It is stress that got us where we are all today because it alerts us to potential dangers. However, not all stress is negative. Therefore, it is important to know two different types.
What is eustress and distress? The differences between them are related to their physiological correlates. Moreover, you might be surprised to learn that stress isn’t always bad.
In our daily life, we often use the term stress to describe negative situations. This leads many people to believe that all stress is bad – which is not true. In fact, stress is simply the body’s response to changes that are made by the testing requirements.
Dr. Richard has suggested that there is a difference between eustress, which is the term for positive stress, and distress, which refers to negative stress. We all experience some kind of stress during our lives. However, there are two distinct categories: eustress and distress. In this article, we will explain what each of them consists of and how it affects your health.
Stress is the body’s physiological response to stressors that create onerous demands and throw you off balance. The stressor can be a change, a threat, or a perceived pressure.
Stress is essential for survival. Many thousands of years ago, people needed stress reactions to survive and fight threats. The context is different these days, but stress still does its job.
The fight-or-flight response speeds up the heartbeat, blood pressure, and breathing rate, slows digestion, and increases blood sugar levels to provide energy to the muscles and focus the mind. Today, however, most of the types of stress you experience come from you. Usually these are mental tensions and rumors. For example, when you see a threat such as an upcoming exam or excessive demands at work, you start to feel stressed.
Eustress is a relatively new concept that describes the type of stress that is positive, helpful, and motivating. Contrary to distress, eustress motivates you to work, improve your results and achieve your goals, even when faced with challenges.
Both stress and distress activate the fight-or-flight response in your body and brain. The difference is that in eustress, the generated energy is proportional to that required by the situation. On the other hand, in the case of distress, the release of energy occurs in a more random manner.
Whether you experience distress or eustress in a given situation depends mainly on how you view yourself and the stressor.
When you feel confident that you can overcome the stressor, you are more likely to experience positive stress. This positive evaluation of the stress factor helps channel the energy provided by the fight or flight response in a way that will help you find a solution.
Several ways to create eustress
Trying something new, such as a hobby or being active with new people.
- Participation in physical activities.
- Taking up a new study, such as a language or work-related course.
- Setting ambitious but realistic goals.
- Taking on a new responsibility at work.
- Independent organization of social activity.
However, while eustress is beneficial, it can turn into stress when the situation becomes too overwhelming or when other stressors occur at the same time. If this happens, it is advisable to use stress management techniques.
Distress describes the type of negative stress that you associate with feeling “stressed out.” This type of reaction can make you feel overwhelmed, restless, and experience physical and mental symptoms such as headaches, tension, insomnia, inattention, or irritability.
Frequent, intense, or chronic stress is toxic to both the body and the brain. It is associated with a series of physical diseases and mental disorders. It also affects your functional fitness.
The difference between stress and distress is related to the stressors that trigger your reaction and how you rate them. Distress occurs when you assume that stressors are not under your control and that you have no way of fixing or changing the situation.
When you experience distress, you feel overwhelmed and helpless. This is because you haven’t found a viable solution and you tend to worry and manifest other unproductive reactions all the time. Some of the most common sources of suffering include:
- Lack of money.
- Dissatisfaction with work.
- Political climate.
- The future of the economy.
- Violence or Crime.
- Overload of technological media.
- Disease or physical health.
- Conflicts in social relationships or loneliness.
- Problems with sleeping.
- Poor or unsatisfactory nutrition.
- Constant moving.
The impact of distress
Distress often negatively affects your mood, health, and function. When stress is chronic and relapsing, elevated cortisol levels can lead to a wide variety of physical and mental illnesses and problems. For example:
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
- Physical pain or discomfort (e.g. headache, stomach problems).
- Changes in appetite.
- Increased heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure.
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering things.
- Feeling nervous or anxious.
- Feeling exhausted frequently.
- Repetitive intrusive thoughts.
- No sense of presence or involvement in activities and tasks.
- Irritability or lower frustration tolerance.
- Increased anxiety.
The longer the distress lasts, the more severe the side effects become. Long-term exposure to negative stress causes:
- Impaired functioning in one or more areas of life.
- Increased risk of mental illness such as anxiety and depression.
- Taking painkillers and anxiolytics in a chronic manner.
- Increased risk of drug use disorders.
- Higher risk of chronic disease, heart disease, and cancer.
- Increased mortality.
Most of us feel anxious to respond to certain situations that are annoying or overwhelming, making total prevention an unrealistic goal. However, you can protect yourself from the negative effects of stress when it becomes inevitable by using strategies that turn it into eustress.