By Irvine Lehloo
In our last post on stress, we learned that stress is the experience of “being subjected to physical, mental or emotional strain in response to real or imagined stimuli”. We also learned that stress is a perfectly natural part of our lives, but that stress requires careful management in order to prevent us from becoming exhausted.
Part of stress management is being able to distinguish between Positive Stress (also known as eustress), and Negative Stress (distress). Being able to tell the difference between the two types of stress, enables us to firstly identify if an experience is helping or harming us, which then secondly allows us to respond correctly to the stressor. Ready to learn more? Let’s read on!
Positive Stress is experienced when a stressor leads to an improvement in your overall performance and productivity. Positive stress is usually the outcome of a positive attitude towards a stressor (being proactive), good time management practices, and effective prioritising of one’s activities (putting first things first). Good news, or an unexpected benefit, can also cause a positive stress experience. Experiencing positive stress leads to several benefits which include:
- Increased Creativity: Not only are you able to make or develop things, you are also able to think of new or more effective methods for completing tasks.
- Higher Productivity: You are able to complete more tasks at work, and participate in more activities in your personal life.
- Improved Self-Esteem: You generally feel good about yourself, and happy with the life that you are leading.
- Better Health: Positive stress stimulates your immune system to operate optimally, meaning that you are less likely to become ill.
Whilst positive stress has excellent benefits for your life, it is important to note that positive stress depletes the body’s reserves just as much as negative stress does. Over-exposing yourself to positive stressors without effectively managing your stress, can transform positive stress into negative stress, thereby inducing exhaustion.
Normally, stress coaxes the best performance out of a person. However, should your stress threshold be exceeded, one becomes over-stressed, and the outcome is that your overall performance and productivity becomes impaired or completely debilitated: this is known as a Negative Stress experience. Negative stress is usually the outcome of a poor attitude towards a stressor (being reactive), poor time management practices, and failing to prioritise one’s activities. Sometimes, traumatic events can also lead to the experience of negative stress.
Because you are over-stressed, your body’s ability to cope with the stressor becomes depleted at a much faster rate. This leads to an early onset of exhaustion – often before you are able to successfully resolve a stressful situation.
What type of stress are you experiencing in your life at present? Use a sheet of paper to quickly answer a few questions, and determine what type of stress you’re experiencing in your life:
- How are you feeling right now? (a) Energetic or (b) Exhausted?
- If you answered (a) to question 1,Over the past year, has any challenging or stressful situation, task, or activity in the past six months led to an improvement in your performance and productivity? If YES, how often has this occurred?
- If you answered (b) to question 1, have you ever underperformed as a result of a stressful experience over the past year? If YES, how often have you underperformed?
If you answered question 1 and question 2, chances are that you’re exposed to some great positive stressors. This is good news, because you’ll be healthier, feel better, and be more productive in your studies, or at work. If on the other hand, you answered question 1 and question 3, chances are that you’re surrounded by debilitating negative stressors. Learning stress management techniques is vital, especially if you are experiencing negative stress, or you could end up suffering from serious physical & psychological illnesses.
Interested in learning more? Watch out for our third & final post on Stress Management, coming up later today.
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P.S.: If you or someone you know needs further information about stress, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Title the e-mail Stress Management, and we’ll get back to you with useful links, where you can find detailed information & advice