Monday, December 02, 2013

Some stress is good for you

Stress for Success

December 3, 2013

Given the plethora of stress information, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that stress is bad for you. Of course, this isn’t always the case. In fact, if you successfully got rid of all of your stress, where would you be? Dead! Stress is a very normal part of life. The trick is to have the amount of stress in your life that motivates you to want to get out of bed every day to tackle what’s in front of you. In fact, being overly bored with too little pressure can be as stressful as being overly challenged.

Harmful stress is called “distress,” while good stress is called, “eustress.” As I have written many times before, stress is in the mind of the beholder so the following examples of distress and eustress are not universal. It depends upon how you perceive these events. But here’s an attempt to provide examples of each.

·         Motivates you, focuses your energy and improves your performance;
·         It’s shorter-term;
·         You believe the challenge is within your ability to handle;
·         It can be exciting;
Such as:
ü  Any new sought-after opportunity such as a promotion at work;
ü  Marriage or child birth;
ü  Buying a new home;
ü  Vacation;
ü  Retiring;

·         Causes anxiety, worry, and harms performance;
·         Can be short- or long-term;
·         You don’t think you’re up to the task;
·         It can lead to illness and disease development;
Such as:
ü  Death of a loved one;
ü  Divorce;
ü  Illness, disease, or injury to yourself or a loved one,
ü  Interpersonal conflict;
ü  Financial stress,
ü  Sleep problems;

Eustress can certainly turn into distress:
·         That new job becomes too demanding;
·         The marriage isn’t working out well;
What determines whether a particular stressor will be eustress or distress is determined by how you perceive your ability to handle it. For example, you see a work situation as a challenge (more likely eustress) but your colleague sees it as an imposition (probably distress). Another example, you stick your head in the sand when confronted by conflicts so will probably face distress. A more assertive person may assess their conflict resolution skills as high and deal with and resolve the conflict.

Turning distress into eustress then requires a feeling of competence in handling the situation. To experience more eustress and less distress you may either need to have more confidence in what you’re capable of handling and/or become more skilled where you are lacking.

It’s also helpful to understand that symptoms from your stress response are normal and helpful, assuming they aren’t in the panic range. In research done by Dr. Jeremy Jamieson of the University of Rochester, study participants gave a public speech. Before beginning, half were coached on the benefits of the stress response. The other half received no such information. The group instructed to see the stress response as adaptive increased their cardiac output and gave better speeches compared to participants who received no instructions. So, in your own stressful situations reframe your stress symptoms. Assure yourself that your sweaty palms and pounding heart are an asset to help you think faster and better.

Finally, all change equals stress due to the unknowns associated with change and to the fact that perception of insufficient control is one definition of stress. It’s hard to control the unknown, after all. Think about some of the good changes you’ve experienced: a new job, marriage, the birth of your children. All of these also brought you stress. Without eustress in your life nothing would change or improve.

So embrace more of your stress and see it as necessary to spur you on to greater things.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S. is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach.  Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at  Email her to request she speak to your organization at