Stress is a reaction to a challenge or demand. We tend to think of stress in it’s negative form – “distress”. However, our reactions to challenges or demands are sometimes positive. “Eustress” is a state of fulfilment and excitement when you’re out of your comfort zone but thriving on the challenge. Distress and eustress are on opposite ends of a continuum depending on whether your physical and emotional resources are adequate to meet the demands you’re facing.
The same stressful event, for example a house move or new job, can affect different people differently depending on their resilience. One of the main predictors will be that person’s state of wellness when the change event arises. A person who has regular sleep patterns, keeps up with their water and nutrients and regularly engages in functional movement activities is more likely to have a resilient response when life doesn’t go according to plan.
Top tip one for enjoying more eustress in your life is to build some rejuvenation activities on top of your sleep and rest practices. These activities tend to require more energy to organize than standard rest. Different people enjoy different types of rejuvenation, for example getting a massage, doing yoga, taking a walk with a friend or meditating. Rejuvenation activities tend to be the ones that feel like they’d be too hard, but you never regret doing them.
Top tip two is to keep a gratitude journal. This can help keep distress in perspective and support you in reframing it as eustress where appropriate. For example in a lockdown situation many people experience negative stress from their perception of being stuck with family. However, when invited to reflect, most people deeply value their family and wouldn’t want to be locked down without them. Eustress could be the state of challenge where you seek ways to be communicative and considerate in a difficult situation.
It’s virtually impossible to entirely avoid distress entirely. The distress / eustress continuum is quite fluid - the same stressor might create eustress in the morning when morale is high, but distress later in the day as blood sugar gets low. But if you’re making consistent progress with your physical and emotional health then you’ll find yourself in a state of eustress much more often.
This article provides general health and wellbeing information. It is not intended to be medical or nutritional advice specific to you. Please consult an appropriate healthcare professional, such as your GP, a registered dietitian or nutritionist for any specific concerns.