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Eustress vs. Distress: 5 Common Myths about Stress

04/09/2020
By Soji James, CPT, CSCS

The stressors of life keep piling up with no sign of relief. COVID-19, contentious elections, and political turmoil continue to pile up on top of an already-full work life. But is stress bad for you, or should you view stressors as a difference between eustress vs. distress? And what is the connection between stress and meaningful life?

Stress: Distress & Eustress – Feedback Inc.

It’s hard not to focus on the harmful side of stress, but there is good news. The secret lies in the tension of eustress vs. distress. Keep reading to debunk 5 of the most common myths about stress and learn how to unlock the state of flow.

Myth 5: Stress is Always Bad

People usually see stress as a negative thing, but stress under conditions of joy is not harmful. In fact, when you are fully engaged with something you find meaningful, you experience a positive form of stress called eustress.

A man celebrating a win from a marathon who experienced eustress vs distress.
Eustress Is The Stress Under Conditions Of Joy That Is Not Harmful (Image source: Shutterstock)

Get Into Flow State

The state of flow is the ultimate expression of eustress. When you feel you are competent, capable, or powerful, situations that would otherwise feel overwhelming can stimulate you to higher levels of achievement. Eustress needs to be managed because it still wears you out, but how you feel about the situation makes all the difference. It’s like the difference between being in a fight or just having an exhausting workout. They both require recovery, but one does much more harm than the other.

When you perform a difficult task voluntarily, it can make you happy when you are successful. When you are compelled to do something difficult, after you finish, you are more likely to feel demoralized and exhausted.

Flow State and the Arts

You can find a good example of eustress in the fine arts. Symphony conductors live longer than average, despite dealing with lots of stress from temperamental artists, lots of travel, and difficult schedules. This is because they enjoy their work and are often in the state of flow. They feel an enormous sense of fulfillment when a performance is complete, so they feel fulfilled instead of worn out or broken.

Myth 4: Stress is Uncontrollable

Many people go through life resigned to the fact that they will have to experience distressing events. What they don’t realize is that you can control your stressors. You often feel distressed when you are overwhelmed or feel trapped or powerless. These states are not inevitable, and if you can resolve these feelings, your distress can be transformed into eustress. Further growth and experience can make stress disappear entirely.

A man swimming in a pool after a stressful week.
You Can Control Your Stress And Turn It Into Eustress Like Learning How To Swim Or Ride A Bike (Image source: Shutterstock)

Try a New Sport

Think about learning to ride a bike or how to swim. On your first attempt, you likely felt enormous distress because you felt like you had no control. As you learned, your distress turned into the exhilaration of eustress, and when you mastered the skill, even the eustress faded into normalcy. Many of the sources of stress in life are like that.

Reduce Cortisol Levels

The more you voluntarily tackle the stresses in your life, the sooner you can begin reducing cortisol levels and cleaning up unnecessary stressors from your life. A good supplement like ONNIT New Mood can give you an edge by boosting your resistance to stress.

But no matter how good you are at managing stress, this won’t happen overnight, and not all stressors can be removed.

One of the best ways to reduce cortisol is to add morning workouts to your daily routine. Exercise will also boost your testosterone levels, which gives you more energy and encourages your body to burn fat.

Self-Care Rituals

A set of good self-care rituals is the best way to handle stress and keep your life running smoothly. There are some stressors that will always be bad, but the more you change and remove the ones you can control, the better prepared you will be for the ones you can’t control.

The more you practice self-care, the better you will be able to turn negative stressors into positives. As you maximize your relaxation benefits, you will minimize the symptoms of distress. Stay mindful of eustress vs. distress, and you’ll be well on your way towards a happier life.

Myth 3: Everyone Experiences Stress the Same Way

When you are put under stress, there are many different symptoms you can experience, and different people experience symptoms of stress in different ways. Some people get headaches or migraines when their stress hormone levels get too high. Others may break out into hives or develop sexual dysfunction.

A man having a headache due to stress
Symptoms Of Stress Are Different For Each Individual, Some Get Headaches Or Migraine (Image source: Shutterstock)

Fortunately, when you experience the symptoms of stress, there are relaxation techniques to help you manage or even resolve your stress.

Everyone is different, so it is hard to know what to do about stress or find one method that will be universally helpful. Mindfulness-based stress reduction exercises can teach you different methods and help you find the one that works best for you. Additionally,  exercise reduces anxiety, so you can choose a combination of mindfulness and physical activity that work together to help you handle your unique stress response.

Myth 2: Stress Comes from Your Circumstances

Lots of different things cause stress, and what hurts you doesn’t always hurt me. How you think about your experiences determines if you will be stressed and what kind of stress you will feel. Some people, for instance, have irrational fears that cause them enormous distress. If you can learn how to overcome your phobias, you can transform stressful, negative events into normal or even uplifting experiences.

Wellness Wheel
Understanding The Wellness Wheel

An understanding of the wellness wheel can help you realize when your life is out of balance and where you should focus your efforts for self-improvement.

The more eustress you experience, the less distress affects you. And since your state of mind determines what causes stress, this gives you enormous power.

“. . . There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – Hamlet

Myth 1: If You’re Not Feeling Symptoms, You’re Not Under Stress

Just because you don’t feel the symptoms doesn’t mean you are not under stress. Most people have the ability to absorb a lot of stress before it begins to show.

A man having an afternoon tea.
Not Feeling The Symptoms Of Stress Doesn’t Mean You Are Not Under Stress (Image source: Shutterstock)

If you incorporate more stress reducers into your life, then you can help minimize stress-related symptoms, even when you are carrying a heavy load. Herbal tea benefits you in many ways and is my favorite bedtime drink to help me prepare for bed. There are other mood-boosting foods that you can turn to when you know stress is coming.

The better your mood is, the easier it will be for you to maintain control and transform negative stressors into positives. And the more experienced you are with stress reduction techniques, the more effective they become.

Eustress vs. Distress: Pit Them Against Each Other to Unlock Flow

I hope I have been helpful in dispelling some of the myths about stress. With practice, you can learn how to navigate the positive and negative kinds of stress and release more of your untapped potential.

What would you do if you had more energy and less stress? Don’t wait; solidify what you have learned by practicing a new method for stress reduction today.

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