Five Ways Stress Can Be Beneficial to Your Overall Vitality and Well-Being

 By Scott A. Johnson

Stress is the dreaded s word that we all experience. This word is almost exclusively associated with being a bad thing. We rarely hear people say, “This stress is awesome!” But if we didn’t have some stress in our lives, we’d actually be less productive and happy. Not all stress is created equal—a little can actually contribute to our overall vitality and well-being.

Positive Stress versus Negative Stress

Stress isn’t always a negative thing. Stress is simply the body’s response to changes that increase mental and physical demands. Did you know that there are actually two types of stress? Eustress is positive stress that keeps us feeling alive and excited. You’ve undoubtedly felt this before when riding a roller coaster, speaking in front of a large crowd, or competing in a contest. Negative stress is known as distress. It generally feels unpleasant and depletes your energy, usually occurring when the challenge we face feels like it’s more than we can handle. Examples of times you’ve likely felt distress include financial challenges, a personal injury or illness, or unemployment. 

No one can live life without stress, so let’s talk about the ways stress can be beneficial. 

Motivation to Meet Daily Challenges

In small amounts and for short periods of time, stress can help you meet daily challenges and increase your motivation to accomplish your goals.  Though not fun, if you didn’t feel some stress about a deadline, you might not get things done in time. Eustress heightens your awareness and completely engages you in an activity, motivating you to succeed. With greater alertness and a laser focus on the task at hand, you can quickly find solutions to resolve difficult challenges.

Building of Resilience

There’s no denying that challenges build resiliency if we let them. At first, tough situations make you feel like you’re going to snap under the pressure, but pushing through the problem makes you better prepared to deal with similar difficult situations in the future.  Stressful situations actually strengthen your ability to cope with future demanding circumstances.

Enhanced Brain Performance

Eustress boosts your brain’s performance by strengthening communication between neurons.  Cortisol is known as a stress hormone, but it’s also important for waking you up in the morning. It’s normally released every morning before you wake to mobilize blood glucose to fuel the brain. Increased glucose supply to the brain improves memory and attention, as well as makes you more productive. With better brain communication and a steady supply of fuel, eustress helps your brain work more efficiently.

Protection against Illnesses

While significant and prolonged stress makes us more prone to illness, moderate levels of stress protect us from infections.  That’s because reasonable stress stimulates the production of interleukins—chemicals in the immune system that provide protection against pathogens. A little bit of stress can actually keep us healthy by protecting us against germs.

Increased Positive Feelings

woman looking in the mirror

Eustress can increase feelings of inspiration, contentment, satisfaction, and confidence, as it motivates you to achieve greater things. A feeling of accomplishment breeds positive emotions. Therefore, eustress promotes positive attitudes and feelings toward a given situation, making it meaningful, engaging, and manageable. 

Maintaining Eustress

Though experiencing eustress does enhance your overall well-being, excess eustress can turn into distress. To avoid this, you should detach from the situation triggering eustress to rest and relax periodically. Developing mindfulness is a great way of maintaining a state of eustress without progressing to distress. Experiencing just enough eustress will help you live a healthy and happy life.


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