Stress gets a bad rap. No matter what, too much of it is usually a bad thing. However, some stress is actually good stress – also called eustress – and this type of stress can create meaning, flavor, and direction in our lives. So, while it’s important to manage your stress levels, you first need to understand the different types of stress and how they are helpful or harmful to you.
Healthy Stress vs. Unhealthy Stress: What's the Difference?
Stress – whether healthy or unhealthy – is associated with a physiological response in the body called the stress response. Stress causes our bodies to release certain hormones (including cortisol). Plus, it triggers a release of adrenaline, elevates the heart rate, concentrates the blood flow around vital organs, and induces the fight or flight response.
What separates healthy/good stress from unhealthy/bad stress is simply the feelings, emotions, or perspectives attached to the physical changes that occur in the body.
Healthy Stress (Eustress)
Healthy stress is a stress response that’s associated with positive life events such as the excitement of a first date, riding a roller coaster, singing karaoke, or entering an interview for a job you really want.
Unhealthy stress is associated with negative events or things in a person’s life such as a difficult job, money problems, or an unhealthy relationship. It can either be acute (occurs in short, infrequent bursts) or chronic (occurs repeatedly and frequently).
Managing Both Types of Stress in Your Life
Just because eustress can help improve your life, give you a sense of purpose, and be fun, it doesn’t mean that experiencing it all of the time is healthy. Even good stress can trigger harmful physiological responses in our bodies, so don’t go out and turn yourself into an adrenaline junky.
If you find yourself encountering unhealthy stress on a regular or chronic basis, then you should take steps to mitigate the stress response that’s occurring inside your body. You can do this by attempting to avoid or change the circumstances that are causing you stress, changing your perspective, practicing meditation, getting plenty of exercise, participating in hobbies and self-care, and seeking out counseling with a mental health professional.
However you balance the ups and downs of life, professional counseling at Gulf Coast Health Center can help you navigate all of life’s twists and turns while keeping your stress levels in check. To learn more about the mental health services available to our patients or to schedule an appointment, we welcome you to contact any of our offices today.
Gulf Coast Health Center, Inc. is a private, non-profit community based organization. We are partially funded through grants, including funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration. A sliding fee scale is available to all patients regardless of insurance.