How To Turn Negative Stress Into Positive Stress (Eustress)

positive stress (eustress)

How do you find Positive Stress

The website WebMD has this to say about positive stress (eustress):

“Stress can be positive or negative, depending on the situation. Positive stress (eustress) may include an upcoming wedding, the holidays, or pregnancy. On the other hand, negative stress (called distress) results in the full-blown stress response. If continuous, negative stress can lead to loss of productivity, health problems, and exhaustion.”

This implies that it’s the situation that determines whether something can create good stress or bad stress. The problem is, that’s not like it is in real life, is it?

Think about it. Some people thrive on public speaking & others find it incredibly scary. Some people love projects with tight deadlines and others crumble. It can’t be down to the situation alone. It must have something to do with how each individual is thinking about those stressful situations.

If you have the ability to cope with the pressures you face, then those pressures become positive stress. It all boils down to how much meaning the pressure has for you and how much control you exert over it.

Changing negative stress (Distress) into Positive Stress (Eustress)

“Stress and meaning are inextricably linked. You don’t stress out about things you don’t care about, and you can’t create a meaningful life without experiencing some stress.” 

Speaking as a seasoned therapist & coach, changing the meaning a situation carries for you is definitely possible.

Positive stress is something which can motivate you to perform beyond your usual levels. Often we think of this as being a work-related issue where some people appear to thrive whilst others fall by the wayside. Positive stress extends to the world of sports too, think of any major sporting event and there are individuals and teams that have lifted themselves beyond anything they’ve done before. Where do you think World Records come from? It’s positive stress in action.

Stress can enhance our personal lives too. There are plenty of people who cope with extremely difficult situations and even seem to come out of it better than before.

So what can you do to give yourself more chance of dealing with your own pressures in a positive way?

1. Control the things you can control

  • Actively decide if there is something you could do about the situation.
  • If there is, decide whether you will do it or whether you won’t do it.
  • Do it (or don’t do it). Either way, you are in control.
  • If there isn’t anything you can do, then there is nothing to control anyway.

2. Change your thinking

This is surprisingly easy once you get the hang of it

Listen to the words you use: ‘have to, must, need to, can’t’

  • Change “I have to …” into “I’m choosing to…”
  • Change “I need to …” into “I want to…”
  • Change “I must…” into “I’d like to…”

This is more than sleight of hand (or mouth). There are two powerful actions at work here.

Firstly, you are the person you listen to most. What you say and think has a massive effect on how you feel. Tell yourself you have choice.

Secondly, there is almost nothing that you absolutely have/must/need to do. Almost everything has a choice attached. The reality is that we tend to frame a choice based on negative consequences as something we don’t have a choice over. Simply acknowledging that this choice exists increases our sense of control.

3. Build in time to recover your energy

Dealing with pressure, even positive pressure, takes energy. So make sure you find ways to maintain and boost your reserves. Often these are the same steps that also help you deal with negative stress, so take another look here

4. Stress isn’t dangerous – how we think about stress is dangerous

Early research on stress seemed to prove that stress was bad for us. As a consequence we have been brought up to think of stress as a dangerous effect of modern life. Stress leads to heart disease, stress leads to high blood pressure, stress leads to strokes; there is a long list of the bad things that stress can do to us.

However modern research indicates that it is the belief that stress is bad which is really harmful to our health. (Kelly McGonigal’s book, The Upside of Stress is full of useful info on this).

It seems that the people who suffer ill effects from stress do so far more because they believe stress is bad than they do from the stress itself!

Simply calling this widely held belief into question can dramatically improve your ability to deal with stress.

What Next?

Put these ideas into practice & let me know how you get on.

If you’d like some help to make the most of the stresses in your life, get in touch. Let’s discuss how I can help you find your way.


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