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Good Stress Vs. Bad Stress

  • Category: Mental Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Baton Rouge General
Good Stress Vs. Bad Stress

We all know that feeling stress brings – worry, pressure, or even danger. Stress is your body’s natural response to a challenge or demand, known as the “fight or flight” response, and can create both a psychological and physical reaction.

While factors like life experience, home environment, and financial resources influence how different people respond to a perceived stressful situation, there is a concept that not all stress is bad. Good stress (“eustress”) is stress that feels challenging but manageable and gives a feeling of growth or reward, whereas bad stress (“distress”) is difficult and results in something negative.

Situations that may create feelings of “good stress” include a major deadline or project at work, a competition or big game, or a major life change that you want to happen like moving or getting married. On the other hand, financial issues, feeling unsafe in your environment, an unexpected end to a relationship, or the death of a loved one can result in “bad stress.” The same event can result in different reactions from different people.

Our bodies are used to handling stress in small doses, but when it turns into chronic stress, it can wreak havoc, affecting every system of the body. Here are a few examples:

  • Musculoskeletal system – stress often causes tense muscles that can lead to headaches and back pain
  • Respiratory system -- stress can exacerbate issues for those with asthma and COPD
  • Gastrointestinal – stress can cause heartburn, bloating and nausea, diarrhea and constipation
  • Nervous and endocrine system – stress causes the nervous system to signal for the release of adrenaline and cortisol, which can make the heart beat faster, glucose levels increase, and the digestive process to change.

Repeated stressful events make it harder for the body to naturally return to the baseline of relaxation. Often people may not even realize that the symptoms they’re feeling – sleeping issues, headaches, lack of focus – are related to stress. Whether you regularly experience good or bad stress, make sure to keep it in check. Some of the best ways to reduce stress are regular physical activity, getting enough sleep, spending time with people you enjoy and who support you, eating a balanced diet, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and making time for hobbies if you have them. If you are still struggling with chronic stress, reach out to your healthcare provider for the next best step for you.