There is such a thing as Positive Stress. It’s called Eustress and it’s key to helping us perform under pressure.
The stress response has the power to be beneficial because the sympathetic nervous system releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that physiologically energize us, motivate us to take action and heighten our cognitive function by sharpening our focus and increasing our alertness.
Stress is not inherently negative. It only becomes harmful when it becomes chronic. We go through acute stress cycles (fight or flight) regularly in everyday life. If we are aware of when we are in a stress response and it is moderate, we can use it to our advantage. We can hone our new found energy, motivation, focus and alertness to perform better, grow faster and become more resilient.
What Happens During a Stress Response?
When we encounter a stressful situation, the body activates the sympathetic nervous system. It releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline which prepare the body for a “fight or flight” response. Once the perceived threat or stressor diminishes, the body signals the end of the stress response and stress hormones decrease in circulation. The parasympathetic nervous system is activated to counteract the effects of the sympathetic nervous system by promoting relaxation and restoring balance.
Two Main Types of Stress
- Acute: Short-term stress arising from specific circumstances. Once the situation is resolved, the stress typically diminishes as long as we activate appropriate techniques and mechanisms.
- Chronic: Long-term stress persisting over an extended period. It results from ongoing challenges or our inability to cope with acute stresses.
How to Tap into Eustress
The key to tapping into Eustress is to not automatically perceive a stressful situation as negative. Because it isn’t. Stress is a natural response to normal life experiences. It’s the body’s way of reacting to challenging situations and preparing us to face them. Reaping the benefits of stress all comes down to our mindset.
Here are some key steps to creating a Positive Stress Mindset:
- Be hyper aware of when you are in a stress response so you can use it to your advantage.
- Don’t automatically perceive the situation as negative, choose to focus on the benefits.
- Have the coping mechanisms in place to stop acute stress cycles turning into chronic stress.
- Purposely expose yourself to moderate and acute stress to build resilience and become better at performing under pressure.
- Reflect on your stressful experiences and continuously learn how to get better at creating a positive stress mindset.