SWISS MEDICAL EXPERTISE: ZURICH, MALLORCA, LONDON, NEW YORK

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We are taught from a very young age that adult life is ‘stressful.’ Adulthood, according to this viewpoint, necessitates responsibility and performance, which we attain by pushing ourselves and feeling overwhelmed.

This traditional understanding of stress implies that we are not aiming to be our best selves when we’re not stressed.

Stress was not a topic of scientific study until the 1950s. Greater leisure time and increasing criticism of employment accompanied the welfare state’s golden period. As a result, the Western world only lately recognized stress.

It is critical to research stress since it affects both our thoughts and bodies. For centuries, science has utilized the concept of “stress” to describe the elasticity of a metallic item and its ability to withstand “strain” (as in Hooke’s Law of 1958). Hippocrates used it in Classical Greece to describe a disease that had aspects of pathos (pain) and ponos (relentless and incessant work).

Negative stress concepts were common by the turn of the century, owing largely to the pressures of urbanization and industrialization, which formed the collective consciousness of Western culture.

This article seeks to transform the myth that “all stress is bad for you” by better understanding stress and how we perceive it. As it turns out, linking stress with negativity can exacerbate our stress symptoms.

Hans Selye, a well-known Hungarian endocrinologist, authored The Stress of Life in 1956. This drove the notion of stress and stressor (to differentiate between stimulus and reaction) to the forefront of contemporary psychological research.

Hans Selye reinstates the term over two decades later, in 1974, to differentiate between two types of stress: eustress and distress. Eustress was coined by blending the Greek prefix eu- (means good) with stress to describe “good stress” as opposed to “bad stress.”

This was important since translating the term “stress” into non-roman languages proved problematic.

In Chinese, for example, the term was translated as a combination of two characters denoting ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity,’ both of which together meant ‘crisis.’

Not all forms of stress are the same. Some forms of stress are more harmful to our health than others, while some types of stress are really beneficial. Chronic stress, for example, is the most destructive to our health and wellness since it appears to be continual and exhausting psychologically or emotionally.

Selye tried to demonstrate that stress, while a reaction to a stressor, need not always be associated with negative scenarios by distinguishing between bad stress (distress) and good stress (eustress).

Chronic stress can activate the response to stress and keep it active for an extended length of time, making us weary and on the verge of burnout.

The philosophy of eustress, positive stress, or good stress is based on the following core principles:

Identifying the Differences Among Stressors

Understanding eustress can also assist us in better managing other types of stress. According to a study, when an incident is regarded as a “threat,” we react differently than when it is perceived as a “challenge.” 2 Threats cause us to have a higher stress reaction and cause us to be more anxious.

On the other side, overcoming challenges may be thrilling and even joyful. Threats are frightening, but challenges are opportunities to show ourselves and realize how much we can do when we put up our best effort. This insight reminds us that many stressors in our lives may be viewed as challenges rather than dangers or threats simply by changing the way we talk to ourselves about them and concentrating on the abilities we have to deal with them rather than on what might go wrong and how harmful that would be.

Maintaining Balance and Changing Your Perspective

We may manage these challenges more readily and have more essential energy to tackle these pressures without feeling overwhelmed or unhappy if we work on shifting our perspective and treating stress as a challenge when appropriate. Attempting to approach various stresses in life as we would eustress allows us to better manage that stress.

While eustress does not cause the same sort of damage as prolonged mental stress, far too much eustress can still put a strain on your body systems. You can feel overloaded and pressured by too much eustress if you don’t let yourself recover to a state of relaxation and have a good balance of restorative downtime, just as a routine can become overloaded and demanding even if the events are all “pleasant” activities. As a result, balance is crucial. It’s crucial to strike a balance of work and pleasurable activities, but eustress and leisure are also important considerations.

Keeping Your Limitations in Mind

While changing one’s viewpoint can help with managing stress, it isn’t the only method to employ. Even eustress could become chronic stress if you have too many problems in your life, leading to burnout or worse.

It’s critical to be aware of your limitations and endeavor to preserve a proper balance in your lifestyle. This can include eliminating any superfluous obligations (especially ones you don’t love), developing resilience-building routines that will help you be less responsive to stress in general, and learning to say no to different experiences if they won’t actually benefit you. This takes some skill, but it can drastically reduce your stress levels.

To understand the concept of eustress, we must first have ample knowledge of our brain chemistry.

Stress is mainly a consequence of the primal fight-or-flight response. Humans have been endowed with this response to fight or escape from a possible threat via evolution.

The following are the mechanics of the fight-or-flight response:

When a stressful event occurs, the autonomic nervous system produces an immediate response.

  • The sympathetic nervous system is activated by stress, flooding the body with chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine.
  • These chemicals enhance the senses, raise the heart rate, raise blood pressure, and cause the brain to become hyper-aware.
  • The parasympathetic nerve system, which is responsible for mental calmness and physical relaxation, is overworked.
  • An overabundance of energy and focus, as well as emotions like wrath, aggression, and anxiety, are caused by a neurological mix of chemicals and over-activation of brain areas.

This reflex is extremely effective in times of true danger; it protected early humans from saber-toothed cats’ jaws.

Unfortunately, even when we don’t need it, our fight-or-flight neurochemistry remains a fundamental characteristic of our psychological processes. This reaction occurs when we perceive a stressful circumstance, regardless of the severity of the threat. The hormone release is the same whether the circumstance is life-threatening or not. This means that just thinking about something distressing can trigger severe bodily symptoms.

Because the stressor is often merely a perceived one rather than an actual one, changing how the individual responds to it can have an impact on how intense the experience is. It is critical to recognize eustressors if we do not want the fight-or-flight response to governing our lives. Eustress can result in concentrated attention, emotional equilibrium, and rational reasoning, as shown in the diagram above. Distress, on the other hand, can lead to a loss of focus, confusion, indifference, enthusiasm, burnout, and chaotic conduct.

So, if a situation isn’t life-threatening, how can we train our brains to interpret it as eustress instead of distress?

In its best shape, eustress can generate a sense of flow. Flow, like eustress, is a concentrated state brought on by a healthy amount of difficulty. So the question remains: can distress be transformed into eustress? ‘Yes’ is the simple answer to this question.

Eustress, according to Selye, offers both mental and physical health advantages.

As per Mills, Reiss, and Dombeck (2018), it varies from distress in the following ways:

  • It only lasts for a brief time.
  • It invigorates and inspires.
  • It is thought to be something we can deal with.
  • It is thrilling.
  • It improves concentration and performance.
  • Distress, or chronic stress, on the other hand, is marked by:
  • Long-lasting both in the short and long term
  • Anxiety and worry are triggered
  • Surpassing our ability to cope
  • Creating negative emotions
  • Reduced concentration and performance
  • Causing emotional and physical health issues

Eustress manifests itself in a variety of ways. Below are some ‘good stress’ examples to help you recognize it in your own life:

Life changes. On the wedding day, the bride and groom can think to themselves, “This is a joyous time.” “What is causing me stress?” New moms are also frequently overwhelmed. Big life transitions can be stressful, but they can also result in great things.

New interests. When we initially started something novels, such as an art class or a language lesson, we were all nervous and embarrassed. Pushing through the discomfort teaches you valuable skills and makes your mind busy.

Work eustress. Taking on a big venture that pushes you to harness current talents (which may be immensely invigorating) and forces you to develop existing skills or learn new ones is an example of eustress at work.

Work-related undertakings will only increase eustress if they are both difficult and practical. You are more prone to suffer anxiety and the bad effects that come with it if schedules are unreasonably tight, you are juggling multiple projects (an unsustainable workload), or you are dealing with a toxic team culture.

Personal interests. Another example of eustress is setting challenging goals based on your interests or passions. We have a natural propensity to learn as humans. It can be difficult to learn new things. And gaining competence in a field does not happen in a linear fashion.

There’s always a learning stage where your performance is terrible. However, you are learning from your experiences. You’ll be driven to keep learning and developing as you start to recognize tiny victories and gain self-efficacy.

Travel and eustress. Traveling is stressful by nature, especially when visiting a foreign country with a different language and culture.

Simultaneously, you are immersed in a new and exciting environment, complete with a variety of delicacies to sample, new locations to explore, and an entire culture to discover. Traveling is a unique and eye-opening experience for most people, despite the fact that it is difficult.

Physical conditioning. Physically, eustress is illustrated by pushing your body to grow (– for example, weightlifting) (in this case, stamina, strength, and muscle growth).

You could be jamming out to favorite tracks in the gym or on a walking trail, completely absorbed in your workout. Because you’re caught up in the hype, you may not notice how demanding the task has become.

Eustress is a significant factor in your positive growth. Indeed, this distinguishes it from the other types of stress, which are associated with misery and illness.

  1. Motivation and coping under eustress

The psychological idea of eustress is incredibly helpful in improving your coping abilities. Indeed, eustress makes you feel more capable of confronting any obstacle. These could be common challenges or more challenging day-to-day situations you’re dealing with at the time. Alternatively, they could be various types of issues you frequently meet in your environment.

It motivates you to feel capable of dealing with stress. In fact, feeling encouraged is beneficial in all aspects of life.

  1. Proactivity, creativity, and productivity

Work is one of the places where eustress can be quite useful. This is due to the fact that it enables you to anticipate and respond to any type of change. Positive stress can help you gain more control over your life and boost your creativity. It also boosts your alertness and productivity. This indicates that you are more open to change. Moreover, you may find yourself widening your horizons and considering things you previously overlooked. Because, unlike pain, eustress motivates you. Furthermore, unlike distress, it does not harm you.

  1. Eustress promotes regulated risk activities

In conditions of managed risk, eustress activates your response. Activities such as bungee jumping, running with the bulls, white water rafting,  parachute jumping, and going on dangerous theme park rides are examples of these types of circumstances. You almost certainly know someone who enjoys these kinds of adventures.

However, it’s very probable that these folks will tell you that they often feel worried before doing any of these things. In reality, this feeling could be followed by anxious symptoms. Tremors, palpitations, or the feeling of being about to choke are all possible symptoms. However, these sentiments fade as soon as they begin the action.

Consider the moments leading up to someone performing a parachute jump. They will frequently be anxious. However, as quickly as they step off the plane, their nervousness begins to fade, and it continues to fade as they descend.

  1. Eustress, emotional balance, and security

Eustress also increases your locus of control, which is one of its many advantages. This suggests you believe your actions have a direct impact on your life. Furthermore, you have the impression that you are in command. This makes you feel less helpless and vulnerable.

This increase in your internal center of control also aids in your emotional stability. Eustress does not last. It’s only triggered at specified periods, in fact. This means you’re less prone to experience affective lability since your emotional well-being isn’t jeopardized.

  1. Stress, as well as energy and vitality

Another advantage of positive stress is that it begins the moment you leave your comfort zone. That is the location where you feel secure and safe. As a result, when confronted with a new issue, this positive stress causes you to react. It actually makes you more awake. Furthermore, it improves the speed of your reactions.

Positive stress gives you greater energy and vitality, so you’re more inclined to desire to do more physical activities. As a result, you’ll be able to channel all of your additional energy. Furthermore, the creation of dopamine, also known as the pleasure hormone, is associated with eustress.

  1. Low levels of activation won’t help you.

It’s important to realize that having no stress is not advisable. Because stress is adaptive, if you don’t employ it at particular periods, you will come to a halt. Indeed, a lack of activation or alertness is likely to reduce your creative output. This implies you will be more prone to become bored, which will eventually wear you out.

Now that you’re aware of the advantages of positive stress, you might like to put some methods in place to help you experience more of it. You could attempt deep, aware breathing, sports, coping with negative ideas, or expanding your perspective, for instance.

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