Did You Know There's A Difference Between Healthy And Unhealthy Stress?

The word ‘stress’ carries with it a very negative connotation. Believe it or not, though, there is some stress that’s actually good for you.

By Molly Farinholt2 min read
Did You Know There's A Difference Between Healthy And Unhealthy Stress?

There are two types of stress: the kind that breaks you down and the kind that builds  you up. It’s important to know the difference so you can avoid one and welcome the other.

The Bad Stress

Typically when people say, “I’m stressed out,” they’re talking about that no-good, very-bad type of stress. This is the stress that comes in response to a real and unavoidable threat and often lingers until all is resolved (which can often be very challenging). Being overwhelmed by exorbitant student loan debt, marital issues, or any other problem or circumstance that poses serious harm if not rectified brings about this bad stress. Fixing the problem doesn’t better you in any way; it simply returns your life to its proper homeostasis. 

This stress is always undesirable as it can (and often does) take a toll on your health. The constant state of panic and distress can manifest itself physically in many ways including fatigue, headaches, insomnia, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, and even missing periods. These risks can increase when one doesn’t have proper support (such as a loving family, a wise mentor, or helpful coworkers) during times of stress. 

You’ll want to do your best to avoid this first type of stress, as it only serves to wreak havoc on your life and diminish your overall peace and wellbeing. Of course, stressful situations can occur even if you’ve done your best to steer clear. Some things are simply out of your control. Others, though, can certainly be managed before they pose a threat to your happiness. You can, for example, be smart with your finances and stay away from dead-end relationships. Keeping bad stress away is one of the best things you can do for your health and happiness. 

The Good Stress

The second type of stress is, shockingly, very good! Psychologists refer to this good type of stress as “eustress.” Under eustress, our hormones surge, but not in response to an actual threat. Triggered by things such as attempting a new physical feat (think surfing for the first time), going on a first date, and cranking out an exciting project for work, eustress doesn’t negatively impact your health, nor will it result in any harm if not “conquered.” It has only positive effects — namely, keeping you excited about life. 

This is the stress that you want, as it ultimately serves to better you. So, how do you add this eustress into your life? Start saying yes to activities that pose a challenge but, at the same time, excite you. The next time you see a flyer for a local 5K, sign up. An invitation to submit to a literary journal? Start writing. That chivalrous coworker with a charming smile asks you to dinner? Say yes

Even when such opportunities aren’t readily presenting themselves, set goals for yourself that will invite in some of this good stress. Determine that, by the end of the month, you will complete the kitchen renovation you’ve been dreaming about for a year. Commit yourself to exercising five days a week. Plan an elaborate dinner party and send out those invitations. There are countless creative ways to find this happy stress! 

Closing Thoughts 

Bad stress — sometimes avoidable, sometimes not — is always unwanted. It tears you down, harms your health, and ushers in a spell of bleakness. Good stress, on the other hand, is chosen and has all of the opposite effects. It builds you up, gets your happy hormones flowing, and brings a pleasant excitement to your life. So, maybe it’s time you start seeking out a little stress in your life — the good kind, of course. 

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