Eustress vs Distress (Good vs Bad)

Hi Folks,

What’s the biggest stress in your life? Stress is often seen as a bad thing, and rightly so but it’s not always bad. Allow me to elaborate. I’ll start off initially by looking at the word stress in more detail.

In general stress means load, tension, pressure or discomfort. In terms of the mind it can be defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances” but when referring to physical stress the definition changes to “pressure or tension exerted on a material object”.

So those two definitions cover material objects and the mind but we can also stress organic material. Take skin, for example. Constant exposure to the sun’s rays can stress the skin which over time leads to permanent damage, even conditions like skin cancer. The same can be said about our digestive system or our cardiovascular system.

But when is stress a good thing? Let’s build on the term stress and bring in two more specific terms “Eustress” and “Distress”.

In a nutshell, eustress is good stress and distress is bad stress. The difference between the two seems to be largely related to the duration of exposure to such stresses. i.e. short terms stress allowing for recovery afterwards is usually eustress whereas sustained stress which is constant tends to be distress.

I’ll offer a few examples starting with the mind. Stressful situations which have an obvious end can be beneficial in strengthening the mind, developing the mind and offering a great sense of relief and achievement once they’ve been overcome.

The stress of a pending deadline at work, or a live performance which you’ve been working towards for some time. Putting yourself under this stress will often result in greater mental strength and wellbeing.

Conversely, ongoing stress which doesn’t cease such as a job which you hate, or a bad financial situation which doesn’t seem to have an end to it can be bad for the mental wellbeing, and often this can manifest in ways which leads to physical problems too.

It’s well documented that stress can lead to flare ups in chronic illnesses. Best to try and avoid these situations and focus more on the short terms stress which lead to mental gains.

When it comes to the body, stress is a great thing. If you stress your joints, muscles and bones they grow stronger. This is a great example of eustress.

However, in order for this to happen you need recovery. If the stress is constant and no recovery time is allowed, it becomes distress, which leads to injuries from overtraining.

Examples of this are shin splints due to too much running. Torn muscles due to weight training without sufficient break between sessions or stress fractures due to repeated impact with insufficient recovery time.

Get the stress level right and allow for recovery time, your body will grow stronger.

Equally, with the circulatory system and digestive system we can do things which cause stress. Fasting stresses the digestive system. Fasting for short periods (a day or two) is fast becoming a popular way to improve health…but fasting for sustained periods can be detrimental to the health.

Examples would be anorexia, countries where famine is prevalent or – and research hasn’t backed this up yet, but I dare say sticking to a ketogenic diet for sustained periods is likely to distress the liver.

The opposite to fasting is eating in abundance, which also has a distressing effect. The latest research shows that spikes in blood sugar are stressful for the circulatory system and that spending sustained periods with high blood sugar can be terrible for the health.

However, it’s seems logical to me that short term periods of high blood sugar followed by sufficient recovery time may well be beneficial – but don’t quote me on that because research hasn’t backed this up yet.

That’s one of the reasons why I encourage people to stick to a lowish carb diet for the majority of the time, allowing for the occasional blow out to throw in a little eustress. Same goes for my workouts. Stress the body enough in the workout, but ensure that sufficient recovery time encourages eustress.

Who stress? Eustress. We all stress!!!

Let me stress you out in a good way. Book in a call and see how I can design a carefully thought out eustress inducing training regime and nutrition plan. Schedule a free consultation call by clicking below (please do because I’m having a hard time getting any chat out of of this medicine ball)

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