less afraid of future problems.

Eustress vs Distress: Difference Between

Think of stress as a wave. Eustress is like a small wave that might give you a fun ride. Distress is like a giant wave that threatens to knock you over.Not all stress is created equal. Stress is simply your body's way of responding to a challenge.

It can be a good thing! Eustress, the positive kind of stress, gives you a little boost of energy and focus. It's like the exciting butterflies you feel before a big game – it helps you perform your best.

But watch out for distress, the negative stress. This kind of stress feels overwhelming and can zap your energy. It's like feeling stuck in traffic with a million errands to run – not a fun feeling!

Eustress and Distress can be classified as two types of stress! Here is a simplified version: 


Eustress (positive stress)

Distress (negative stress)

Definition

A motivating and challenging form of stress that can lead to growth and accomplishment.

A debilitating form of stress that can negatively impact your mood, health, and well-being.

Feeling

Energized, focused, and determined.


Overwhelmed, anxious, and frustrated.

Impact

Improves performance, increases alertness, and enhances creativity.


Decreases focus, weakens the immune system, and contributes to health problems.

Examples

Preparing for a big presentation, training for a race, or learning a new skill.

Work overload, financial problems, relationship issues.


Psychology of Eustress: 

From a psychological perspective, eustress is all about feeling challenged but capable. It's that sweet spot where the pressure you feel motivates you to rise to the occasion, rather than crumble under it. It's like having the perfect training partner who pushes you to your limits but never lets you get discouraged.

Eustress, that motivating energy we get from challenges, can sneakily turn into distress if we are not careful. Imagine you're training for a race. The initial excitement (eustress) pushes you to train harder. 

But if you keep piling on miles without rest or proper recovery, that excitement can turn to anxiety and exhaustion (distress). The key is finding the balance. Listen to your body, take breaks, and adjust your goals to keep the challenge stimulating, not overwhelming. 

A Positive stress digram explains eustress vs distress
Image credit: Positive Psychology

Benefits of Eustress

Even though eustress feels good and motivates you, it's still a form of stress with physical reactions like a racing heart and sweaty palms. The key difference is your excitement about the challenge. 

This positive stress actually helps you build resilience by overcoming obstacles and learning you can handle tough situations.  So, when new challenges arise, you are better equipped to face them and grow from the experience.

Eustress also teaches you the value of hard work and persistence in achieving goals, even stressful ones. It builds your confidence in your abilities and shows you what you can accomplish.

4 Causes of Eustress

The cause of eustress can be understood with the help of the relationship you share with your stress. We would all want a kind of stress that pushes us to do better and grow right? Identifying and understanding the cause of eustress can help us make changes in our lives that can help us transform stress or distress into eustress.

Here are 4 causes of Eustress: 

  1. Having a Growth Mindset:

 A growth mindset fosters eustress by cultivating a perspective that sees challenges as opportunities for growth rather than threats to our abilities. With a growth mindset comes embracing challenges with enthusiasm, and understanding that overcoming obstacles is essential for personal development.

For example, when confronted with a difficult task, someone with a growth mindset approaches it with a sense of curiosity and determination, excited by the chance to expand their skills and knowledge. By reframing challenges in this way, a growth mindset transforms potential sources of distress into motivators for growth and achievement, leading to a more positive and energized response to stressors.

  1. A Transition you are looking forward to! 

Here, you may be so focused on the change that you're about to experience and how exciting it is that eustress helps you adjust when the time comes.

  1. Temporary Changes: 

In temporary situations, you're presented with exciting challenges or opportunities for growth within a limited timeframe. Whether you are preparing for a short-term project, participating in a competitive event, or facing a time-limited personal challenge, the temporary nature of these situations heightens your anticipation and focus.

 Despite the inherent pressures, the positive anticipation and excitement associated with these temporary situations fuel feelings of exhilaration, fulfillment, and accomplishment upon completion.

  1. Supportive environment:

When you witness progress and thrive in a reinforcing environment with ample support, eustress can naturally arise. Each milestone reached becomes a source of excitement and anticipation for what's next. 

Moreover, being surrounded by a supportive environment where your efforts are acknowledged and encouraged fuels your determination and confidence.The positive reinforcement from peers, mentors, or colleagues acts as a catalyst for eustress, driving you to continuously strive for excellence and growth. 

In this nurturing atmosphere, challenges are viewed as opportunities for learning and development rather than obstacles, fostering a mindset of resilience and excitement for future accomplishments.

What are 5 ways to experience more positive stress in your life?

1.Focus on Solution and look out for the positives: 

Focusing on finding solutions and looking for the positives can turn stress into eustress by changing how you see challenges. When you focus on solutions, you're not just stuck worrying about the problem. Instead, you're actively trying to figure out how to fix it.

This makes you feel more in control and capable, which can reduce the stress you feel. Also, when you look for the positives in a situation, even a stressful one, it helps shift your mindset. You start seeing the potential benefits or opportunities that may come from overcoming the challenge.

2.Practicing Self Care:

Practicing self-care can turn stress into eustress by helping you feel better both physically and mentally. When you take care of yourself by doing things like exercising, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and doing activities you enjoy, it can reduce the negative effects of stress on your body and mind.

Self-care also gives you a chance to take a break from whatever is stressing you out, allowing you to recharge and come back feeling more refreshed and ready to tackle challenges. Plus, when you prioritize self-care, it shows that you value yourself and your well-being, which can boost your confidence and resilience.

team celebrate the small victories

3.Celebrate Progress: 

When you acknowledge and celebrate the small victories along the way, it helps break down a big challenge into smaller, more manageable parts. This makes the overall goal feel less overwhelming and more achievable.

4.Build supportive connections: 

When you have friends, family, or mentors who support and encourage you, it makes facing challenges feel less daunting. Supportive connections also give you a safe space to talk about your feelings and share your struggles, which can help you feel understood and validated. Plus, when you receive encouragement and advice from others, it can give you the motivation and perspective you need to keep going.

5.See it as a challenge! 

Turn your stress into a positive by making it a healthy challenge that you are excited to tackle. Approach it as an opportunity for growth and improvement. Embrace the challenge with enthusiasm and determination, knowing that it is something you are genuinely happy to be working toward. This shift in mindset can transform stress into a motivating force that fuels your progress and brings a sense of fulfillment as you overcome obstacles along the way.

When to Seek Help?

While some amount of stress is a part of every individual’s life, however, if you find yourself struggling to take steps toward your goals, targets, or expectations, because of fear, anxiety, or distress, it is a good idea to reach out for professional help so that they are able to assist and support you. 

Conclusion

The role of eustress in your life can be seen as seeing it as a buddy, a friend, or a partner. What does your closest friend want from you? They want you to thrive, to grow, to flourish!

While you might not always be able to control the negative stress you encounter, you may actively seek out opportunities to incorporate more positive stress, or eustress, into our lives.  The key is to understand the difference and find healthy ways to manage stress so it doesn't turn into a drag.

So befriend your stress when you can, with the tools and strategies discussed above and you will notice the positive changes it brings to your life and well-being. Eustress, we can be buddies too! 

References: 

Aschbacher K, O'Donovan A, Wolkowitz OM, Dhabhar FS, Su Y, Epel E. Good stress, bad stress, and oxidative stress: insights from anticipatory cortisol reactivity. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013 Sep;38(9):1698-708. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2013.02.004. Epub 2013 Mar 13. PMID: 23490070; PMCID: PMC4028159.

Li, Chun-Tung & Cao, Jiannong & Li, Tim M.H.. (2016). Eustress or distress: an empirical study of perceived stress in everyday college life. 1209-1217. 10.1145/2968219.2968309. 

Author's Profile picture
Mave
Clinical Psychologist