Stress Management Effects on Health When Stress Is Actually Good for You By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD Twitter Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. Learn about our editorial process Updated on June 28, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Amy Morin, LCSW Medically reviewed by Amy Morin, LCSW Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, the author of the bestselling book "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," and the host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Hill Street Studios/Blend Images / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Good Stress vs. Bad Stress Sources of Good Stress How Good Stress Can Become Bad How Bad Stress Can Become Good We rarely hear people say, "I'm really feeling stressed. Isn't that great?" But if we didn't have some stress in our lives—the "good stress" variety—we'd feel rudderless and unhappy. If we define stress as anything that alters our homeostasis, then good stress, in its many forms, is vital for a healthy life. Bad stress can even turn into good stress, and vice versa. Good Stress vs. Bad Stress "Good stress," or what psychologists refer to as "eustress," is the type of stress we feel when we are excited. Our pulse quickens and our hormones surge, but there is no threat or fear. We feel this type of stress when we ride a roller coaster, compete for a promotion, or go on a first date. There are many triggers for this good stress, and it keeps us feeling alive and excited about life. Another type of stress is acute stress. It comes from quick surprises that need a response. Acute stress triggers the body's stress response as well, but the triggers aren't always happy and exciting. This is what we normally think of as "stress" (or "bad stress"). Acute stress in itself doesn't take a heavy toll if we find ways to relax quickly. Once the stressor has been dealt with, we need to return our body to homeostasis, or its pre-stress state, to be healthy and happy. Chronic stress is another form of bad stress. It occurs when we repeatedly face stressors that take a heavy toll and feel inescapable. A stressful job or an unhappy home life can bring chronic stress. This is what we normally think of as serious stress. Because our bodies aren't designed for chronic stress, we can face negative health effects (both physical and emotional) if we experience chronic stress for an extended period of time. Press Play for Advice On Resilience Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, featuring legendary composer and talk show host John Tesh, shares how to motivate yourself when you're struggling, how to use visualization in a helpful way, and the one kind of list everyone should create for themselves. Click below to listen now. Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts Sources of Good Stress Yes, you can add good stress to your life! Ideally, you choose activities and set goals that make you feel good, happy, and excited. To gauge whether or not an activity is worth your time, pay attention to how the thought of it makes you feel. Do you feel excited? Is it a "want to," or a "have to"? Be sure your "want to" activities are all things you really do want to do, and your "have to" activities are all absolutely necessary. Streamline Musts and Wants to Create a Life Plan How Good Stress Can Become Bad Stress Good stress can become bad for you if you experience too much of it. (Adrenaline junkies know this firsthand.) This is because your stress response is triggered either way, and if you're adding that to chronic stress, or several other stressors, there is a cumulative effect. Be in tune with yourself and acknowledge when you've had too much. You may not be able to eliminate all stress, but there are often ways that you can minimize or avoid some of the stress in your life, and this can make it easier to handle the rest. If you can avoid the most taxing forms of stress, you'll have more resilience against other types of stress that are unavoidable. How Bad Stress Can Become Good Stress Not all forms of bad stress can become good stress, but it is possible to change your perception of some of the stressors in your life. This shift can change your experience of stress. The body reacts strongly to perceived threats. If you don't perceive something as a threat, there is generally no threat-based stress response. If you perceive something as a challenge instead, the fear you would normally experience may turn into excitement and anticipation, or at least resolve. You can often make the shift in perception by: Focusing on the resources you have to meet the challenge Seeing the potential benefits of a situation Reminding yourself of your strengths Having a positive mindset (getting into the habit of thinking like an optimist) As you practice looking at threats as challenges more often, it becomes more automatic, and you experience more good stress and less bad stress. A Word From Verywell Overall, it's important to have good stress in your life. Make an effort to cut out as much chronic stress as possible. Change your perception of stress where you can, and add positive activities to promote eustress. Together, these strategies help you create a healthy balance in your life. 1 Source Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. 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;38(9):1698-708. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2013.02.004 Additional Reading Gibbons C, Dempster M, Moutray M. Stress and eustress in nursing students. J Adv Nurs. 2008;61(3):282-90. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2007.04497.x. Glei DA, Goldman N, Chuang YL, Weinstein M. Do chronic stressors lead to physiological dysregulation? Testing the theory of allostatic load. Psychosom Med. 2007;69(8):769-76. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e318157cba6. Li G, He H. Hormesis, allostatic buffering capacity and physiological mechanism of physical activity: a new theoretic framework. Med Hypotheses. 2009;72(5):527-32. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2008.12.037. Logan JG, Barksdale DJ. Allostasis and allostatic load: expanding the discourse on stress and cardiovascular disease. J Clin Nurs. 2008;17(7B):201-8. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2702.2008.02347.x. White JB. Fail or flourish? Cognitive appraisal moderates the effect of solo status on performance. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2008;34(9):1171-84. doi:10.1177/0146167208318404. By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. 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