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6 eustress characteristics that make it positive

August 18, 2022 - 15 min read


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What is eustress?

6 characteristics of eustress

5 types of eustress

6 characteristics of work that cause eustress

How to increase eustress at work

How can you motivate your team using eustress?

How to deal with the eustress of being promoted

Bottom line: find the balance

Many Americans — 55% — experience stresses daily, according to the American Institute of Stress. 

Have you ever wondered if some of that stress benefits your well-being? 

You may feel like stress improves your work performance. If you find that stress motivates and excites you, you’re familiar with some eustress characteristics. Eustress is a positive type of stress that can benefit your mental health if you learn how to harness it.

Yes, there’s a good type of stress out there. But you can still make an effort to find relief from eustress, too. Eustress can still take a toll. Gain a solid understanding of this type of stress, along with some examples of eustress, how to increase it, and why it’s convenient in the workplace. Let’s begin.


What is eustress?

Eustress is a good form of stress that benefits your well-being, motivation levels, and performance. In the face of challenges or obstacles, eustress provides a rush of excitement, satisfaction, and confidence. 

In 1974, the distinction between distress and eustress — or bad and good stress — was made by Hans Selye. He found that not all stress responses were equal or impacted people the same way.

Selye noted the importance of acknowledging where stress comes from and whether it’s caused by negative stressors or positive change.

But remember, eustress is still a stress response. When people experience eustress, the amygdala still sends a signal that they’re facing a threat.

This prompts the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. While chronic stress has more harmful health effects, eustress often occurs on a short-term basis, like acute stress. Eustress is still a reaction to stressful events or threats, but the characteristics differ.

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6 characteristics of eustress

Chances are you’ve experienced eustress at some point in your life. But the notion of positive stress can be puzzling. 

To help you think more about how you experience stress, the following characteristics align with eustress:

  1. It motivates you to take action
  2. It occurs on a short-term basis
  3. Your energy levels are high
  4. It’s one of your coping abilities
  5. You feel a rush of excitement
  6. Your performance improves

5 types of eustress

Challenges and threats occur everywhere. So, naturally, you can experience eustress in many areas of your life. Eustress doesn’t fit in one box. There are different types of stress, including types of eustress. 

Here are five types of eustress to review:

1. Emotional: Eustress that stems from emotions deals with feelings of excitement, inspiration, and motivation. Think of that anticipatory moment before something important happens, like a graduation ceremony or a big sports game.

2. Physical: Eustress gets your body moving. In the face of a physical challenge, like trying to run a marathon or get through a workout, eustress has your back. It pushes you to continue, even when obstacles seem daunting.


3. Psychological: This is where you build self-efficacy and resilience. Your confidence begins to grow, and you feel like you can accomplish your goals. Psychological stress damages your well-being, but this type of eustress boosts your self-esteem when you succeed.

4. Professional: You can feel this kind of stress in the workplace when you start a new job or work on an exciting project. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is exhilarating when you’re prepared for the challenge.

5. Financial: Financial stress can be debilitating but also has the potential for positive effects. For instance, buying a house or a car or retiring are all beneficial types of stressors

Stress can pop up in any situation. BetterUp can help you learn some stress management skills to improve your well-being.

6 characteristics of work that cause eustress

Eustress doesn’t come out of thin air. Find out what aspects of work can prompt it. Think about when you encounter these characteristics in your own workplace — and how often. 

1. Having a variety of tasks

Doing the same routine in your daily life can get boring, and that’s especially the case at work. But when you have a variety of tasks to do, you’ll learn new skills and have more drive to complete your tasks. It keeps you learning, flexes your skills, and adds to your portfolio.

2. Feeling a sense of control

Have you ever felt annoyed when someone is standing over your shoulder as you work? Eustress comes out when you have more autonomy over how you’d like to accomplish your tasks. It lets you express your creativity and practice your decision-making skills. This also helps you learn how to be a better leader since you’re working independently.

3. Having a challenge at hand

When you’re faced with a challenge you can’t accomplish, it encourages bad stress. But being challenged in a way that motivates you to work harder is what eustress is all about. Have you heard of the flow state? When you’re doing a task challenging enough, it captivates your attention without discouraging you. It’s the sweet spot of a challenge.


4. Finding a sense of purpose

In life, you’re always looking for your sense of purpose. Your work could align with your purpose and values, so it’s important to search for those opportunities. It’s exciting to have a job that matches what you care about in life and inspires you to work harder.

5. Being able to grow

Never stunt your personal and professional growth by limiting yourself. Sometimes the opportunities to take risks and grow are stressful, but it’s a stressor that excites you. Growth opens up new opportunities for you and helps you on your way toward your dream job.

You can’t expect to level up unless you embrace a growth mindset.

6. Being an altruistic coworker

Altruism can cause eustress. You’re focused on helping others, even if you have to quicken your pace for your own deadlines and take time out of your schedule. It doesn’t matter where you fall on the seniority list because anyone can lend a helping hand.

Studies have also shown that altruistic behavior, including supporting peers and leaders, has a significantly positive impact on a workplace.

How to increase eustress at work

You’ll likely be eager to know how to turn stress into eustress in all areas of your life. Try beginning with an increase of eustress in the workplace. While some of these tips can help you increase eustress in stressful personal situations, our focus is on professional applications. 

Let’s review these seven ways to increase eustress at work:

  1. Focus on what part of a stressful situation is within your control
  2. Be realistic with your own deadlines and working hours
  3. Make an effort to have a healthy work-life balance
  4. Learn how to say “no” to extra work or new opportunities
  5. Find the meaning in your career and what its purpose is
  6. Set SMART goals to help you succeed and overcome challenges
  7. Be compassionate with yourself and practice positive self-talk


How can you motivate your team using eustress?

Workplaces that care about well-being also care about stress levels. Unfortunately, many employees can feel stressed on any given day. One report found that 40% of workers reported that their job was extremely stressful.

That same report found that 25% of workers say that jobs are the most significant source of stress in their entire lives. But that can change when managers know how to motivate their employees and boost their eustress levels.

As a manager, you can make a real impact on your employees. You can implement eustress strategies that promote company culture and motivates your employees. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Switch up team members’ routines, responsibilities, teams, and even where they sit in the office
  • Set up weekly challenges that include the entire staff 
  • Give them the freedom and control to do their work themselves but still offer support
  • Establish the purpose and meaning behind each project
  • Encourage collaborative work and the use of teamwork
  • Offer opportunities to grow and learn new things with workshops or seminars

How to deal with the eustress of being promoted

If you were promoted, congratulations! For some, the new challenge can cause negative stress and anxiety, but it can make you beam with pride — and eustress. But sometimes, all that positive stress is hard to manage. And, positive or not, you still need to find ways to manage stress.


Here are four tips to help you deal with the eustress you feel after being promoted:

  1. Focus your energy on things you can do in the present
  2. Acknowledge that this is a long-term change you can adjust to
  3. Take time to breathe, meditate, and relax yourself 
  4. Do your best with your tasks, but know that you’re still learning

Bottom line: find the balance

Studying eustress characteristics shows that it’s a positive form of stress. It might be weird to imagine wanting any stress in your life, but eustress has its benefits. 

But again, like with other types of stress, there’s such a thing as negative eustress. In excessive amounts, it can actually be harmful to us. It can make us overconfident or lead to overworking or even burnout. 

That’s why it’s important to find a healthy balance. Finding relief from eustress means practicing self-care and relaxation techniques. Talking about stressors with trusted friends or family members is also helpful.

Having that healthy balance is also good for your physical health since too many stress hormones can harm your body.

Finding balance is key in life. At BetterUp, we’re here to help you develop the skills you need to find a healthy balance between eustress levels and relaxation.

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Published August 18, 2022

Elizabeth Perry

Content Marketing Manager, ACC

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