no one want to force. Yet as much as we try to avoid it, some stress can be good for you. Really. “Some of our most meaningful experiences involve stress, whether it’s doing well at work or school, maintaining a relationship or raising children,” says Jeremy P. Jamieson, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. “When people reflect on times in their lives when they learned, grew significantly, or performed at exceptionally high levels, they often report those times as deeply stressful.”
How can something that feels so bad be so good? As it turns out, there are two types of stress, one that is positive and one that keeps you up at night. Here’s how to tell the difference, plus ways to make positive stress work for you in your life.
Stress is therefore misunderstood
According to the American Psychological Association, we are more stressed than ever. Inflation, pandemics, the war in Ukraine and more have conspired to drive our anxiety to new heights. But anxiety isn’t the same as stress, although the two share similar symptoms, Jamieson says. Both can make your heart race, voice crack, and palms sweat, but only one of them is a potential problem.
Stress comes from the outside, like landing your dream job (a good thing!) or suddenly finding out you’re about to relocate to a new city (terrible). In contrast, anxiety is anxiety that comes from within, often (but not always) triggered by stress. Like you can’t stop thinking about that argument you had with your best friend. Or panic about how you’ll find time to make dinner, help with homework, And Attend your child’s parent-teacher conferences on time.
Good stress vs. bad stress
We hear about negative stress all the time. Yet we rarely, if ever, hear about the positive kind. But psychologists know all about this. They even have a special name for it: Eustress.
“Positive stress can lead to psychological growth, help you develop new skills and abilities, and make your life bigger and more meaningful,” says Melanie Greenberg, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author. The stress-proof brain. “Taking on a challenge like running a half-marathon, for example, can be stressful, but it can increase your fitness and lead to skills and accomplishments.”
Often, eustress has an obvious upside, such as getting married, buying a new home, or having a baby. But at other times, the benefits may be less obvious, like going on a job interview or a blind date. Yes, they can be a little scary, but they can inspire you to take action, help you bond with others, and make you more resilient.
Most of the stress
If Eustress is so great, why don’t we hear about it more often? “The dominant cultural narrative is that stress is inherently negative and ‘bad for me,'” says Jamieson. “People often get stressed and then spend a lot of energy trying to get rid of or reduce the stress they’re feeling.”
But tapping into eustress isn’t about relieving stress. About what Jamieson calls “stress optimization”. Instead of trying to reduce stress, he recommends focusing on how you feel and react to stress. Instead of seeing stress as a negative to overcome or avoid, he encourages people to learn to accept difficult situations and life events as challenges.
So the next time your boss asks you to take on a tough new project and your blood pressure starts to rise, take a deep breath. Then consider all the good things that come from it, like new skills, networking opportunities, and opportunities to shine. After all, “no one can achieve new heights by staying in their comfort zone,” says Jamieson.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat your health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, changing your sleeping habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.