Eustress and Stress – Do They Really Exist?

I’m going to ask the question here because I’ve been wondering a lot about it recently.  Does eustress really exist?

Stress is a tough part of life that affects pretty much everyone but not all stress is equal.  People perceive stress differently.  YOU might consider a jog in the park to watch the sunrise over the skyscrapers at 5am to be invigorating, refreshing, relaxing and something which sets you up for the day.  However, I absolutely assure you that hauling myself out of bed at such an unearthly hour to torture my feet (I suffer from significant foot pain), would be interminable stress for me!

Stress is perceived differently and interpreted differently by everyone.  It is a personal thing.  In fact your “stress reaction” is thought to be as individual to you as your fingerprint is. 

So when I read about different types of stress, I’m not sure what to make of it. 

I’m talking about stress (bad stress) and eustress (good stress).

The argument goes that eustress is the kind of stress which is more like anticipation, excitement, adrenalin rush.  Eustress is what an athlete feels at the start of a race, what student feels as they await their exam results and what everyone who has ever proposed to anyone felt as they went down on bended knee.  Eustress helps you achieve more, focus more, be more.

But, does it really exist?

Bear with me.  I know what I’ve just described obviously does exist, but my point is, is it really something different from stress itself?  Or is it simply that these non life threatening situations naturally lead to a more positive perception of the stressful situation? Is it your decision to interpret stress positively which makes it eustress?

In other words, is eustress really stress at all? Or does the positive mental state that people tend to have in the above circumstances as they await a pleasureable outcome, actually change it from being “stress” to something more positive, such as excitement, hope, expectation, pleasure?

What do you think?  Does the very act of perceiving stress in a positive way actually change it from being stress?  Or is there such a thing as eustress?

Only Losers Get Stressed

I think that there is a stigma against stress.  Maybe I’m wrong but when I talk to people about it, it seems to me that women will admit to being stressed, but dismiss it as just being the way life is; and men either don’t admit to feeling it at all, or see it as a macho, positive thing – whether it is or not.

How can we ever allow ourselves to benefit from stress relief if we are too scared to admit to being compromised by stress? 

Stress can affect anyone.  People of every race, gender, age, ability, culture, socio-economic class etc, all experience stress.  No one is immune. 

But different people do experience stress at different levels.  What one person finds super stressful, another might simply glide through.  And everyone handles stress situations differently – meaning some people are less likely than others to suffer chronic or long-term effects of stress.

There are many factors that determine who is more vulnerable to the harmful effects of stress.  Financial strains, job related stress, relationships and parenting can all take a toll.  So can illness and life transitions and other stressful events.  Some people handle stress extremely well.  They mitigate its effects well.  These people are usually those who have a strong support network in place.

The people who often has more trouble dealing with stress are those who don’t have a strong support network such as friends and family.  This is the number 1 cause of stress in adult women!  Other high risk stress groups are those who don’t get enough to eat, are in poor health or who are sleep deprived (Note – new mothers can fall into every one of these groups and stay-at-home parents are continually identified as amongst the most highly stressed groups!). 

People who are hit with many stressful events in rapid succession may also have trouble coping with stress.  These people, whether young or old are less likely to handle stress well, and more likely to suffer more from the effects of stress.

While no one can avoid all stress all the time, stress does affect people differently.  The ability to bounce back seems to lie in general health, support and stress as a relatively isolated event rather than an ongoing occurrence.

Recognize when you have moved into a “high at-risk” group and change your actions to incorporate adequate stress relief measures for the phase of life you are in now.