Stress is something that we all experience around us. Whether it comes internally or from external stressors, how it affects us depends on how we react to this stress. The consensus is that stress is bad and harmful, but in some situations, it could help us motivate and change our behaviors to bring about a positive effect.

So, can we all feel this positive stress? Well, in this article, we will be discussing Eustress vs. Distress and distinguishing good stress from bad stress.

What Is Stress?

Stress is the body’s natural response to different stressors. These are the internal and external elements that prompt our body to activate a fight or flight response[1]. These circumstances are usually difficult and upsetting, and we can feel the effect on our bodies.

Stress is a part of human nature that has been passed down from much older generations of humans. Back then, people needed these responses to stay alive and keep away from threats to their existence. When the fight or flight response kicks in, our breathing and heart rate increase and we get increased blood sugar levels, which help us focus and provide more energy for our body to move. It made stress a necessary tool for survival.

Though we don’t face the same dangers now, still, we are exposed to various circumstances that bring up these responses. Our internal stressors include physical pain, negative emotions (sadness, anger), and reliving distressing memories. External stressors include any situation where there is a negative impact on ourselves or someone close to us.

Types Of Stressors – Eustress

Types Of Stressors - Eustress
Eustress is a new concept in the world of stress management. It is a word used to describe the type of stress that is positive, helpful, and can have a beneficial impact on our lives. It works similarly to other stress types throughout our bodies. It heightens our central nervous system[2] making us more alert, improves our psychological mindset, and makes us feel invigorated.

The biggest difference between distress and eustress comes down to energy expenditure. With eustress, the energy provided by our bodies is exactly what is required in the given situation. Whereas, with distress, there is excessive and unstable energy.

Your body will still generate a fight or flight response, but when a person feels more confident in their ability to overcome these stressors, they can convert this stress into positive stress. They will gain a different view of the situation and put the energy to use by working towards a probable solution.

Examples of eustress include:

  • Watching a scary movie
  • Going on a rollercoaster ride
  • First day of a new job
  • Going on a first date

Types Of Stressors – Distress

Types Of Stressors - Distress
Distress is the complete opposite of eustress and the type of stress that most people are commonly aware of. It is a negative kind of stress and is the feeling you get when you are stressed out. When distressed, people may feel overwhelmed, irritable, anxious, and even experience physical symptoms like headaches.

This stress is when we are exposed to situations where we believe there could be harmful or threatening consequences. A small amount of this stress can be helpful similar to eustress. But prolonged exposure to it will lead to us feeling extremely uncomfortable, affecting both our physical and mental well-being.

Perception of the situation and our belief in our abilities can mean the difference between eustress vs. distress. We experience distress when we believe that the stressors in the situation are not something we can control or fix. It ends up making us feel helpless because we can’t find a solution, thereby resulting in unproductive responses.

Examples of Distress include:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Being abused or neglected
  • Money problems
  • Legal problems

Eustress Vs. Distress – Distinguishing Between Them

While both distress and eustress are derived from similar physiological responses, we exhibit this stress, and how it affects our psychological self is thoroughly different. Below we have highlighted some of the signs you need to be aware of that can help distinguish between the two types of stressors.

Signs Of Eustress Vs. Distress

1. Eustress

  • You have positive, productive energy, and you feel excited.
  • It improved focus and motivation.
  • You may feel confident and in control.
  • You expect a positive outcome in the end.

2. Distress

  • You have too much energy and feel restless and overwhelmed.
  • Tend to procrastinate, and you’re not focused.
  • You feel concerned and out of the loop.
  • You’re insecure and fear a negative outcome in the end.

Eustress Vs. Distress – Factors That Cause Them

Eustress Vs. Distress - Factors
As mentioned above, what type of stress you feel is determined by your subjective view of the situation and how you can handle it. What might cause distress to one individual does not necessarily mean that another person has the same response.

For example, let’s look at how interviewing for a new job can be interpreted by two types of people.

1. Eustress

If the individual is confident about their abilities and sees the situation as being objectively great for their career. Then, they are more likely to go into that meeting with a positive mindset. They will be well prepared and be able to focus on the meeting. They will see the meeting for what it is – short-term and desirable. With this mindset, the chances of negative emotions rising are low, and they inherently believe they are capable of acing the meeting.

2. Distress

If the individual is afraid before the meeting has even begun and they begin doubting their abilities, then they are likely to go in with a negative mindset. They are constantly be thinking about all the ways it can go wrong, and they will feel they are in a situation they cannot control. The short time that the meeting is set for will look daunting and unending, and they will be left with the impression that they are unable to handle the job interview.

Eustress Vs. Distress – How Does It Impact You?

Both distress and eustress have unique impacts on our physical and mental selves. Usually, eustress is positive, while distress is negative.

1. Eustress

While experiencing Eustress, the following can happen:

  • You have heightened focus and are mentally available to deal with the situation.
  • You become immersed in the situation.
  • You may enter a state of flow while feeling confident.
  • You become more adaptive and able to think on your feet.
  • You are able to cope with rising feelings of distress and put them away.

2. Distress

While experiencing Distress, this is what usually happens:

  • You will have trouble concentrating and remembering things
  • Your heart will be racing, and you will feel restless and on edge.
  • Your thoughts will be intrusive and repetitive, making it difficult to think.
  • You may experience physical discomfort like stomach problems.
  • You will be highly irritable and frustrated to the point of exploding at the smallest things.

Converting Distress Into Eustress

Converting Distress Into Eustress
We cannot avoid feeling stressed. Therefore, rather than continuing to feel distressed, your only option is to change your mindset and subjective views to convert that stress into eustress. To manage stress and anxiety, your first step would be to view every situation or circumstance as a challenge rather than a problem or hindrance. Being able to generate hope and positive emotions is the key to developing eustress. Some ways you can attempt to do this are:

  • Finding meaning and a reason to fight in stressful situations
  • Focusing only on the aspects of a situation that you can control.
  • Use mindfulness and meditation to calm down and get out of your head.
  • Identifying and following actionable steps to improve the situation.
  • Involving yourself with support systems to manage negative emotions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Eustress heightens our central nervous system, making us more alert, improves our psychological mindset, and makes us feel energized.

Yes, your perception of the situation can lead to either eustress or distress.

Eustress may help generate positive emotions and mindsets that can keep distress at bay.

No, stress can have a positive impact as well as eustress.

Positive stress is called Eustress.


Stress is a normal part of life. It could impact the way we see things from our perspectives. Although, we cannot determine or manage the various ways we experience stress because we have no control over what happens around us.

However, our perception of this stress and how we respond to it will determine how it affects us, which is why it is important to know the difference between Eustress vs. Distress.

The best thing we can do is change our mindset, be positive, and see what good things each situation brings to remain happy and content, no matter where we are.