The Difference between ‘Good’ Stress and ‘Bad’ Stress
Stress is a term that can imply several things and therefore has different definitions. Put simply, stress occurs when an event or situation is too much for you to handle. Stress is typically experienced in response to physical and/or psychological stimuli. You can also experience stress by merely anticipating problems. But what is good stress? Unless it is sarcasm, we do not really hear people say, "I really feel stressed -- isn't it great?" But the fact is that if we did not have some stress in our lives -- the 'good stress' variety -- we would feel rudderless and unhappy!
The so-called ‘good stress’, or what psychologists call ‘eustress’, is actually the kind of stress that we sense when we get excited. The pulse rate becomes faster, the hormones also change but there is no threat or fear! This is the kind of feeling that comes while taking an adventurous ride in an amusement park, on a first date or simply a visit to a very exciting place. This is referred to as stress as the hormones do get disturbed but actually it is good stress and does leave us feeling excited about life. It lasts for a short while before we become used to the positive change.
The stress that we truly need to worry about is chronic or bad stress. This comes when we face stressors again and again and feel that we will not be able to cope with the changes they bring in our emotions or our behaviour with others. A stressful job or an unhappy life at home typically brings chronic stress. Other common causes include financial difficulties, breaking up with a close friend, death of a loved one, loneliness, discrimination or harassment.
The good news is that you can change some of your bad stress into good, positive stress. Though not all forms of bad stress can become good stress, but it is possible to change the perception of some of the stressors in life. Such changes ultimately change the very experience of stress. This is because during a stress response, the body reacts strongly to perceived threats. But when you do not perceive something as a threat, your response to it is also not threat-based – fight or flight.
Identifying the chronic sources of your stress and changing your perception of them can help to cut down ‘bad stress’ in life. A person can make the shift in his/her perception by focusing on resources, seeing the hidden potential advantages of a situation, and reminding himself / herself of his / her strengths. In addition to these, freeing the mind of negative thoughts, having a good diet, enjoying adequate hours of good quality sleep, regular exercise, practicing hobbies and being in the company of people who make us happy can truly help us beat bad stress. Most importantly, getting into the habit of thinking like an optimist can be immensely helpful. Once you master the practice of looking at things as challenges more often, it becomes more automatic.
When you sincerely try to add some positive activities in the mix to promote eustress, you can truly create a nice balance of good stress in your life.