Most people feel stress on a daily basis. Stress can be exhausting and can limit oneโ€™s ability to get things done. It can also be a motivator to get where a person wants to be. Not all stress is negative. Understanding the difference between distress and eustress and how to bring them into balance can make life a little easier.

What is Stress?

Stress is defined as pressure or tension exerted on an object. When considering stress as an abstract, it can be easy to see that stress is not necessarily a bad thing. Some stress can create beautiful objects, such as diamonds. Some stress, however, can cause damage. Stress Management Programs can help individuals learn to minimize the damage and maybe even turn the bad stress into something positive.

What is Distress and Its Causes?

Distress is a negative kind of stress. This is usually the type of stress a person is referring to when they are feeling overwhelmed or exhausted. With any type of distress, even in small amounts, a person can feel psychological and physical effects, such as irritability and headaches.

Distress can be caused by a variety of issues that have a negative impact on a personโ€™s life. Money is often a major cause of distress in people. Relationship and work issues can also create a lot of distress in oneโ€™s life. It has also been found that 8 out of 10 Americans are profoundly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is Eustress and Its Causes?

Eustress is a positive form of stress that has a beneficial effect on health and emotional well-being. Where the stress of distress seems to cause discomfort and even fatigue, eustress can often have an opposite effect. It can be motivating, increase energy, create excitement, and may even build self-confidence.

Exercise is a great example of eustress. Although it does put pressure on the body and can cause a person to become tired, it can also increase health, stamina, focus, and well-being. Vacationing, meditation, socializing, achieving a goal, or any stress activity or event that is positive is considered eustress.

Impact of Stress (Distress and Eustress)

Stress can greatly impact a person. Distress is often the main culprit for causing a variety of psychological and physical effects. Even minor distress can cause a person to experience fatigue, headaches, lack of sleep, or digestion issues. More severe cases of distress may cause mood changes, appetite changes, chest pains, or even shortness of breath.

These are only the short-term effects of distress. Dealing with such stress for long periods of time can have more serious implications. Long-term stress can lead to mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. It can even pose risks to cardiac health and may weaken the immune system.

Even excessive amounts of eustress can be hard on a person. Even though eustress can have benefits, excessive amounts of stress of any kind can be draining and may pose risks to a personโ€™s well-being. Excessive changes and challenges in oneโ€™s life, even positive ones, can become overwhelming and be just as difficult to manage as distress.

How to Balance Stress

The best way to balance stress is to work to prevent distress and promote eustress. When a situation occurs that would usually cause distress, focusing on the positive aspects could help convert some of that distress to the more positive eustress. Even finding meaning in that distressing situation could help reduce the negative impact.

Another way to balance the stress is to examine the situation and find steps to improve or even prevent the situation from occurring. By taking action, it can limit the distressing feelings of being helpless. Even the slightest change to the outcome of the situation could boost the feelings of eustress.

It can be difficult to manage stress alone. Sometimes, there are distressing situations that cannot be prevented or turned positive. In some cases, getting help with stress management can be the best option. Fortunately, there are professionals available to help individuals deal with their stress.

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