Is All Stress Bad for You?

We all know about the negative impact of stress, but did you know that some stress can in fact be a good thing? Read on to discover why we need to stop demonising stress and learn to live with it instead…

In psychology terms, eustress or positive stress, is known as stress that is beneficial. While most of us think of stress as being difficult, challenging and something to generally avoid in life, not all stress in bad. In fact, we all need an element of stress in our everyday lives to help excite and motivate us. Without some degree of it, whether it be time pressure, ways that challenge our conventional thinking or something that pushes us out of our comfort zone, it would be easy to become complacent, disillusioned, and even depressed.

All stress is as a result of chemical changes in the body, whether it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’ stress. From a physical point of view a number of things happen, the first being that a pathway between the brain and the adrenal glands, known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, is activated. This in turn triggers the sympathetic nervous system or the body’s 'flight or fight' response, which then prompts the release of hormones via the adrenal glands. As a result of these changes, physical changes happen in our body too. We might experience an increased heart rate, tighter muscles, rising blood pressure or quickened breathing, in other words, we can literally feel the stress as it begins to take over our body.

Although we're typically conditioned to think of these familiar feelings as bad and harmful , the same physical response can actually a positive thing and is simply our body’s way of preparing us to deal with it as best we can. Stress only becomes negative and becomes distress when it's prolonged or overwhelming and is not managed properly.

If you‘re more accustomed to experiencing distress, then you might be looking for ways you can introduce more eustress in your life. As well as exercising regularly, which creates a positive and temporary stress effect on your body, other ways to do so include setting yourself goals that lie just out of your comfort zone and learning something new, whether it’s something big or small. If you’re looking to try and turn bad stress into something that feels a little more positive, then remember, often being stressed is a state of mind and about how overwhelming and impossible we perceive the situation to be. If you’re able to, try looking at the stress facing you with a positive mindset and approach it with a positive headspace. You might just find it’s more possible than you previously thought.