Are Eustressed?

Feeling stressed? Who isn’t these days? Stress comes from so many sources: work, relationships, family demands, etc. It can be hard to keep up and eventually stress can take its toll on your mental and physical health.

Stress develops as a result of experiences called adaptations. Our bodies and minds love stability. When there’s a change in our systems, such as an increased heart rate or muscular tension, we have to adapt. These adaptations are then counteracted by the body attempting to regain its stability, or homeostasis. Have you ever woken up after many hours in bed only to feel like you’ve been run over by a truck? Sleep can be restorative but if there are too many adaptations (such as tossing and turning, increases and decreases in blood pressure and heart rate, etc.) the feeling of rejuvenation will not be there.

Stress, therefore, is defined as the body’s adaptations to events and it makes little difference whether the stressors are “bad” such as getting into an argument, or “good,” such as getting married or getting a promotion. The body responds similarly in terms of having to make adaptations Holmes and Rahe (1967) realized this years ago when they experimentally studied life changes. In a nutshell, what they found is that our bodies don’t discriminate much in terms of “good” or “bad” stressors. Too many life changes in too short a time period will take its toll on us. It’s not typically the big stressors that are the ones that hurt us; we’re actually more likely to break down in response to many smaller stressors that happen within relatively brief periods of time.

Thankfully, there’s good news, too. Stress is a regular part of the human experience and, believe it or not, is actually a necessary and helpful component for growth and development. There are two major categories of stressors: distress and eustress. Distress is the type of stress connected to difficult experiences and eustressors are those that promote growth, such as physical exercise.

Counseling can help you to identify and cope with the distressors with success. It can also help you to construct a plan to create and maximize the eustressors to help you be the healthiest person you can be in body and mind.