Good Stress and Bad Stress – Your Body May Not Know the Difference

You’ve probably heard by now that not all stress is bad. But have you ever stopped to wonder if your body processes good and bad stress the same or differently?

There are two different terms for stress depending on what kind of stress you have.

Distress is used to describe stress that isn’t healthy. Eustress is the term given to stress that’s good.

Let’s take a look at distress first.


You could easily come up with a long list of things that could cause distress. These negative events or thoughts break down your body and mind. Every day is loaded with these great and small.

Here are a few examples:

  • Divorce
  • Debt
  • Conflicts with people
  • Negative/self-defeating thoughts
  • Death of a loved one
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Poison ivy
  • Auto accidents
  • Job loss
  • Depression

You likely could relate to several on that list. No one lines up to go through junk like that though everyone experiences their fair share of distress.


When it comes to eustress, we can be glad for it since it’s considered a positive pressure or need to change. Ironically, the absence of eustress would actually cause distress.

We wouldn’t have the feeling that we’re achieving all we can, moving through life and making a positive difference without it.

What are some examples of eustress? Here are a few:

  • A new baby
  • Moving
  • Taking a new job
  • Rigorous exercise
  • Getting married
  • Education
  • Meeting new people
  • Stepping into the batter’s box
  • Traveling
  • Going on a date

As you’ll probably notice, some events are difficult to just slate into one category.

For instance, a new baby would be considered eustress for most people but events surrounding that baby can cross over to distress.

If you don’t have proper support or your baby experiences health problems, that could be upsetting, distressing even.

Also, to simply say that “moving” is a eustress event isn’t completely true. Someone selling their home and moving to a “bigger and better” home will probably experience eustress.

But for someone who has to move due to home foreclosure, they’ll likely feel much differently about the situation.

Even in the best-case scenario eustress event, there are distress events sprinkled in.

Or imagine the anticipation of a great date that turns out to be an epic disaster. That eustress event quickly morphs into distress!

So, Does Your Body Know the Difference Between Eustress and Distress?

It actually doesn’t.

What that means is that if you had no distress and only eustress, there could still potentially be a problem.

An overabundance of eustress would cause the same health and emotional problems as distress would.

As a result, when assessing your stress levels, it’s important to include necessary adaptations and changes in your life even if you don’t view them as negative.

We can all be thankful for eustress and can’t avoid distress though we’d love to be rid of it for good.

The best we can do is manage our stress levels so they don’t get out of control. By better understanding the body’s reaction to any kind of stress, we’ll be better equipped to do just that.

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