“Exploring the Dichotomy of Stress: Distress and Eustress”

Understanding the Differences between Distress and Eustress

Stress is a common experience among people, particularly in workplaces. It arises from external challenges that affect both the body and the mind. People mostly perceive stress to be negative, but this is not always the case. Stress can be either distress or eustress, depending on the response of an individual to stressors. In this article, we will discuss the differences between distress and eustress and how to foster eustress.

Distress versus Eustress

Distress is a negative response to stressors and leads to anxiety, procrastination, and a decline in overall performance. On the other hand, eustress is a positive cognitive response to stress that enhances performance and overall wellbeing. Eustress is a source of motivation that pushes individuals to do their best.

A Balancing Game

To unlock the benefits of eustress, individuals need the right amount of pressure. This follows on from the Yerkes-Dodson law, which posits that performance improves with mental or physiological arousal– but only up to a limit. Eustress offers many benefits that include resilience, flow, and self-efficacy, and can be cultivated by proactively managing external stressors.

How to Foster Eustress

Eustress is a positive response to stress based on perception, and therefore, the potential sources of eustress vary from person to person. Some of the examples of stressors that are commonly perceived as positive include learning a new skill, going on holiday, starting a new job, starting a family, and moving. Other potential sources of eustress include playing competitive sports, some challenging video games, participating in a tournament or having a complex discussion.

The key to finding one’s own sources of eustress is experimentation with positive stressors and practicing metacognitive strategies to reflect on their impact on stress levels. One such method of tracking stressors is the Plus-Minus-Next method.


It is important to remember that not all stress is bad, and that positive stressors can serve as a healthy source of motivation. Individuals must proactively manage external stressors to foster eustress and boost performance.

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