Eustress: How to Use Stress to Your Advantage
Florda Priftanji, LMFT joined our staff in 2018 and is this month’s Featured Therapist. Read on to learn how stress can sometimes be a good thing.
We often view stress as a problem to avoid. However, when stress is used to our advantage, it can aid by increasing productivity, helping us detect harm, and motivating us to make a change. Eustress is the beneficial level of stress that helps us improve efficiency with everyday tasks and energizes us to pursue our goals while reducing the likelihood of burnout. Stress can be moderated to achieve eustress that can help optimize our performance. For example, imagine that you are driving down the highway and are maintaining a speed of 65 to 75 mph to improve your fuel economy. In conjunction, you are considering how exceeding the speed limit may put you at risk and driving too slow might delay your time of arrival. Similar to this scenario, it is essential to monitor the level of stress by adjusting it accordingly to reap the benefits. Eustress is beneficial because it cultivates the momentum you need to stay on track and complete a project.
Why do we avoid stress? Some of us assume that our ambitions are unattainable or that our effort to achieve a goal will result in failure. These assumptions might be fueled by skepticism or the fear of success. We initially feel excited or passionate about undertaking a project, but then become discouraged by our concerns, such as by worrying about how much time, energy, and money that we need to invest. The more we focus on building a “wall of worries,” the less attainable our goals seem and the more likely we are to bypass eustress. Consequently, we avoid stress by lowering our expectations or minimizing our aspirations. When we do not take advantage of eustress, we enter a toxic level of stress that makes us feel stuck or dissuaded.
Finding and maintaining a balance between overwork and inactivity helps with achieving eustress. It takes practice to attain eustress and this starts with prioritizing our health. Improving our health equips us with the ability to detect signs of chronic stress and to take the necessary steps towards needed change. Additionally, achieving eustress helps individuals become more capable of empathizing with others. When we feel our best, we are more capable of helping others, which subsequently improves our self-esteem. Everyone has his or her own unique speedometer. Therefore, it is important to discover the speed limit that benefits you the most and adapt, as necessary, to the challenges that life presents in your path.
Ways to achieve eustress:
- Recognize the physical and psychological signs of toxic stress and be sure to stay in the sweet spot of eustress.
Dissolve one bad habit at a time
- Think of one ‘bad’ habit you want to change and one ‘good’ habit you want to replace it with.
- Take the steps towards practicing the ‘good’ habit consistently for at least 21 days.
- Do not be hard on yourself if the outcome is not ‘perfect.’
Acknowledge your achievements and create a new goal
- No matter the type of accomplishment, make time to appreciate your success.
- No matter the difficulty, take the initial step to pursue your goal.