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The Benefits of Eustress
posted: Apr. 26, 2022.
There have been several times that I have experienced eustress. It happens on a daily basis. For example, with the fear of the BA 2 variant possibly causing a rise in Covid cases, I find myself continually taking precautions and although others may not be wearing mask, I’m still wearing my mask in order to avoid infection, and I take other precautions as well and I always carry hand sanitizer as well as avoiding crowds, or events in which there could be a potential for infection.
Greenberg (2021) described stress as the reaction to a situation that creates imbalance. Eustress, on the other hand, allows for a person to gain a more balanced perspective. Individuals experiencing eustress might integrate beneficial practices into their lives as they begin to feel more balanced. Lopez, Pedrotti, and Snyder (2019) introduced therapeutic approaches that integrate mindfulness such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. What the researchers found was that this therapeutic orientation is very helpful in decreasing symptoms of depression, and the use of mindfulness also contributes to a decrease in stress as well as in mood disturbances.
Another way that I experience eustress has to do with the reality that the chemicals in vegetables and fruits that are not grown organically, can cause health problems. This reality makes me very conscious of buying organic products as I value my health and my family‘s health. By doing this, I feel a difference in the way that I function, and find that I have more energy and also can enjoy the calm that comes from eating healthfully and preparing food at home.
The concern over-processed food or getting takeout leads me to feel that food is sacred and that it is a communal experience which I can enjoy with my family. This certainly improves the quality of my life. As far as physical fitness, the sense that if I am not in good physical form will result in my being less able to have the endurance that I need to walk, or to run extra miles, causes me to engage in physical fitness on a daily basis and to be conscious of the benefit that physical fitness has for my well-being, is very helpful in my life.
The insight that I can draw from managing stress this way leads me to think that anxiety can also be helpful because it does spur a person into action and is motivating. It can also help a person to develop tools in their lives that can be helpful in handling stress when it appears. For example, sometimes people can become destructive in their thinking and they spend an inordinate amount of time worrying. Dr. Chloe Carmichael pointed out in her book, Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety that it was important to create at least four or five ideas that you can think about when you’re feeling stressed and these ideas should be able to engender a sense of calm. For example, a person might think about what they would like to be doing in five years or vacations that they would like to take, or places that they would like to visit that they have not yet visited, but that would contribute joy to their lives. This is an exercise that I often share with some of my clients, and I think that it helps them to think in more adaptive ways and to put their worries aside.
Branson, Turnbull, Dry, and Palmer (2019) noted in their study about adolescence and how they experience stress, that adolescence often associated eustress with cultivating a sense of connection, whereas distress was associated with isolation. The study participants also associated eustress with having a more positive mental outlook and feeling more motivated. Experiencing eustress also helped the study participants to feel a greater sense of self-esteem, whereas when they experienced distress, they became more self-absorbed and self-conscious.
Branson, V., Turnbull, D., Dry, M. J., & Palmer, E. (2019). How do young people experience stress? A qualitative examination of the indicators of distress and eustress in adolescence. International Journal of Stress Management, 26(3), 321–329. https://doi-org.csu.idm.oclc.org/10.1037/str0000102.supp (Supplemental)
Greenberg, J.S. (2021). Comprehensive stress management. (15th edition). McGraw Hill.
Lopez, S.J., Pedrotti, J.T. & Snyder D.R. (2019). Positive psychology: The scientific and practical explorations of human strengths. (4th edition). SAG