Good Stress Does Exist, And It Can Improve Your Health

Everyone is familiar with stress. Whether you're a workaholic or a relatively relaxed person, the subtle yet anxious rev in our engines is unavoidable. Statistics matter when observing high levels of stress. Most individuals experience one, if not many variations of high, toxic stress, in both a mental and physical capacity. The Recovery Village cites statistics from the American Institute of Stress, revealing extreme stress negatively impacts over 77% of individuals physically, while 73% of individuals experienced negative psychological effects from toxic stress.

Of course, common causes of stress including juggling finances, strained relationships, and over-committing all act as antagonists in life's linear drama. However, it's the way we decide to channel our stress that ultimately affects our capacity to process information in an unhealthy or healthy way. For instance, though hard to believe, there is such a thing as good stress. Yes, you read that right. Good stress, labeled by Summa Health as eustress, not only lights a fire under our tooshes, but also acts as a catalyst for joy, stemming from demanding, yet equally enjoyable tasks which, in the end, can reap many benefits. Here's why.

Mental and physical benefits

Have you ever thrown a surprise party for a loved one? Typically, the undertaking is not for the faint of heart, as preparation commonly produces high volumes of stress. However, we're up for the job, not because we're forced to, but because we genuinely want to. It's here in this scenario that we see a mental shift: our brain begins to associate tasks with desire. 

The tricky thing about stress is that it can creep up anywhere. Sticking with the party planning analogy, you might experience negative stress while planning, scheduling, coordinating, and even decorating for various reasons. Maybe you feel like you're running out of time, or that there were a handful of last-minute cancelations. However, despite all this, these examples show good stress because, at its core, your decision to throw a party is funneling negative stress into a joy-evoking practice, or selfless act. And, because the motivation behind your stress is driven by a desire to love and celebrate, your body is channeling stress in a healthier way too.

Break it down

The opposite goes for negative stress, which is treated like an injury by our body's muscles and organs. If you're one to ask what really happens to the body when it's stressed, some common examples are muscle tension in appendages like the biceps and abs, as well as respiratory organs like the lungs. Ultimately, negative stress can cause aches, pains, and even shortness of breath. However, when we experience good stress, our bodies are able to trade these discomforts for healing properties, such as a momentary boost in our immune system, of all things.

In addition to the physical perks of good stress, Healthline states that a mental pro is the fact that our subconscious uses good stress to stay motivated and grow. The key here is to treat the stress as a challenge: an obtainable, enjoyable goal to benefit from at the finish line. A constructive way to channel eustress is by setting a deadline for yourself. Start by breaking your central goal into steps, bullet pointing or post-it noting as needed. Write down any key action you think would benefit your overall objective. Doing so will stimulate your mind and body with positive reinforcements, as well as encourage your subconscious by being prepared, and not scared of the unknown. All in all, the beneficial mental shift will turn potential negative stress into encouraging bouts of excitement and will help you achieve a healthier, more productive outcome in the long run.