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Why You Want Stress In Your Life

The notion that one would want stress in his or her life sounds counter-intuitive, right? We want to avoid stress at all costs. Well, that’s not entirely true. As the founder of Choices Psychotherapy, Susan Davis, likes to say, “if you don’t have stress, you’re dead.” The key is to recognize that both good (eustress) and bad (distress) stress exist and have impact on our overall well-being. Important is developing an understanding of how we interact with stress.

Eustress and Distress

The simplest way to explain stress is that it typically comes from our body’s reaction to a challenge. We’re likely all familiar with distress as a concept. Distress is usually what occurs when a person overexerts oneself. Someone in distress is facing a challenge he or she feels unable to overcome. These could be crises, major life events, or any number of other triggers.

The effects of distress are well known. They include fast breathing, high tension, and occasionally lead to the individual making poor decisions. Prolonged periods of distress could lead to a loss of appetite or overeating and irregular sleep habits.

What you may not know is that there is eustress. This form of stress literally translates to “good stress,” or beneficial stress. It occurs when we have an attainable goal set in sight, and feel capable of achieving it. This fosters motivation and hope. We likely all experience eustress without realizing it. Stress in general has developed a negative connotation over time, so when we feel the good kind of stress, we call it something else.

Imagine a bride on, or leading up to, her wedding day. This is (hopefully) a prime example of eustress. We often experience eustress when coping with positive life events, such as a work project or promotion, or training for a demanding physical activity.

What’s especially interesting about these two forms of stress is that many of the symptoms one experiences are the same for both eustress and distress. The body itself can’t actually distinguish between the two; the difference is in the individual’s perception. Adrenaline and anxiety have many of the same symptoms, but one is considered positive while the other is negative. Both are a result of stress.

Fight or Flight Response

When we’re under the immense stress of an attack or threat to our survival, humans and animals alike have been known to experience the fight or flight response. This response originates in the sympathetic nervous system, and it is also activated by high levels of physiological stress. When the sympathetic nervous system releases the hormones that accompany this response our bodies experience a variety of symptoms such as:

  • heart and lung action acceleration
  • pupil dilation
  • tunnel vision
  • shaking
  • paling or flushing

Similarly to the difference between eustress and distress, the body experiences the same symptoms regardless of if we choose to flee or fight.

So much of stress is dependent on how we as people choose to react to it. If you’d like more advice on coping with stress in your life, contact Choices Psychotherapy. Our skilled therapists work with clients to develop a treatment plan. Remember that the goal is never to eliminate stress altogether, but to learn to cope with it in an effective way. As our name suggests, you have the power of choice to begin the path of change.