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These 11 examples of eustress will prove not all stress is bad

August 26, 2022 - 14 min read

group-of-young-teenage-smiling-examples-of-eustress

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What does eustress mean?

Is eustress good or bad stress?

How does eustress work?

The relationship between eustress and flow

11 examples of eustress

Eustress vs. distress

How eustress and passion are connected

The bottom line

You know how stress works. Maybe you have a task list a mile long, work on multiple high-profile projects, or struggle to motivate a team of employees. 

It’s enough to make your heart race. And if you feel overwhelmed for extended periods of time, it can be damaging to your physical health.

But contrary to popular belief, not all stress is bad. And when stress is good, it can improve your motivation, increase your wellness, and boost your overall performance.

When this happens, it’s called eustress. And it’s like having your own superpower.

Thanks to millions of years of human evolution, your body can activate when you need it most. It recognizes a challenge and helps you rise up to the task.

If you’re not convinced, take a look at these examples of eustress. They can help you decide whether you have positive or negative stress to make changes for the better.

 

What does eustress mean?

Eustress is a natural phenomenon that stems from your natural fight or flight response

When you see or experience something stressful, your brain pumps hormones through your body to respond urgently. 

At some point in history, this was necessary to avoid harm from predators. It’s why stress hormones like epinephrine/adrenaline and cortisol increase our heart rate, constrict our blood vessels, and raise our blood sugar for more energy. It allows us to quickly run away from a threat or pump us up to fight.

Every type of stress evolved from this response to danger. The problem is, these days, our brains have trouble discerning between different types of stressors. We confuse abstract threats with literal life-or-death situations. This is why your weekly directors’ meeting feels as threatening as a standoff with a bear.

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Is eustress good or bad stress?

Eustress takes advantage of your natural stress response to boost your performance. It does this by releasing those energizing hormones in small doses for short periods. This heightens your abilities temporarily while avoiding the long-term negative effects of stress.

In other words, eustress is actually good stress. Here are some of its positive effects:

  • Makes you more proactive
  • Helps you be more productive
  • Encourages you to be creative
  • Makes work more thrilling
  • Trains your resilience
  • Increases your energy
  • Encourages positive feelings about your work
  • Makes you confident in your self-efficacy

Turn your stress into eustress with the help of BetterUp. Our coaches can help you ease your worries, improve your stress management, and step out of your comfort zone.

How does eustress work?

Eustress usually occurs in three steps:

Step 1: Confront the challenge. This is the event that instigates your eustress response. It’s difficult, but not overly so. Your neuroendocrine system releases the necessary hormones so you can overcome this challenge.

Step 2: Work hard to succeed. Instead of being disheartened, you’re confident that you can conquer the problem. This invigorates you to work hard. 

Step 3: Profit. Having achieved your goal, you feel accomplished, your skills and aptitudes validated. Your body returns to normal hormone levels, leaving a “buzz” of satisfaction.

The relationship between eustress and flow

Psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, a seminal figure in the world of positive psychology, was the first to identify and research the phenomenon of flow

A flow state occurs when an engaging, enjoyable task consumes you. You’re concentrating only on the task at hand, to the point of losing track of time. Eustress helps improve your concentration by improving your focus. 

Eustress shares many qualities with the flow. They both involve:

  • A sufficiently difficult challenge, but not so difficult it’s discouraging 
  • Enjoyable tasks
  • An engaged right frontal cortex
  • Intense concentration
  • A lost sense of time

businessmen-using-laptop-at-desk-examples-of-eustress

Flow is impossible to achieve in a state of distress. When you’re overwhelmed, your confidence falters, you lose faith in your abilities, and you’ll have difficulty concentrating.

That’s why it’s important to be selective about your goals. Look for projects that push you close to the limit but not above it. Eustress and flow occur when you’re right at that edge, not over it. 

11 examples of eustress

Here are some scenarios that can introduce eustress in your daily life.

1. New work projects. When you volunteer for a new project at work, you’ll likely experience eustress. It’s a chance to show off, sharpen, or develop new skills. When it’s the right fit, this can be a thrilling experience.

2. Personal fitness goals. Maybe you’re trying to run a faster mile, finish a half-marathon, or lift more than you’ve ever lifted. Eustress can help you push your limits to meet your goals.

3. Scary movies. Scary movies are a rollercoaster of stress and emotions. The jolt of fear followed by a sense of relief is a shock to your stress system, resulting in an instant reward. Plus, if you’re on edge the whole movie, you’ll feel satisfied that you made it to the end.

4. Public speaking. You’re probably familiar with those pre-presentation jitters. That anxiety quickly becomes eustress once you step in front of your audience when you’re properly prepared. There’s nothing left to do but perform. This will leave you feeling satisfied in the end.

5. A first date. After choosing what to wear, you probably leave the house with butterflies in your stomach for a first date. But once you settle in, you can enjoy the eustress that comes from meeting someone new.

6. Buying a new house. Purchasing a home is both exciting and nerve-wracking. The mortgage application, the house search, the bidding process, the financial stress — it’s a lot of work. But once you move in, you’ll be satisfied with your new home.

7. Travel. Visiting a new country can be stressful. This is especially true when it’s an unfamiliar culture and language. But once you’re there, the eustress will take over, and you’ll learn something about yourself.

womans-hands-holding-passports-boarding-passes-examples-of-eustress

8. Attending large networking events. If you’re a shy person, attending a large professional conference can be scary. Who will you talk to? Will conversations flow easily? The eustress will help you navigate these interpersonal relationships.

9. Starting fresh. Major life transitions can cause eustress. If you just quit your job, ended a long-term relationship, or moved to a new city, your survival instincts will kick in to help you. This will help you build the life you want.

10. Opening your own business. Risk is essential to the entrepreneurial spirit. This can lead to eustress, which will help you put in the work to succeed. 

11. Starting a new job. You might be nervous on your first day but also excited. A new team, environment, and challenge — exactly the conditions necessary for eustress.

Eustress is effective because it gives you only what you need to stay motivated. Short-term, this helps you overcome temporary problems at work or in your personal life. Long-term, it can motivate you to learn new skills, reach your goals, and get over rejection. These characteristics make eustress low-risk for your physical and mental well-being.

Eustress vs. distress

If you compare and contrast eustress with distress, you’ll see how the latter is more harmful than the former.

Distress occurs when your stressors are overwhelming. Common sources of distress include: 

  • When there’s too much on your plate at work
  • You don’t have the skills to complete a project 
  • The loss of a family member or loved one

man-with-head-in-his-hands-sitting-on-park-examples-of-eustress

These can hurt your motivation, performance, and mental health. And other kinds of stress can be harmful. Chronic stress, for example, involves the continuous release of stress hormones — something your body can’t handle. Without proper stress relief, this can lead to sleep problems, a lowered immune system, heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, and burnout.

Acute stress is also an example of stressors gone awry. It usually occurs when you witness or experience a traumatic or overly stressful event. The rush of adrenaline might have helped you at the moment. But, when the situation is over, it can leave you with acute stress disorder or PTSD.

How eustress and passion are connected

Eustress and passion are deeply intertwined. When you’re invested in the outcome of an event, you’re more likely to feel that rush of stress hormones. For example: 

  • If you’re on a first date, you want to make a good impression 
  • When you make a speech, you hope to change minds
  • When you take on a project, you want it to have an impact

woman-addressing-colleagues-during-business-meeting-examples-of-eustress

If you don’t care about the outcome, you’re less likely to feel stressed. But this also means you’re less likely to find meaning or satisfaction in your work and life. Feeling afraid means that you care, and that’s a beautiful thing. 

It’s important to set clear goals and work toward them to naturally achieve eustress and find happiness.

The bottom line

Are you convinced yet? These examples of eustress are proof that not all stress is bad. In fact, positive stress could be what you need to find more thrills in your life.

Eustress is all about riding the edge of adrenaline and motivation. Too much can be harmful to your health. But, with the right dose, you can overcome life’s significant hurdles.

BetterUp can help you manage the impact of stress. Our coaches are here to increase your adaptability, manage your stress levels, and cheer you on while you crush your goals.

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Published August 26, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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