Feeling stressed out? You're not alone. Stress is a universal experience that can significantly impact our health and well-being, whether from work, relationships, or that never-ending to-do list. We've been conditioned to see stress as an entirely negative force in our lives, but the reality is much more nuanced. By understanding the different types of stress and how to manage them effectively, we can transform stress from a burden into a source of strength. Let's look at these different types of stress - which ones to avoid and which we can use to help us grow and develop.
Not All Types of Stress are Equal
Acute Stress: The most common type we encounter. This is the stress we feel when faced with a challenging situation. It can come with some serious tension and anxiety. As bad as that sounds, acute stress is actually helpful in small amounts. It can give us a little boost of energy and help us focus, which is great when we need to perform well under pressure. But if this type of stress sticks around for too long and becomes chronic, it can take a toll on our health.
Chronic Stress: This is the kind of stress that sticks around for a while. Chronic stress can really mess with our mental health and cause anxiety, depression, and anger. And that's not all - it can also lead to physical issues like joint pain, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Taking care of chronic stress before it gets out of hand and affects our overall health and well-being should be a high priority.
Emotional Stress: It's one of the trickier types of stress to deal with because it's often linked to the pressure we feel at work or our struggles in relationships with family, friends, or colleagues. Building and maintaining healthy relationships can help reduce emotional stress and prevent it from causing more significant problems. Invest time in those positive relationships!
Eustress: Finally, let's talk about a positive form of stress. Unlike the other types of stress we've discussed, eustress is actually a good thing. It's the kind of stress that produces positive feelings of excitement. It can motivate us to perform well in our jobs or reach our goals. And here's the cool part: eustress can even help us develop positive traits like diligence, resourcefulness, and conscientiousness, all contributing to our overall quality of life. When we experience eustress, we tend to take on challenging activities that we find enjoyable, like starting a new job, taking on a new project, or pursuing a new hobby.
So, how can we turn negative distress into positive eustress? Well, it really depends on the person. What one person finds a rewarding yet stressful experience may be highly upsetting for someone else. According to a recent study, the difference lies in whether the person has the necessary resources to manage the challenge effectively (1). There are many ways to manage stress, and the best techniques can vary depending on the type of stress we're experiencing. Here are some common stress management techniques that many people find effective:
- Deep breathing
- Spending time in nature
- Talking to a friend or a therapist
- Time management
- Practicing self-care, like taking a warm bath or reading a book
These techniques can be beneficial in reducing stress and preventing it from harming our overall well-being. By incorporating these practices into our daily lives, we can develop healthy habits that will help us manage stress more effectively. Of course, it's important to remember that everyone's needs are different, and it's okay to experiment with different techniques to find what works best for us.
Shift your Stress Mindset
Instead of trying to avoid stress altogether, it is possible to use it to our advantage. By looking at stressful situations as opportunities for growth and development, we can learn to channel that stress into positive energy and motivation. For example, we might set challenging goals for ourselves that require hard work and dedication but ultimately bring a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
When we learn to leverage stress, we can use it as a personal growth and development tool. By reframing how we think about stress and its challenges, we can learn to embrace it as an opportunity to push ourselves and achieve more than we thought possible. And, as we experience more success and build our resilience, we become better equipped to manage stress in the future.
When you shift your relationship to stress, you can finally begin to use it as a superpower instead of your kryptonite. Here are a few ways you can reframe stress and leverage it to your advantage:
- Take on a new challenge: Challenge yourself by learning a new skill or taking on a new project at work.
- Use stress as motivation: Use stress as motivation to accomplish a goal, such as preparing for an exam or meeting a deadline at work.
- Embrace discomfort: Embrace discomfort and uncertainty, and use it as an opportunity to grow and learn.
- Reframe your mindset: See stress as a challenge and an opportunity for personal growth and development.
- Build resilience: Build resilience to stress by engaging in activities that make you feel good, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones.
Ultimately, the thing to understand is that stress doesn't have to be a negative force in our lives. By managing and channeling stress in healthy ways, we can develop resilience, motivation, and a sense of purpose. Stress isn't always our enemy. With the right mindset and approach, you can harness its power to achieve your goals and live your best life.
(1) Merino, M. D., Vallellano, M. D., Oliver, C., & Mateo, I. (2021). What makes one feel eustress or distress in quarantine? An analysis from conservation of resources (COR) theory. British Journal of Health Psychology, 26(2), 606–623.