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Good Stress, Bad Stress

13 September 2023

When was the last time you heard someone say, "I am so stressed today, isn't that great?" Probably never. However, you would soon become bored and disoriented if you did not have any stress. This doesn't mean that you should constantly keep yourself under mental pressure. Instead, it is important to understand that not all stress is bad, and there are two types of stress; good and bad.

Eustress vs. Distress

Your life fluctuates between good and bad stress with time. Let us look at the difference between the two.

Good Stress

Psychologists refer to good stress as eustress. This is the feeling you get when you are excited about something. You will notice your pulse rate increase, and your hormones will flow, but you will not have a negative feeling of fear or threat.

Good stress episodes don't usually last too long. You will experience the same fight-or-flight feeling you experience when stressed out, but it is accompanied by a desire and energy to achieve your goals. Since bad stress happens when you feel out of control, a good way to know that you are going through eustress is to determine if you feel you are in control of the situation.

A few examples of good stress or eustress include the following:

Traveling to a new place

A first date


Preparing for public speaking

New job

Buying a new house

Birth of a child

Bad Stress

Psychologists refer to bad stress as distress. It is not temporary and can be pretty draining and sometimes even chronic. There are two types of bad stress.

Acute stress is what people commonly refer to when they say they are stressed out. It triggers your body's responses, but positive feelings like excitement or happiness do not accompany these triggers. Acute stress doesn't put too much pressure on your body and often goes away as soon as the stressor is resolved. Most people experience acute stress several times a day.

If acute stress is not dealt with, it can develop into chronic stress. This type of stress occurs due to repeatedly facing stressors. It puts a lot of pressure on your mind and body, often making you feel trapped. For instance, people stuck in an unhealthy relationship, or working a stressful job, are more likely to develop chronic stress. This stress is what people commonly refer to as severe stress. If not treated properly, it can lead to a range of mental and physical health problems.

Some examples of distress include the following:

Ending a relationship

Neglect or abuse

Mental or physical health conditions that have not been addressed

Financial constraints

Illnesses of loved ones

Adding Good Stress To Life

It is possible to add good stress into your life. Most people do this by doing activities they enjoy and enjoying the activities they do. One of the best ways to add good stress to your life is to set goals on a daily basis. When you have an objective to complete, you will feel excited about getting there.

When you want to determine if an activity will be worth your time, you need to pay attention to how the activity and its result will make you feel. Will you feel excited or happy while doing the activity or when you achieve the result?

Another way to gauge the type of stress an activity will produce is to determine if it is something you want to do or have to do. If it is something you want to do, it is essential to make sure you really want to do whatever you do. If it is something you need to do, you will need to ensure it is necessary.

If there is something that you repeatedly do, such as going to work, it can eventually develop into a habit. Initially, these activities will cause distress, but over time, your mind and body will accept them, and you will begin to enjoy them.

When Good Stress Becomes Bad

If you repeatedly put yourself under stress, whether good or bad, it will consequently put a toll on your mental and physical health in the long run. This happens because your body responds similarly to whether you experience good or bad stress. Even good stress is likely to have an adverse effect if you are already going through chronic stress.

It is important to be aware of your mental state and be honest about when you have had enough. Indeed, you will never be able to eliminate all stresses, but managing your life and looking at the stressors from a bird's eye view can help you manage the stressors better.

Can Bad Stress Become Good?

Well, it depends. Every bad stress does not have the potential to become good. But, if you can change your perspective regarding the stressor, you will be able to control how the stressor is impacting your body.

Your body is designed to react to all perceived threats; the most common response is fight or flight. But if you can convince yourself that the perceived threat is not serious, your body will not go into panic mode, and you will be able to handle the situation better.

One way to do this is to assure yourself that the threat is not something dangerous but instead it is a challenge. You can tell yourself that the fear or threat you are going through is merely a feeling of anticipation and excitement. Here are a few ways to change your perspective:

Focus on the solutions and the resources you have available to take the challenge head-on

Look for the positive side of the situation, if possible

Recall your strengths and your values

Tips for Reducing Bad Stress

Truth be told! It is not always possible to be optimistic and have a positive mindset. Sometimes, stress will start to get the better of you. In this case, you will need to take some steps to make sure it doesn't cause harm to your mental and physical health.

Unfortunately, there is no instant cure for bad stress. But there are some steps you can take to minimize its consequences.

Watch Your Diet

Some foods are known to help combat the effects of anxiety and stress. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

Leafy vegetables like spinach, lettuce, kale, etc.

Fermented foods like yogurt

Lean meat

Fatty fish

Spices like curcumin, turmeric, and ginger

You can add more of these foods to your diet, which will help you maintain your composure and better prepare you to battle stress.

Watch Your Thoughts

When going through distress, you will often have negative thoughts. These thoughts will often make the situation appear worse than it is. The key here is to be aware of your thoughts and not let them get carried away.

Try to practice meditation and mindfulness exercises. During these sessions, you will need to be in the present moment and pay attention to your breathing and thoughts. Meditation allows you to pull yourself out of stressful situations and pay attention to yourself and your surroundings. When you have completed your meditation session, you can return to the problem with a refreshed mind and possibly a new perspective.

Watch Your Surroundings

Supportive friends and family members are a blessing, and you should always keep yourself surrounded by such people. During times of stress, the need for support becomes more important. Sometimes, it helps to vent your feelings and share them with others. Just by talking about how you feel and whatever is stressing you, the feelings of stress begin to go down.

If you are uncomfortable sharing your issues with a friend or family member, you should consider seeking medical assistance. You can talk to a mental health counselor or a psychologist, who will listen to your problems without being judgemental. Seeking therapy can prove to be a lifesaver during difficult times.

Watch Your Sleep

When a person goes through stress, they often experience trouble with sleep. Either they will sleep too much or stay awake most of the night. However, paying attention to your sleep quality and quantity is crucial.

Lack of sleep can affect your mental health, and it often causes further anxiety and stress. If you cannot get proper sleep, you can try meditation while in bed or counting back from one hundred. You may also remind yourself that no problem will get solved by staying awake, so you better sleep over it.

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Final Thoughts

Stress is always considered to be a negative emotion. Many people don't know that some type of stress is good for you. In fact, eustress is essential for our survival. It helps us achieve our goals, meet deadlines, and prevents us from being couch potatoes.

But not all stress is good. Too much exposure to stress can lead to mental and physical health problems. It is essential to learn how to manage bad stress and keep your emotions under control. Some methods of managing stress include being aware of your thoughts, eating a healthy diet, getting proper sleep, and surrounding yourself with supportive people.