Eustress (n.) – stress that is deemed healthful or giving one the feeling of fulfillment.
I’m sure you’ve heard of (and felt) distress before – in fact, Dictionary.com offers 12 different definitions compared to the single definition provided for its counterpart. Simply, distress is synonymous with what we perceive as negative stressors in our lives. From working too much to trying to fit everything we need to do into a day, stress is everywhere.
The difference between eustress and distress is in your perception of an event or scenario. The term distress holds a negative connotation and can make us feel burdened simply by hearing the word. Eustress, on the other hand, is a more positive type of stress that can actually improve our functioning and our mood.
Most of the stressors we experience on a day to day basis can be turned into this more positive type of stress simply by a change in our perspectives. While more serious events such as loss of a loved one will inevitably bring about a great deal of distress, viewing more minor events with a different lens can actually help add joy and fulfillment to our lives.
Some examples of eustress include:
- riding amusement park rides such as roller coasters
- strategy and time-sensitive games
- striving for goals
- meeting challenges
- getting married
- having children
Eustress involves viewing events as challenges rather than threats. Here at aSweatLife we talk a lot about running, so a perfect example of eustress is choosing to run a marathon (need tips?). Training for and running a marathon puts a lot of stress on the body both mentally and physically. How this differs from a negative stressor is that you are setting a goal and working to achieve it.
Working towards achieving a marathon goal keeps you motivated and accountable. It requires you to become more efficient with your time as longer runs start to fill up your calendar. You become more determined as you push through runs when you don’t feel like and it and more dedicated as you figure out everything from proper gear to fueling. The feeling you have after completing those 26.2 miles and crushing that goal is worth everything that you’ve put into it and the feeling of accomplishment is an enormous reward.
For me, keeping a regular exercise schedule and challenging myself to work towards higher weights and finishing workouts without dying keeps me motivated to stay healthy. I feel proud of myself as I continue to improve. I have also started on and set a goal to write and publish a book in the coming months. It is an exciting and challenging goal, but I am able to derive positive feelings from it because I know it is doable and something that I enjoy.
Generally, eustress is regarded as positive since it is short-term and within the scope of your abilities. If things start to pile up and you feel overloaded, eustress may tip the scale into the realm of distress. Going back to writing a book, if I don’t manage my time well and I set deadlines for myself that are outside reasonable limits, I will start to feel overworked, scattered and the project will no longer be enjoyable.
Events or actions that are considered eustress are usually separate from those that cause distress, but there can always be too much of a good thing. Take some time to examine how you are feeling and if something starts to feel distressing and drains your energy rather than adding to it, slow down. Reevaluate what you have going on in your life and see if anything can be rearranged to bring things back into balance.
Running a marathon and writing a book are only a couple examples of eustress. Think about what positive stressors you have in your life and how they can help you live a healthier life.