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July 27, 2022

Two Types Of Stress

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Something I want to encourage you to question is your relationship with stress. The physiological definition of stress is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Notice in this definition how there are two different conditions that cause stress. The first is in adversity and the second is upon extreme demand. What’s not nearly well enough understood about stress is that is plays a purpose in both positive and negative situations.

As it relates to adversity - This is when something isn’t going right and the stress provokes concern, doubt, or worry. This corresponds with the first version of stress which is called distress. Distress is associated with negative emotions like anxiety, sorrow, and pain. It’s something that we want to avoid at all costs because it really affects our well-being. While that is a good intention to have, when you are feeling distress it’s simply indicating that things aren’t where you want them to be in your life, and it’s an alarm for change. So in that way, distress is meaningful and useful.

The second circumstance is when you’re doing something very demanding. This happens when you’re working out hard, pushing yourself through a project, or doing something outside your comfort zone. We don’t often equate this to stress because the challenge experienced creates short-term moments of pain and strain, but it doesn’t carry lasting negative emotions. But this is in fact stress, and the term for it is eustress. Eustress is the strain you experience when you place temporary demands on yourself, often intentionally, and it is an incredible source for growth because it allows you to access new frontiers in your mind and body.

Despite what we’ve come to learn, stress is actually really good for you. It’s only when it becomes chronic and unrelenting where it can cause health issues. But once you learn how to manage it, and induce it in controlled ways, you’ll start to really see the benefits.

Now reflect on both sides of this right now - What is causing you distress right now, and what is an opportunity for eustress?

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