Positive Stress – The Thrilling Kind of Stress We Love

What do going on a first date, meeting a family member after a long time, and galloping on a horse have in common? The answer is “positive stress.” Generally, stress has a bad reputation, even though there is such a thing as good stress that is indeed beneficial for your health. In this article, CARE will explain what positive stress, also called eustress, is and how you can benefit from it. We will also delve into examples of positive stress and how you can incorporate more positive stressors into your life.

Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE
Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach

Published in Mental Health
5 min read · Jan 20, 2024

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What Is Positive Stress (Eustress)?

Before we dive into the topic of positive stress, let’s take a brief look at what stress, in general, is. Stress is a natural and adaptive response that dates back to our primitive ancestors. [1]

When faced with a threat, your body's “fight or flight” response kicks in, orchestrated by the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones prepare your body and brain to confront or escape the perceived danger by increasing your heart rate, sharpening your focus, speeding up your breathing, and redirecting your energy to vital functions to survive. [1]

Even though, nowadays, your chances of being eaten by a saber-toothed tiger are pretty low, you still confront challenges and other obstacles that activate this stress response.

While stress is often painted in a negative light, a lesser-known counterpart exists – positive stress or eustress. Eustress is the Yang to your Ying, the negative stress or distress. By the way, the term “eustress” is derived from the Greek prefix “eu,” which means “good” or “well.”

Biologically, positive stress activates the same physiological responses in your body, yet in a more manageable and beneficial manner. [2]

But why and how is positive stress good for us, even though stress in general can be detrimental to our health?

Why Is Positive Stress Good For You?

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The effects of stress, when it is caused by a positive stressor, affect both your mental health and physical health.

Unlike its notorious brother, eustress is a constructive force that propels us toward growth, learning, and achievement.

The American Psychological Association even states that positive stress can improve your performance by activating the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, enhancing your focus, motivation, and cognitive function, ultimately optimizing your performance. [1]

Positive stress, or eustress, can also boost your immune system by promoting the release of immune-enhancing factors like interleukins and natural killer cells in response to short-term stressors. Thus strengthening your body's defense mechanisms. [3]

Additionally, eustress stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain, acting as a reward neurotransmitter and contributing to feelings of pleasure, motivation, and improved cognitive function. [4]

What Are Some Examples of Positive Stress?

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There are numerous examples of positive stress that can be beneficial for you. CARE has summarized some examples of eustress to give you an idea about situations and circumstances that are definitely stressful but often lead to positive stress instead of negative stress.

  1. Going on a first date
  2. Learning a new skill
  3. Leaving your comfort zone to grow
  4. Meeting a loved one after a long time
  5. Lifting weights or exercising
  6. Starting a new project (at work or DIY at home)
  7. Accepting a new job
  8. Helping others and paying it forward
  9. Finishing up your to-do-list for the whole day early
  10. Traveling
  11. Starting a new life chapter

Positive vs. Negative Stress

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Distinguishing positive stress from its negative counterpart primarily lies in the perception of the stressor and the duration and intensity of the stressful event. In a nutshell, positive stress is short-term and leads to some of the same effects on your body as bad stress, but the stressor is not perceived as a bad thing or a threat. [1] [5]

Negative Stress – Fighting, Inability to Cope & Overwhelm

Negative stress, or distress, arises when the demands placed on you exceed your ability to cope with them. Negative stress is typically more long-term than positive stress. You probably remember a situation where you were stressed, and the stress and anger followed you around all day, right? Still, distress can occur both long- and short-term.

Exposure to negative stress leads to elevated and sustained levels of stress hormones, particularly cortisol. This can result in negative effects on various bodily functions, including impaired immune function, disrupted sleep patterns, and even potential metabolic disturbances. [1] [5]

Prolonged exposure to stressful situations can lead to detrimental health effects and chronic stress, impacting both physical and mental well-being. High levels of stress that occur frequently or extraordinary stressful events can even increase your susceptibility to heart disease and high blood pressure. [1]

Positive Stress – Excitement, Motivation & Opportunity

On the other hand, positive stress is characterized by a sense of excitement, motivation, and an opportunity for personal growth. The key lies in your perception and the belief that the stressor is a challenge to be conquered or something that you really want to do rather than a threat or a bad thing. [5]

Eustress typically involves short-term, manageable bursts of stress. The hormonal response is more controlled, with cortisol levels rising temporarily but returning to baseline relatively quickly. This controlled release can contribute to heightened focus, motivation, and improved immune function without the detrimental long-term effects of negative stress. [5]

What Can You Do to Boost Positive Stress in Your Life?

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If you want to embrace positive stress, this involves cultivating a mindset that views challenges as opportunities for growth. Engaging in activities that align with your personal goals and values can transform stress into a positive force and make it easier for you to step outside your comfort zone.

Regular exercise, setting goals, and pursuing personal growth can bring you joy and fulfillment and contribute to eustress experiences.

CARE has summarized some of our favorite examples to achieve eustress for you:

Go on an Adventure!

When was the last time you attempted to go on an adventure? If your answer is “my childhood,” then let’s change that today. Adventures don’t necessarily have to be extreme or even dangerous. Challenges such as zip-lining, rock climbing, or Geocaching are great examples of adult adventures. The thrill and excitement of adventures can trigger positive stress.

Escape Rooms

Gather a group of friends for an escape room adventure. Solving puzzles against the clock creates a collaborative and stimulating environment, letting you experience that positive stress.

Volunteering in Unfamiliar Environments

Nothing leaves us as happy and fulfilled as helping out a stranger. Engage in volunteering activities – maybe even in unfamiliar environments or different cultures. The exposure to new challenges while contributing to a greater cause instills positive stress that broadens your horizon and gives you new perspectives.

Random Acts of Kindness

Engage in random acts of kindness and aim to brighten someone's day – possibly even just anonymously. The positive stress of spreading joy and having a positive impact can be both uplifting and fulfilling.

At CARE, we take great joy and fulfillment in helping you achieve your personal health goals. As a member of the CARE community, you profit from regular Health Check-ups and in-depth blood analyses that enable you to take charge of your health and wellness because those shouldn't be variables in your life.

Our healthcare professionals will discuss your blood test and health assessment results comprehensively with you so you can pursue and achieve your optimum level of health and vitality.

List of References

Blog Author Elena Health Coach at CARE

Elena Iagovitina

Health Coach at CARE Zurich

About the author

Elena is an enthusiastic Health Coach and blog writer at CARE, with a passion for holistic medicine and health. Previously, Elena worked for almost five years as a coach leading retreats, workshops, and seminars. These included mind-body therapy: breath work, meditation, and massage; as well as energy force therapy: reiki, and qi gong; and third expressive therapy: movement, writing and support groups. Elena shares exciting articles on the blog, on the topic of where the alternative and traditional medicine intersect with Western Medicine. Elena is also the driving force behind the CARE community. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, traveling to remote locations and dancing. You might also see her on the lake of Zurich as a coast guard. Join her on her journey to learn more about health and discover the world of preventive medicine! Visit all articles written by Elena!