Is There Such Thing as Positive Stress? Neurologists Think So

Stress is often associated with a negative stigma, but according to more recent research, neurologists believe that you can turn that frown upside down by harnessing the power of positive stress. But is there such a thing and is it really beneficial?

Stress affects more than 60 percent of the population in the U.S. and almost 77 percent of those people experience physical symptoms because of it. Stress can be caused by a number of factors, but the main three contributors to stress include problems at work, money and health.

With the declining rate of psychiatrists readily available to help us reduce our stress, society has relied on alternative methods for stress management like meditation and aromatherapy, etc., but there is a new concept that has surfaced where all we need to help reduce our stress is just to change the way we view our stress and it’s called “eustress.” But what exactly is it?

What Is Positive Stress?

Positive stress or eustress, which is also referred to as good stress, is when you identify a stressful circumstance as an opportunity that will result in a good or positive outcome.

This concept was conceived in 1976 by a McGill University physician and scientist by the name of Hans Selye. In an article published after his death in 1982, he explained how not all stress should be perceived as bad stress and some stress can actually be beneficial for you. It just depends on how you “take it” and react to it.

But the question is, how are we supposed to distinguish between the two?

Positive Stress: A eustress to a negative situation motivates you to deal with a challenge or fulfill a task. It allows you to confront your stressors and adjust how you react to that negative situation. Eustress can help you feel more satisfied with yourself and even improve your overall well-being.

Situations of positive stress may include weddings, preparing for an upcoming project, holidays or pregnancy.

Negative Stress: Negative stress or distress to a certain stressor that provokes feelings of anxiety, despair or fear. The feeling of negative stress can result in chronic stress, depression and even physical illness.

When stress is harnessed properly, it can actually propose a variety of benefits that help strengthen our mind and body. That fight or flight feeling you get when you’re in a stressful situation turns on parts of the nervous system and causes it to produce adrenaline, which can heighten your speed, strength and senses to all be used to your advantage if you utilize it properly.

How to Possess Postive Stress

According to Hans Selye’s article on positive stress, eustress and distress might actually occur at the same time when you are first presented with a stressful situation. But, if you’ve had positive outcomes with stress in the past, then eustress is more likely to prevail, which will result in you feeling more comfortable with the problem at hand.

Other factors that also help you respond positively to a stressful situation may include:

  • A positive mindset and outlook on life
  • Confidence in yourself and your ability to manage any task or stressful situations
  • Your belief that you have power and control over any situation

The trick to harnessing the power of positive stress is to foster a sense of optimism that regardless of the outcome of the situation, it is always going to be a positive one. By developing this way of thinking you will evoke feelings of hope and a sense of meaning and purpose in your life that will help you take on any challenges that happen to come your way.

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Szabo, S., Tache, Y., & Somogyi, A. (2012). The legacy of Hans Selye and the origins of stress research: A retrospective 75 years after his landmark brief “Letter” to the Editor#ofNature. Stress, 15(5), 472-478. doi:10.3109/10253890.2012.710919
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