Why "Stress" Isn't Always a Dirty Word
As uncomfortable as it can be, stress is not always a bad thing.
As uncomfortable as it can be, stress is not always a bad thing. Stress is simply your body’s response to change or perceived change, and there are both good and bad types of stress.
Here’s the difference between good stress and bad stress — which both contribute to your stress bucket (more on that here) — and ways to manage it:
Good stress is called “eustress.” It gives you energy, makes you feel alive, causes you to focus and motivates you to do well. Eustress has the following characteristics:
- It is usually only short-term
- It is motivating and helps you to focus on the task at hand
- It feels exciting
- It is perceived to be within your coping capabilities
- It usually improves performance
Examples of eustress:
- Getting a promotion or closing a deal at work
- Buying a new house or car
- Taking a vacation to a new place
- Holiday seasons
- Moving to a new place
- Playing a sport
- Doing a new workout routine
- Doing something else outside of your normal routine
Bad stress is called “distress.” This type of negative stress has the following characteristics:
- It can be short term or long-term and constant
- It drains energy and de-motivates you
- It feels really unpleasant
- It is perceived as outside of your ability to cope
- It lowers performance
- It can lead to mental and physical health problems
Examples of distress:
- Sleep problems
- Injury or illness
- Poor diet
- Losing contact with loved ones
- Money problems
- Poor health
- Excessive job demands
- Fears/repetitive thought patterns
- Worrying about future events or things you have no control over
- Unrealistic expectations
YOUR BODY ON STRESS
When you feel any form of stress, the body releases hormones including adrenalin and cortisol. These stress hormones are intelligently designed to help you survive any threat and increase the body’s heart rate and energy level. Your body mobilizes energy in your extremities, vision improves, blood pressure increases and the body turns off anything that's not essential to surviving the threat, like digestion and reproduction. Your mind is able to focus and make decisions, all to help you overcome the stressor you are facing.
Sounds great huh? It is — if you are faced with a legitimate short-term stressor. But constant stressors mean constant stress hormones. And because they cause the body to shut down anything that isn’t essential, constant stress can wreak havoc on the body.
Chronic or long-term stress can lead to problems with immune function, digestion and gut health, blood pressure, risk of type II diabetes, decreased libido, joint pain, allergies and more. Coronary heart disease is also more common in individuals living with chronic stress.
However, we still need some stress. We want enough of the good stress to keep us motivated and succeeding, but not so much overall stress that we wear down and crash. We need to control the bad stressors that we are in control of.
The easiest forms of distress that we can control are physical stressors. Being dehydrated, having high or low blood sugar, joint pain, not getting adequate sleep and being deconditioned are all very taxing on the body and cause stress levels to rise.
Plus, the right type of exercise (non-stressful) can help to lower stress hormones, calm the mind and release endorphins (often called feel-good hormones).
To manage stress levels, you can:
- Stay hydrated
- Eat a balanced diet rich in nutrient-dense foods
- Be on a structured training program tailored to your life, needs and ability to recover
- Have strategies to lower stress and increase recovery
- Sleep 7 to 8 hours each night
At Gainesville Wellness and Performance, we teach our clients a holistic method of exercise, balanced nutrition and recovery. Collectively, these components allow the body to not only transform and feel better, but also provides a steady foundation to deal with stressors that are out of our control.