3 Examples of Positive Stressors, and Why You Need Them
Feb 3, 2023 By Lael Miller
The word stress often evokes negative thoughts and feelings. That’s because much of the research and media coverage of stress has focused on the very real harmful health consequences of distress. But not all stress is bad—positive stressors abound, even if we don’t always recognize them as a type of stress. Not only are they a crucial part of our lives, but they can also have remarkably positive effects.
What Is Eustress?
Eustress is a type of beneficial stress that’s perceived as a good thing. It’s brought on by positive stressors (for example, enrolling in a class to learn a new skill), evokes feelings of excitement, and is often short-lived.
Physically, eustress doesn’t manifest itself much differently from debilitating bad stress, also known scientifically as distress. When you experience eustress, you may feel your heart pounding, thoughts racing, chills running through your body, a weird butterfly-like flutter in your stomach, and have a hard time staying still. Those are all natural and healthy symptoms brought on by positive stressors: they’re your body’s response to being excited and wanting to jump into action.
Distress vs. Eustress
Distress and eustress are two possible responses you might have to a stressor. If you see the stressor as a barrier you don’t have the tools or the strength to overcome, then you’ll experience distress. But if you see the stressor as a challenge you’re well-equipped to conquer, then you’ll experience eustress. Although distress and eustress trigger similar feelings, you’ll likely feel physically and mentally exhausted by negative stressors and pumped or energized by positive stressors. Positive stress builds resilience to face negative stressors.
Different people can experience the same task (or stressor) as distress-or eustress-inducing, depending on their mindset, background, and past experiences. Take, for example, an invitation from a friend to go sky-diving. If you’re deathly afraid of heights, the invitation to jump off a plane with just a parachute on your back can fill you with paralyzing dread and anxiety—tell-tale signs of distress. But if you seek adrenaline and love extreme sports, this invitation will surely bring on a rush of eustress, which probably would make you all the more motivated to take the jump.
What Are the Benefits of Eustress?
Eustress can be beneficial to our physical and psychological well-being. Although its benefits and overall effects on the human body aren’t as well-studied as the drawbacks of distress (for example, oxidative stress), researchers are working to better understand how positive stressors shape our lives in the short and long run.
Eustress Softens Your Reaction to Stressors
A study in the journal of psychoneuroendocrinology concluded that people who experience light to moderate amounts of stress (meaning, eustress) face challenges in a healthier and less-harsh way than those who are chronically stressed. Their levels of cortisol (also known as “the stress hormone”) don’t get as elevated when confronted with a stressor, which means less glucose is released into the bloodstream.
Eustress Motivates You to Push Through Challenges
Eustress can give you the confidence, energy, and motivation to see a complicated challenge through to the end. This is the conclusion that psychologists came to in a 2021 Department of Education-backed study of community college students. Students who saw their academic stressors (tests and exams) in a positive light—as challenges to conquer rather than hurdles to struggle with—or in other words, as a source of eustress instead of distress—got better grades, procrastinated less on their studies, and dropped out of notoriously difficult classes less frequently.
3 Examples of Positive Stressors
You’ve surely felt eustress as a response to positive stressors before, even if, at the time, you didn’t recognize it as anything special. Here are three examples of positive stressors that can trigger healthy levels of eustress—the common theme is that they’re challenges you view as positive and achievable.
1. Facing a Challenge at Work
A new project at work can be a positive stressor that induces eustress. If you’re not overworked and feel like you can achieve the expectations laid out for you, this new project can push you to get better at your job and develop new skills that may be helpful in the future.
2. Taking an Ice Bath
For most people, jumping into a vat of ice-cold water feels daunting at first, but learning about all the physical and mental benefits of ice baths makes the initial discomfort well worth it. Preparing for a cold plunge is an obvious positive stressor if you want to improve your well-being.
3. Moving to a New Home
Moving into a new home can be a source of eustress. If you are excited about a change and looking forward to establishing new routines in a new space, moving can feel reinvigorating even though it’s a lot of work.
How to Incorporate More Positive Stressors Into Your Life
Ready to enjoy all the benefits of eustress? You certainly already have positive stressors in your life, but here are some ways you can work more into your day-to-day if you want a great personal development boost:
- Welcome challenges: Look at complicated tasks as an opportunity to conquer and grow and trust in your ability to handle them well.
- Step out of your comfort zone: Try something new every week, no matter how small. For example, a physically and mentally restoring ice bath after your usual workout. Pushing yourself to do things differently (without getting overwhelmed!) helps you grow.
- Find a balance between rest and eustress: Allow yourself to come to a restful level where you aren’t being challenged, or else anxiety and its consequences might creep up on you.
Challenging Yourself Is a Good Thing
Don’t shy away from a challenge; instead, face it head-on to experience the benefits of eustress and to grow as a person. Incorporating a cold plunge into an Ice Barrel into your self-care routine could be a positive, low-stress way to push yourself physically and mentally and reap healthy rewards at the same time.
The Invitation to Adventure
We are inviting you on an extraordinary adventure to explore the depths of your potential and experience the incredible results Ice Barrel will produce in your life. Not just for you, but for the ones you love most and the things you are most passionate about.
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