May 26, 2022

‘Eustress’— A Concept That Made Me Think Differently About Stressful Situations

Something didn’t sit right with me in thinking that ‘stress’ was always a bad thing.

Phrases like “Don’t let it stress you out” or “That seems stressful” created the precedent that stress was bad, and that it should be avoided wherever possible. In fact, I almost used it as a heuristic for things that I should avoid.

My issue was that sometimes I would thrive in stressful situations. In many ways, I knew that I personally needed stress to perform better and to attain what wouldn’t be possible with the alternative, care-free mindset.

And it turns out, there’s a term for this type of beneficial stress. “Eustress”.

This, quite literally, means ‘good’ or ‘positive’ stress.

When we’re playing competitive sports, the stress that pushes us to compete cultivates teamwork and enhances our own individual performance. This is beneficial for us, therefore making it ‘eustress’.

At work, a challenge that forces us to rise to the occasion may stretch our limits without causing stress, burnout or mental overload. Think ‘puzzles’. They can be stressful at times, but we still choose to take them on, enjoying the process of completing them and cherishing the end-result.

Even travel is an example of ‘eustress’. Being in a new environment is not exactly the most comfortable thing for our brains. We don’t know our way around, we don’t speak the language and therefore, we’re usually out of our comfort zone. That discomfort is a source of positive stress, one that creates new memories and expands our world view.

We’ve been conditioned to perceive stress as something that’s purely unhealthy. But when we think of good stress as something that can make us smarter, more creative and more resilient, it rids us of this false belief that could potentially hold us back.

So go get stressed. You’ve got some catching up to do.

Every week, I write about philosophy, self-fulfilment and creativity.
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