What's the differences between 'good' stress and 'bad' stress?

Stress is something that most of us experience daily. It is a prevalent factor in our everyday lives, and as time passes, most of us either learn ways to cope with it or fall victim to the lasting effects it can have on our health.

Since the early 20th century, stress has become a subject that many scientists and psychologists have researched thoroughly, developing numerous theories and studies in hopes of improving the way we live.

Learning how to effectively deal with stress can be essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and the first step is to examine the different forms in which it presents itself.


Types Of Stress

It’s important to note that stress comes in many forms and can be the result of different factors. In fact, stress is not necessarily bad. In many cases, stress can be positive and even motivating because it acts as an alert system that kicks into gear when we need to make a change.

The American Psychological Association recognises two types of stress: eustress and distress. While most of us have heard of distress and associate it with bad and overwhelming times in our lives, many people have yet to learn about the meaning of eustress.

Eustress comes from the Greek words eu, meaning "well" or "good", and stress, a noun meaning tension or pressure. Having that in mind, eustress is said to have a positive effect on a person's health.

This is the type of stress that is somewhat challenging yet manageable, and that presents a great opportunity for us to learn and experience personal growth. For example, if presented with a difficult exam or a paper, you feel slightly anxious yet inspired and ready to do your best. You are experiencing eustress.

To experience eustress means that when you receive your stressors (or bad events) and deal with them, your reactions should bring out the best in you instead of leading to anxiety, depression, and illness.

Having said that, stress frequently manifests itself in a less positive form, as distress. Distress is caused by a negative reaction to stressors or bad events that can be either short-term or long-term depending on the stress factor.

Long-term Distress And The Negative Ways That It Affects Us

Distress is often accompanied by feelings of hopelessness, despair, and general incapability to deal with a difficult situation.

While it may manifest as something that mainly affects your mood and mindset, it can also affect your body and physical health. Depression, anxiety, chronic stress, insomnia, and an increased risk of developing chronic illnesses are all related to long-term distress.

Researchers suggest that 90 percent of health-related problems are caused or have some connection to distress. Some research even shows that distress can change how our genes work, making us more susceptible to certain diseases.

Distress can also lead to the increased formation of free oxygen radicals. That is due to high respiratory oxygen intake and metabolic turnover and can be very harmful to a person's health. 

That said, it should also be noted that while distress can be harmful, eustress is rarely a bad influence on the body and sometimes it can even help our physical and mental health.

Eustress And Distress Are Different, Depending On The Person.

Eustress and distress are somewhat relative terms. For example, in some stressful situations, certain people might experience eustress while others may deem them overwhelming and feel distressed.

We should always keep in mind each person's individual experience. Often distress can turn into eustress by positive reinforcement or other prevalent factors and vice versa.

What Factors Lead To Eustress And Distress?

In many cases, if a person has most of their needs fulfilled and does not experience everyday stress, they are more likely to deal with a stressful situation in a positive manner.

As the saying goes, "hope for the best and prepare for the worst." When we're prepared, we're more likely to succeed.

Many people find themselves in challenging circumstances where they are ill-prepared and end up blaming themselves for everything instead of examining what initially caused them to be in this distress.

For instance, perhaps you lacked the time or knowledge necessary to do a task well. Perhaps you don't feel secure enough in your home or you don't have enough money to afford to live comfortably. This, and many more presumably small parts of a person's everyday life can be huge factors that lead to stress.

We should stay vigilant about these factors, be patient with ourselves and understanding of different people's situations.


Ways To Deal With Distress

You may become completely affected by stress, not just physically but also emotionally, internally, and in your relationships with others. At times like that, you should be careful and try to employ a positive attitude to get through the given situation. That's easier said than done. To even consider having a positive attitude, you should have the right environment to employ it.

Having the right environment means finding a safe space that allows you to ease from feelings of overwhelmed. You could find a place to eat peacefully, a space to reflect on your day, work in silence, meditate or simply relax for a while.

That said, if you're feeling overwhelmed and unable to deal with stress on your own, you should seek help from a professional.


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