Good Stress vs. Bad Stress

Good Stress vs. Bad Stress


Too often the term “stress” gets a bad rap, but evidence suggests that stress might not be such a bad thing. Business professionals are observing that challenges and stress may be ingredients to success in the work place, and without stress, individuals tend to underperform. Of course, there are negative side-effects of too much stress, too. Understanding and learning to manage stress – the good and the bad –may make all the difference in the type of stress symptoms you experience.


Good Stress


Good stress is commonly known as eustress, and it heightens your awareness and arousal levels. It even increases your ability to adapt to change. James Campbell Quick, Ph.D., executive director of the Goolsby Leadership Academy, said, “Because of the energy that the stress response provides, it enables you to perform at higher levels." This is the stress experienced by athletes that allows them to perform their best work when under pressure. Eustress is also used to arouse your “fight-or-flight” instincts, which promote the physical and mental focus you need when you feel threatened.1


Bad Stress


Too much of a good thing can lead to disaster, though. Eustress can quickly turn into distress (bad stress). Over long periods of time, distress can cause headaches, tension, fatigue, hair loss, and can even increase aging. Although experiencing stress can’t be avoided, it can be managed.2


The key to experiencing good stress while diminishing bad stress is limiting your exposure to stressful situations and maintaining healthy awareness levels. Here are some suggestions to turn your stress into success:


1.       Avoid high levels of caffeine. Caffeine can raise your heart rate, which may cause an increase of stress symptoms.

2.       Exercise. Physical activity is one way to keep your body healthy, and it provides an excellent outlet for stress.

3.       Make sleep a priority.  A lack of sleep can lead to serious health problems and may inhibit your ability to manage stress.

4.       Clean up clutter. Living and working in a clean environment helps increase focus and productivity.

5.       Don’t dwell on the past. There are some things that you don’t have the ability to change. Dwelling on those things can cause longer exposure to bad stress.


What suggestions do you have for managing stress?


1Shea, S. (2004). The stress workbook: there's good stress and bad stress. Natural Health, (9). 66.