Let’s get to the point without delay. Stress isn’t always bad. It exists as a necessary survival tool.
The Dual Nature of Stress
Stress often bears the title of the villain of daily life. Yet stories abound about moms using superhuman strength to save children from harm. Stress primed their muscles, motivation, focus, and energy to rise to the challenge.
Competitive field sports offer a positive perspective on stress as well. Athletes must maintain a constant awareness of simultaneous events and other players. Teams often share pre-game rituals to “pump up” or “get psyched.” The quick breathing, jumping around, and shouting trigger a fight-or-flight response. Then comes the surge of excitement when a player takes possession of the ball. Instinctive, split-second decisions follow, thanks to stress.
What about wrapping presents at the last minute, whether on Christmas Eve or for a birthday? You hope the kids won’t hear you and make an unexpected appearance to ruin the surprise. You feel the tension of keeping the gift a secret weighed against the anticipation of watching your child open the gift.
The term eustress refers to stress that offers an advantage, as in the previous examples. We all need to maintain a certain level of stress to live productive, fulfilling lives. Even so, the optimal level of stress varies from person to person.
The Secret to Finding the Perfect Amount of Stress
Make a conscious effort to notice the invisible line between eustress and distress. When you cross the line, you’ll start to feel overwhelmed instead of empowered. Difficulty returning to a relaxed state also signals too much stress maintained for too long.