What Is Eustress?

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What Is Eustress?

Not all stress is the same. Some of the stress that you face in life can be more detrimental to your well-being, and some types of stress can actually be healthy. One type of beneficial stress is known as eustress.

Eustress refers to stress that leads to a positive response. It is the opposite of distress and can refer to any type of beneficial stress, whether physical or psychological. It tends to be short-term and often feels exciting. People perceive this type of stress as manageable and even motivating.

Physically, eustress can often resemble distress in many ways. You might feel nervous; your heart might pound; your thoughts might race. The difference is how these physical sensations are perceived.

With distress, they may feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed. With eustress, you might feel excitement or a sense of anticipation.

Eustress can be beneficial and is actually necessary for overall well-being. This type of "positive" stress can contribute to feelings of optimism and excitement about life.

Examples of Eustress

Eustress is associated with positive outcomes. To understand this type of beneficial stress, it can be helpful to consider a few different examples of when it may occur. Unlike distress, eustress is typically associated with feelings of excitement and challenge rather than anxiety or fear.

  • Life changes: Major life transitions can create eustress. Examples of changes that can create this type of beneficial stress include starting a new job, being involved in a relationship, and parenting children.
  • Smaller challenges: The excitement of a roller-coaster ride, a scary movie, or a fun challenge are all examples of eustress. Even a particularly tough workout can be an example of this type of stress.
  • New experiences: Traveling can also create eustress. It can involve significant discomfort and unfamiliarity, but it also provides many discoveries. The anticipation of a first date, the first day at a new job, or other exciting firsts also fall under the umbrella of eustress.

In some instances, distress can transform into eustress. For example, a job loss or breakup might initially be upsetting, but it may be perceived as an opportunity for change and growth over time.

Impact of Eustress

Eustress is a type of stress that is actually important for us to have in our lives. Eustress can have a variety of positive effects. For instance, it may:

  • Help you concentrate and focus
  • Encourage you to take on new challenges
  • Motivate you to pursue your goals,
  • Help you feel more resilient in the face of challenges
  • Give meaning and purpose to your life
  • Help you to feel healthier and happier

A certain amount of stress can be beneficial when it comes to motivation and performance. In fact, the Yerkes-Dodson law suggests that optimal arousal levels (i.e., stress) contribute to improved performance, but only up to a certain point. And different tasks may benefit from different levels of stress and arousal.

Eustress is often thought of as a beneficial type of stress because it can positively impact your life. However, it's important to remember that eustress is still a type of stress. Because of this, eustress can become distress, or even chronic stress, if it becomes too intense or lasts for too long.

Identify and Respond to Eustress

To manage your stress levels, it is important to recognize the differences between eustress and other types of stress. This isn't always straightforward because they sometimes resemble each other.

Understanding eustress can help you more easily manage other types of stress as well. For example, research shows that when an event is perceived as a "threat," people respond to it differently than if it's seen as a "challenge."

Threats tend to elicit a greater stress response and create greater levels of anxiety, while challenges can be exciting and even enjoyable to overcome. Threats are scary, while challenges are opportunities to prove yourself and learn how much you can accomplish when you really try.

This understanding can help you evaluate many of the stressors in your life as challenges rather than threats. There are a number of strategies that can help you shift into seeing events as challenges rather than threats:

  • Use positive self-talk: This can be done by changing how you talk to yourself about these challenges. Make an effort to tell yourself that these are challenges you can cope with.
  • Focus on what you can control: It can also be helpful to focus on the resources that you have to handle these challenges. Focusing on what you can control rather than what might go wrong can help you feel more positive about the challenges you face.
  • Adjust your mindset: When you work on shifting your mindset and approach stress as a challenge whenever possible, you can manage these challenges with greater resilience.

Potential Pitfalls

Eustress doesn't generally carry the same type of damage as chronic stress. Chronic stress is persistent, long-lasting stress that is psychologically or emotionally draining. It is also the most harmful to your health and well-being.

However, too much eustress can still tax your system. You can feel overloaded and stressed by too much eustress if you're not allowing yourself to return to a relaxed state and have a healthy balance of restorative downtime.

Balance is essential. A certain amount of eustress can help you feel happier and boost your well-being, but too much might mean you are neglecting other important areas of your life, including self-care and relaxation.

Changing your perspective can certainly help with stress management, but it's not the only strategy that should be used. If you have too many challenges in your life, even eustress can become chronic stress and lead to burnout or worse. Some ways to deal with this include:

  • Being mindful of where your limitations are and work to maintain balance in your life.
  • Cutting out any unnecessary obligations (particularly ones that you don't enjoy).
  • Adopting some resilience-promoting habits that can help you to be less reactive to stress overall.
  • Becoming comfortable with saying no to new activities if they won't truly serve you.

This takes practice, but it can make all the difference in your stress levels.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between eustress and distress?

    Eustress is perceived as positive and beneficial, while distress is associated with negative outcomes. Eustress may help improve their focus and motivate people to take on new challenges, while distress can lead to anxiety, fear, and other negative emotions.

  • What is the meaning of eustress?

    The word "eustress" is derived from the Greek prefix "eu-," which means "good," and the word "stress." Together, eustress refers to a type of stress that is beneficial or helpful.

  • When is eustress bad?

    Eustress can turn to distress if it is intense or persists too long. For example, riding a roller coaster is often considered an enjoyable eustress-inducing activity. If you are not prepared for the experience or fear heights, this experience can quickly turn into distress. Additionally, eustress can become problematic if it leads to risky behaviors, such as doing something without following safety procedures.

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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.
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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.