Positive stress or eustress is when you perceive a stressful situation as an opportunity that will lead to a good outcome. Also called "good stress," this positive expectation is in contrast to negative stress or distress, which occurs when you perceive a stressor as a threat that will have a poor outcome.
People are sometimes surprised to learn that not all stress is bad for you. In fact, some stress is good for you. The concepts of eustress and distress have long been used to distinguish a positive versus a negative response to stress. The way a person responds to a stressful situation determines if they will experience eustress or distress.
What Is Positive Stress vs. Negative Stress?
A positive response to a stressor can motivate you to deal with a challenge or accomplish a task. It helps you face what you have to face or fix what you have to fix. In the end, eustress can lead you to feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment, well-being and wholeness.
This postive stress definition can be compared to the definition of negative stress. When you have a negative perception about a stressor, your response may be to feel overwhelmed or experience increased feelings of anxiety. You may also experience fear or despair. Exposure to negative stressors can lead to chronic stress, as well as conditions like anxiety, depression, and/or physical illnesses.
Positive Stress Examples
Examples of situations that may involve eustress or positive stress are listed below. Of course, these situations could lead to eustress for some people and distress for others. Not everyone reacts to similar stressors in a similar way.
- A desired physical activity such as weight training
- Competing in a sports competition for which you have trained
- Excitement of falling in love
- Going through labor and delivering a baby
- Planning a positive personal event, such as a vacation or wedding
- Working toward challenging goals at work
Key Elements of Positive Stress
When you first encounter a stressor, both eustress and distress may occur at the same time. The belief that a stressor is likely to lead to a positive outcome is likely to result in stress being viewed as a positive factor rather than a negative one. Other factors that increase the odds that a person will respond positively to a stressful situation include:
How to Make Positive Stress Work for You
Positive stress can help you accomplish important tasks and assist you in working through rewarding challenges, but it's still important to be proactive in managing the stress you experience, even positive stress.
Develop a Mantra
Creating a mantra for yourself during busy times can help you stay positive and enforce your belief in yourself. Mantras can be simple such as, "I can do this," or "I've got this covered." Once you have your mantra:
- Continue to enforce it by setting a reminder on your phone so your mantra pops up once a day.
- Take a few moments to do a breathing exercise while holding your mantra in your mind.
- Repeat your mantra to yourself before going to bed.
Strengthening your belief in yourself can energize you to complete a task and work through more complicated projects or errands without becoming overwhelmed.
Getting and staying organized can prevent you from becoming overwhelmed and from making mistakes that would otherwise cause more work. This can help keep your positive stress from becoming negative.
- Back up your work, or make copies of important documents to avoid data loss.
- If you have a complex project, come up with a good organizational system.
- Make a list of tasks and number them by their level of importance or urgency.
Know when to take breaks and give yourself a moment to relax. Having a balanced perspective can help keep your stress from becoming overwhelming.
- Be sure to eat healthy snacks and drink plenty of water, as even positive stress can interfere with hunger cues.
- Make sure you are prioritizing sleep.
- Practice mindful meditation, guided relaxation, and/or take walks outside to ease your mind.
- Take breaks after working through bits of your project or task to five yourself time to unwind.