According to Mike Fisher’s ‘Beating Anger’ book, there are two forms of stress, eustress and distress, healthy and potentially destructive. While most of us see stress in negative terms, a small amount of it helps us achieve a high performance and can actually be good for health.
High flying executives working in high pressures jobs strive on eustress and wouldn’t choose to live without it. It motivates people to do their very best and triggers an alarm in their subconscious if they aren’t working to their peak performance.
It could even be argued that eustress is fundamental for living fully. Without it our lives could become meaningless. We wouldn’t care about goals or overcoming challenges. Without eustress we may not have a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Eustress has become a term used to describe the feeling of, for example, inheriting a large sum of money or receiving an unexpected promotion.
Imagine you won the lottery… For the next few months you will be under eustress as you decide what to do with your millions. It’s the kind of stress you’ll gladly welcome with open arms, as you decide what to invest in first.
Eustress motivates you to be more than you ever imagined. Eustress is winning the promotion and then having to deliver the goods.
Eustress is the stress of winning and achieving, while destructive stress on the other hand, is distress. It’s related to being overwhelmed, becoming depressed and not coping.
Distress de-motivates us, wear and tears us down and can lead to chronic exhaustion. Unchecked distress leads to fatigue (chronic stress), which in turn, becomes a trigger for anger and in turn affects your safety, health, wealth and relationships.
Distress is what keeps you in bed unwilling to get up to tackle the day. It reinforces your low self esteem and makes you feel as if your life is a disaster area, you’re wasting your life away and that the world is against you.
We all experience distress and eustress. It’s become an unavoidable part of modern day life. However, as Mike Fisher points out, the trick is to maintain a balance between positive and negative stress in our lives.
How to get more?
Too much of a good thing eventually becomes unhealthy … But don’t let that deter you. If stress is inevitable in our daily life, it only makes sense to strategically take what you need and discard the rest.
A simple way to build eustress and dump distress is to cut out the things you do which drain and exhaust you.
Choose the things in life which nourish you and increase your happiness.
One way to decide what is a eustress or distress activity is simply to recognize your feelings towards it. Do you feel excited about doing it? Or is it a ‘want to’ activity as compared to a ‘have to’ activity?
It’s a matter of making yourself the biggest priority in your own life! Being courageous enough to say ‘no thanks, that’s far too stressful for me’, and instead say ‘Wow, that sounds challenging, I’ll give it a go,’ is an ideal tool in dumping distress and taking on-board eustress.
Notice how you feel and listen carefully to your intuition. If a task gives you a deflated, scared and loathsome feeling, then it usually means the task will only add to your distress and bring on its common symptoms, where-as, if the task gives you butterflies and an excited nervousness in the pit of your stomach, then you’ve cracked it. You’ve discarded distress and replaced it with eustress.
How to change distress into eustress?
There is no magic formula, but you can change your perception of what stress is and shift its perception to change its experience.
Stress is a reaction to perceived threat. Hence the logic says that if you don’t perceive something as a threat, then there will be no stress responding to it.
Changing your perception of threats to challenges, changes distress to eustress. Only by taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, can you see threats as potential benefits to be exploited and used for your own benefit.
Once you start policing your thoughts, you’ll come to look at things as challenges more often.
So to recap, it’s important to have eustress in your life. The effort is to cut out as much distress as possible by changing our perception of stress, and adding positive activities to our lives which promote eustress.
As with everything in life, it’s about balance.