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Good Stress Vs. Bad Stress – How To Tell The Difference

January 14, 2020, 


Nobody wants to feel stressed all of the time, but it is important to know that stress doesn’t have to be such a bad thing. A little bit is helpful but too much can be detrimental. We aren’t here to survive – we’re here to live fully and thrive!

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Good Stress Vs. Bad Stress - How To Tell The Difference

Whether we like it or not, stress will always be a part of our lives. When we think about stress, the first things that come to mind are often negative; such as fighting with loved ones or being overworked. However, what if we told you that stress didn’t have to be such a bad thing after all? In fact, there is a certain type of stress that’s actually good for us.

While stress affects everybody differently, there are two major types: stress that’s beneficial and motivating (good stress) and stress that causes anxiety, worry and even health problems (bad stress).

First things first: Stress is vital for our survival.

The stress response is essentially our bodies warning system, preparing us to deal with any threat that comes our way. We experience an increase in heart-rate, our breathing becomes shallower and even our digestive system takes a break – simply to prioritise other, more important, functions.

An overload of stress, though, can actually weaken our immune system and often leave us feeling drained and exhausted.

Newsflash: We weren’t designed to be in survival mode all of the time!

On the other hand, a certain level of stress is actually beneficial. “Good stress,” is what we experience during excitement. Our pulse quickens and our hormones surge, but there is no threat or fear involved. We might feel this type of stress when we’re waking up at 4am to go on an exciting holiday, competing for a promotion or even going on a first date. Good stress allows us to meet daily challenges, motivates us to succeed and keeps us feeling alive and excited about life.

Stress is transient and can switch between good or bad, depending on the scenario. A good way to identify between good and bad stress is to ask these 3 questions…

  • Is it temporary?

Good stress is usually experienced in short bursts. Running a marathon, cramming for an exam or taking a driving lesson are all examples of stress that is short-lived. If the challenge is something we can power through, that’s an indication it’s good for you, overall.

  • Is there a reward?

Stress with rewards such as learning a new skill, planning a wedding or even becoming pregnant are all examples of stressors that will benefit our lives in the long-term. Knowing there is a reward at the end makes this type of stress worthwhile.

  • Is it affecting my emotional state?

It’s important to check in with ourselves to identify how our everyday stressors impact our lives. Undergoing activities which seem beneficial at the time are counteracted if they leave us feeling low, depressed or continually worried. Checking in with ourselves first thing in the morning, half-way through the day and before bed at night are vital in differentiating good VS bad stress.

Experiencing frequent illness such as digestive complaints, headaches or feeling irritable all the time are a few tell-tale signs of stress overload. Trouble falling asleep and even changes in appetite are also some signs to look out for. These can lead us to a melt-down or total burn-out if not spotted and resolved!

Spending more time on the activities that we actually want to do and less time on what we feel as though we have to do is the first step in replacing the negative with positive.

We can add good stress to our lives by choosing activities and setting goals that make us feel happy and excited. If we are struggling to find the balance, we can recruit our resources such as journalling the positive qualities of a situation, meditating regularly or speaking to a helpful professional.

Nobody wants to feel stressed all of the time, but it is important to know that stress doesn’t have to be such a bad thing. If we didn’t have some stress in our lives, we’d feel aimless, bored and unhappy. If there’s one thing to remember: Stress is key for survival – a little bit is helpful but too much can be detrimental.

We aren’t here to simply survive – we’re here to live fully and thrive!

If you are having trouble identifying the different levels of stress in your life, you are welcome to speak to one of our helpful therapists who specialize in stress management. For more information, visit this page

To learn more about the variety of services we have, please email hello@dublinwellnesscentre.ie