The word stress tends to have negative connotations – understandably so! What I’d like to unpack though is the difference between “good stress” called eustress and unhealthy “bad stress” called distress.
Let’s take a moment to talk about the differences between the two, discuss how they manifest and influence our behaviours/physiology. We will then dive into ways we can help mitigate the negative impacts.
Let’s begin with eustress or “good stress”. It’s usually paired with exciting projects or events that push us towards achieving a sought-after goal. It gets us feeling motivated, confidant, focused and energized – all while staying within the realm of manageability and attainability. Eustress can be helpful in many ways – whether it be by helping you push through final exams or helping you take on intimidating new tasks such as building a new deck for your home. It helps us perform, tackle goals and pushes our boundaries just slightly enough to see that new possibilities are within our reach and leaves us feeling accomplished.
However, sometimes stress can take a wrong turn and becomes distress. This tends to be chronic and leaves us feeling helpless, overwhelmed, anxious, distracted and leads to an overall decrease in performance. This could be due to many different factors such as a major change in our lives (ex; separation or a move to a new city) or it may be due to constant pressure such as deadlines or unrealistic expectations.
What’s worse is that this type of stress leads to a multitude of different health issues including the following: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, sleeping problems, digestive problems, memory impairment, etc. In addition to the physiological ramifications, it may also impact our behaviours in many ways: social withdrawal, unhealthy eating, angry outburst projected onto our loved ones, etc.
Understanding the difference between eustress and distress is crucial for our mental and physical wellbeing. Once we notice our stress build up in an unhealthy way, there are things we can do to help manage it. These include:
- Taking care of your body – exercising, eating right and getting good sleep.
- Engaging in relaxation such as breathing techniques, yoga, and meditation. I would recommend Headspace (which is a series on Netflix as well as an app).
- Learning to say “no” and asserting more realistic boundaries for yourself.
- Setting time aside for yourself – whether it be engaging in a hobby you love (reading, sports, music, etc.) or pampering yourself with a pedicure or massage.
- Taking time to connect with people who uplift you, support you and make you feel calm.
It’s also important to seek help when stress becomes unmanageable. We here at Evolution Psychology are now offering two new workshops:
- “Resilience and stress” offered every 2nd Wednesday of the month (12:00pm in English and 1:00pm in French).
- “Boundaries and assertiveness” offered every 4th Wednesday of the month (12:00pm in English and 1:00pm in French).
For more information you can call our clinical director at 514-907-8800.
On that note, I will leave you with these words by famous American psychologist William James; “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
Wishing you all a lovely day,
– Émilie Rose