What is Positive Stress? The 5 Keys to Understanding Eustress & Distress

By Krista


Last Updated: June 9, 2022

Stress is often given a bad rap. And for a good reason: Too much stress can lead to serious health repercussions—mentally and physically.

But here’s the thing: It’s actually not all bad. 

There’s eustress and distress. So, let’s match these two up against one another. In this article, we’re comparing eustress vs distress.

What should you know? How can stress actually be a good thing in your life? 



What Are the Characteristics of Eustress and Distress?

Maybe you’ve plugged into Google “eustress meaning,” only to feel left with more questions than answers. This might be especially true if you’ve always thought “stress” meant “bad.” So, let’s flip this perspective a bit.

What five key things should you know when it comes to understanding eustress vs distress?


1. Eustress can motivate you. Meanwhile, distress can leave you an anxious mess.

Eustress is more closely related with positive emotions.

While it can cause frustration or worry, it’s more likely to lead to fulfillment in life. Unfortunately, distress is the complete opposite. It’s more likely to fill you with feelings of hopelessness, panic, and anxiety, potentially leading you toward serious mental health repercussions.


2. Eustress feels manageable. Distress does not.

Eustress is a small amount of stress—at least, usually. Inevitably, a person’s resilience may determine the exact amount of stress a person can take on without it becoming negative or overwhelming. All in all, eustress feels manageable.

Distress, on the other hand, doesn’t. You will feel overwhelmed by it, giving way to various negative emotions. 


3. Eustress is usually short-term. Distress can be short-term or long-term.

Eustress propels us forward bit by bit. It usually doesn’t stick around long. Distress, depending on the cause, may be short-term or long-term. For instance, distress can arise from loss, which may take a long time to move on from.


4. Eustress can actually improve your physical health. Distress is likely to affect health negatively.

As previously mentioned, eustress and resilience are closely linked. In fact, eustress can actually increase your resiliency, mentally and physically. 

Opposite to this, distress, especially in the long-term, is most likely to lead to negative health repercussions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and more. 


5. Eustress is more likely when you’re confident. Distress is more likely when your perceived confidence is low.

This perhaps more so highlights the significance of taking care of your mental health. Stress can be good, but if your confidence isn’t where it needs to be, a little stress can be considered distress, depending on the situation.

Related Article: When You’re Drowning In Chronic Stress, Read This


Eustress vs Distress Examples

So, what are some examples of eustress and distress?

First up, let’s briefly look at the factors that impact eustress vs distress. These include:

  • Financial standing
  • Transportation
  • Time
  • Knowledge
  • Coping skills
  • Social support
  • Health
  • Family history
  • And more.

Individually, whether something is eustress or distress depends on the person themselves. At the same time, distress can widely be categorized as a lack of resources, such as feeling overwhelmed due to a lack of time or money. 

Furthermore, examples of distress include:

  • Financial crisis
  • Death of a loved one
  • Relationship issues
  • Abuse
  • Illness or injury

Examples of eustress include:

  • Exercise (Yes, exercise is a stressor!)
  • Meditation
  • Accomplishing a goal
  • Listening to cheerful music
  • Hot/Cold therapy
  • Socializing


When is Stress “Good”?

Short-term and motivating stress is considered good, which is what eustress is generally defined as.

However, any stress over the long term can have negative consequences. The key is to keep your stress levels manageable. This allows the body and/or mind to adapt accordingly. 

So, how can you encourage more eustress over distress? Here are a few ideas:

  • Take up a new hobby or learn a new skill
  • Play games or practice puzzles
  • Teach others
  • Volunteer
  • Set reasonable goals and deadlines for yourself
  • Practice healthy coping strategies, such as meditation, journaling, or gratitude

Related Article: 3 Easy and Simple Secrets for Relieving Morning Anxiety and Stress


Some Final Thoughts…

Generally, change and stress can feel unpleasant.

Yet, it doesn't necessarily mean bad things are about to happen. Perhaps personal growth is on the horizon or maybe you’ll come out stronger than before. 

Aim for more eustress vs distress in your life! Stress can be positive. You’ve just got to become equipped to handle most of these stressors so you can pave your way toward your best life.

Hans Selye, founder of the Stress Theory, once said, “Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.” 

Read Next: What Are the Four Types of Stress and How Can You Gain Control Over Them?

Photo by Dhyamis Kleber


4 comments on “What is Positive Stress? The 5 Keys to Understanding Eustress & Distress”

  1. New ideas are coming out in your articles which provide helpful guide to better living. Thanks for that.

  2. Stress can be a fuel to motivate, propel and accomplish. I found this article to be in fact motivating. Nice summary and distinguishing between Eustress and Distress. Attitude and the manner in which we frame stressors is so important! 😀

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