Stress is an almost everyday occurrence in modern life. Typically considered negative, there are positive impacts of stress that impact your life and health.
The longstanding perception that stress is harmful to our health makes stress automatically thought of as something negative. There are endless negatives of stress, but there are also many situations in which stress is unavoidable, so does positive stress really exist?
Eustress vs. Distress
Though stress is usually used to describe a negative situation, it can, in fact, be divided into two different categories depending on whether it has had positive or negative results.
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Positive stress is sometimes known as eustress, and is the type of stress that we can all benefit from having in our lives. It’s defined as a positive form of stress that has a beneficial effect on health: our motivation, our performance, and our emotional well-being.
The fight-or-flight stress response you feel when stressed is considered eustress and is when you gain something positive from the experience. It can be described as purpose-driven stress, times when you might feel eustress could be starting a new job or receiving a promotion, moving house or taking a vacation.
When you get into situations that cause this short-term stress, then they can be also be recognized as positive, if they have results that include helping you avoid accidents, reaching deadlines, or stay clear-minded in chaotic situations.
A characteristic of eustress is the temporality of it. It’s meant to pass and you’ll return to your normal state quickly afterwards: relaxed, regular heart rate and regular breathing.
Distress can be short, but regularly it occurs as a sustained bout of anxiety. Rather than having the positive outcomes of eustress, you generally feel like dealing with this stress is outside of your coping abilities, which further antagonises the stress.
And, whilst eustress improves performance, when you suffer negative types of stress like distress you’ll feel a decrease in your ability to perform and it can lead to mental and physical problems in the long term.
Severe negative stressors can include injury or illness, sleep problems, money problems and issues in your personal life and relationships.
Benefits of Positive Stress
The key thing to remember when addressing your stress is that in short bursts, stress really isn’t a bad thing. Your cognitive health can really benefit from positive stress in the long-run, and you’ll also see improved physical and mental performance.
If you’re able to deal with stress then it can be incredibly motivating. In everyday situations, particularly in work and education, stress leads to the intense preparation and better performance where benefits include a sense of achievement or fulfilled expectation.
Stress can lead to improved cognitive abilities and, even, higher intelligence. Stress helps us focus and react to dangerous situations. Studies have also reported other benefits of stress to be increased memory and ability to recall.
In stressful situations, your body releases adrenaline or adrenal hormones, and this can speed up both your heart rate and your metabolism, leading to better physical performance and endurance. One example that you might be able to relate to is when undertaking a race or physical challenge, your time and abilities are enhanced, normally outperforming any practised timings.
The release of adrenaline, known as an adrenaline rush, can also help to fight tiredness and fatigue, and act as a short term painkiller.
4 Ways of Getting These Benefits
What stresses you out will vary from person to person, so understanding what results in positive and negative stress for you is the first step to reaping any benefits for these situations. Take some time to analyse what situations create a stress response in you, and then break them down: what were the specifics, or combination of factors that you can identify as triggers.
Once you’ve identified your own stressors, then you can plan for them. Which of these are eustress and which are distress? When can you make choices that lead to positive stress and improve your long-term health and lead to achievements in life?
Identify the distress that is avoidable, so that you can prepare how to react to it, and organize your schedule to eliminate any stress that could have a long-term negative impact on your health.
Combining CBD with these methods of preparation, management and understanding can be a great additional stress manager. CBD has a toning effect on the cannabinoid receptors in your brain, helping to stimulate your endocannabinoid system and encourage your body to generate more of its own cannabinoids. As CBD interacts with your ECS, it aids relaxation in the areas of your brain that work to regulate mood, process emotions, stress, and fear.
Mindfulness meditation is an incredibly effective and accessible way to manage your stress. It costs nothing to try and really focuses your brain to help you see clearly when stressful situations arise.
Mindfulness alone can be incorporated into many of your daily routines to help you clear your mind and manage your stress when situations arise. If you want to know more about the great effects of mindfulness, and how you could start using it in your everyday life, a great starting point is our article 5 Reasons Why We Love Mindfulness in Our Lives.
Not all stress needs to be bad! Like we listed above there are incredible benefits of short-term, positive stress on the brain. Find activities or goals in your life that might help induce a little short-time stress on you, but that will ultimately be positive and lead to a sense of purpose and achievement.