Eustress: Not all Stress is Bad Stress

Whether we like it or not stress is a natural part of our life and some stress is actually needed and beneficial to our lives. The reasons we get stressed have changed over the centuries but it is, and always will be a part of our lives, so the way we think about these stresses can have a big impact on how we react when they arise.

Hans Selye, an endocrinologist coined a term ‘Eustress’, this literally means ‘good’ stress as it is positive and beneficial in nature. The prefix derives from the Greek sound ‘EU’ meaning ‘well’ or ‘good’. A lot of corporations actually strive to create Eustress as employees feel stimulated, set goals and achieve improved performance.

Eustress is very different to ‘distress’ which is negative in nature, generally avoided like the plague and associated with a crisis or an undesirable event in a person’s life. Generally, we think of stress as causing us to feel overworked, mentally fatigued, or overwhelmed. Too much distress can be harmful to our well-being, but too little ‘eustress’ can also be harmful.

Our bodies actually need physical stress like exercise (walking, swimming, yoga and house-hold tasks) to stay strong, flexible, agile and resilient. These attributes are also found when we mentally stress the brain through mind tasks (puzzles, mathematics and reading). It is through challenging times that we become more emotionally strong, resilient and flexible as well. Therefore eustress is needed physically, mentally and emotionally to evolve.

Physical stress occurs when bones and muscles must work against a force. This stress from physical activity is necessary for bone growth, strength and density even after bones have stopped growing.

Muscles also require ‘good’ stress to grow or to build muscle strength or stamina. High-intensity, short-duration exercises, like weight lifting, causes the muscles to increase in strength. Low intensity, long-duration activities, such as running and swimming, cause muscles to increase in stamina.

A Power Yoga (yang style) class would be an example of providing both muscular strength and stamina. Where as Yin Yoga is not so much about the muscles, it is a cooling practice and works more at stressing the tendons, ligaments and fascia in a healthy way to lubricate the joints and provide better mobility. 


· "It is the positive cognitive response to stress that is healthy, or gives one a feeling of fulfilment or other positive feelings. “ ~ D. L. Nelson (Eustress: An Elusive construct; An Engaging Pursuit.

· “Eustress occurs when the gap between what one has and what one wants is slightly pushed, but not overwhelmed. The goal is not out of reach but is slightly more than one can handle. This fosters challenge and motivation since the goal is in sight. The function of challenge is to motivate a person towards improvement and a goal.” ~ Craig Smith (The Self, Appraisal and Coping,” Handbook of Social and Clinical Psychology.

· “Bone is a living tissue, it changes in response to the forces placed upon it. When you exercise regularly your body adapts by building more cells and becoming more dense.” ~ Dr Barbara J. Campbell (OrthoInfo)

· "If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself but to your own estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment." ~ Marcus Aurelius

· "Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one. "~ Hans Selye

This was used as the Spirit Yoga Theme for the week, I hope it can encourage you to look at stress in another light. 

Article by Martine Ford