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Eustress: the Stress You Actually Need

There’s a certain degree to which stress can be positive and even an indicator of a healthy and productive lifestyle.

Is your new promotion stressing you out? Read on.

Have you ever seen a bride on her wedding day, a senior about to graduate or a person about to start their first day at a new job? Often, the person can feel restless or on edge and wondering why he or she feels stressed during a happy time. Stress is commonly regarded as something we experience during tough times, but there’s actually a certain degree to which stress can be positive and even an indicator of a healthy and productive lifestyle. This is true for both positive and negative experiences of stress – yes, that’s right, I said positive experiences of stress. Stress from positive experiences is referred to as “eustress,” which is pronounced yoo-stress. Examples of common eustress situations are:

  • Work: Getting a promotion or new job, or starting a stimulating graduate program.

  • Romance: Going on a hot date, moving in together or getting married.

  • Life: Buying a home or relocating to a new city that excites you.

It’s perfectly normal to feel stressed about these big life events, and it’s important that we understand this and not get “stressed about being stressed.” When we experience stress, our bodies release certain stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Imagine the excited/nervous feeling you get right before you go on a rollercoaster: sweaty palms, racing heart, butterflies in your stomach – these are your body’s natural response to these stress hormones. Our bodies get the same effect when we experience excitement of most any kind, even excitement over relatively happy events. Short term, these bursts of stress hormones can actually be beneficial in that they can increase brain function, improve concentration and boost feelings of alertness.

However, we do need to recharge after the energy spike that stress (even eustress!) provides. If we don’t recharge, or if we misinterpret the signs of stress as “problems,” we run the risk of becoming “stressed about stress” or pushing ourselves to the brink of exhaustion. As a clinical psychologist specializing in high-productivity people, many of my clients secretly pride themselves on their high stress level because they think of it as assurance that they’re “giving 110 percent.” Certainly, this stress is what drives them to keep achieving at a higher level, at least in the short term. However, it can eventually lead to feeling frazzled and depleted.

The good news is that once we learn to understand the effects of stress, even for positive events, we can take simple steps to recharge and renew our ability to enjoy another energy spike when we need it in the future. Most people are pretty good at nourishing themselves when they’ve had a rough day, but we also need to remember to recharge even after positive events.

How to manage eustress:

  • Give yourself permission to recharge even when things are going great.

  • Get a good night’s rest or a relaxing massage so your body can settle down from all the excitement.

  • Go to the gym and do some cardio to burn off the excess adrenaline.

  • Make a list of all the feelings that go with your happy event. As you embark on something new, you may notice some feelings like nostalgia or fear of the unknown. Creating space for these feelings helps soothe stress.


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