What is Negative Stress and Positive Stress?

Stress is a part of life. We all experience it from time to time, but did you know there can be negative and positive stress? That’s right!

Negative stress is the response we experience when our body perceives a threat to our well-being. Positive stress is the emotion that we feel when faced with challenges that are important to us or those that make us better.

In this article, you’ll learn more about what makes stress negative or positive and what you can do to increase your positive stress levels.

See also Can Stress Cause Stomach Ulcers? and Why is Stress Management Important?

What is Stress?

According to the World Health Organization, stress is “a response to actual or anticipated challenges or threats to one’s environment, body or resources that leads to alterations in the body’s biochemistry and physiology.” 

The WHO further states that “stress can have a damaging effect on both mental and physical health” and can lead to conditions like anxiety, depression, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

There are many ways people experience stress, and in most cases, all of them can negatively affect our health. 

Some of the most common sources of stress include work, family, social obligations, financial issues, illness, or injury. 

How we respond to these challenges can also affect our health, and the best way to reduce the impact of stress on your health is to learn how to manage it. 

There are a few simple things you can do to reduce your levels of stress:

  • Get enough sleep each night.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Take time for yourself each day.
  • Set boundaries with others.
  • Keep positive thoughts in mind.

What is Positive Stress?

Positive stress is a type of stress that is beneficial to the individual. 

It is also known as good stress or eustress. Positive stress can be defined as a state of mind that is associated with positive emotions, such as excitement, pleasure, and arousal. 

Positive stress can come from things like feeling accomplished or happy with life or taking on a challenging task you enjoy.

What is Negative Stress?

Negative stress or distress is a type of stress that can have negative physical and mental health effects. It’s caused by chronic, overwhelming pressures and strains that make it hard to relax and de-stress. Negative stress often leads to mood swings, anxiety, and even depression.

Characteristics of Negative Stress vs Positive stress

Negative Stress (Distress)

Positive Stress (eustress)

  • Causes anxiety or concern
  • Motivates, focuses energy
  • Decreases performance
  • Improves performance
  • Can be short or long-term
  • Is short term
  •  Feels unpleasant
  • Feels exciting
  • Is perceived as outside of our coping skills
  • Is perceived as within our coping skills
  • Can lead to physical and mental problems
  • Improves mental and physical health

 Examples of things that can cause good stress

  • Receiving a promotion or raise at work
  • Learning a new hobby
  • Starting a new job
  • Buying a home
  • Getting married
  • Taking a vacation
  • Holiday seasons
  • Retiring
  • Having a child
  • woman being overwhelmed with stress

Examples of things that can cause negative stress

  • Death of a loved one
  • Filing for a divorce
  • Abuse or neglect
  • Unemployment
  • Legal problems
  • Children’s problems at school
  • Separation from spouse
  • Terminal illnesses

Why is positive stress good for you?

1. Positive stress can boost the immune system

People with positive stress levels have higher levels of immune-boosting cells than people with negative or neutral stress levels.

This is likely because positive stress has been linked to increased energy and vigor, which support the body’s natural defenses.

2. Increased life span

Research indicates that people who experience positive stress tend to live longer than those who experience negative stress. 

The key, however, appears to be how the stress, whether negative, is experienced – being stressed out but trying to remain optimistic about the future seems to be beneficial, whereas dwelling on negative thoughts leads to shortened life spans.

3. Better mental health

Stressed people have more anxiety and depression symptoms than those who are relaxed and calm. Positive stress has been shown to improve mental health in various ways, from reducing anxiety and depression symptoms to improving your mood.

4. It may boost cognitive functions

In one study, participants who were stressed out performed worse on tests that involved memory and attention span than those who were in a happy state. 

However, when the same test was given to participants two weeks after their stressful event had passed, the results showed that those in a positive state had improved performance overall. 

5. Improved physical health

Positive stress has also been linked with increased physical health in a number of ways.

For example, it has been shown to improve cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure and heart rate variability, as well as decreasing cortisol levels (a hormone that can lead to chronic inflammation). 

It also appears to help prevent obesity and other chronic diseases by increasing energy levels and decreasing cravings for unhealthy foods.

6. Increased creativity and productivity

Positive stress can increase your creativity and productivity because it leads to an increased feeling of focus and concentration. In fact, research shows that people who experience high levels of positive stress are more likely to be successful in their careers and more productive overall.

7. Better sleep quality and quantity

Good sleep is essential for your overall well-being, and positive stress can promote better sleep quality and quantity. 

People who experience more positive stress tend to sleep better than those who don’t. This is due to the fact that positive stress helps control the body’s response to stress by regulating the release of hormones, such as cortisol.

When cortisol is released, it can lead to a number of negative health effects, including increased anxiety and depression, which can affect sleep. 

In contrast, when your cortisol is low, it can lead to improved sleep quality and quantity. Studies have found that people who experience more positive stress tend to have better overall sleep quality and fewer problems with falling or staying asleep.

8. Increased resilience against adversity

Positive stress has been linked to increased resilience against adversity.

It has been found that those who experience high levels of positive stress have a better ability to cope with difficult situations and recover from setbacks. 

This is because positive stress helps you develop coping mechanisms, and you are more likely to bounce back from difficult challenges much faster than those less resilient. 

How to achieve positive stress in your life

So how do you achieve positive stress? There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of achieving it:

1. Exercise

One of the ways that exercise can help you achieve positive stress is by releasing endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that are responsible for reducing pain and inflammation. 

According to research, when you exercise, your body releases endorphins in response to the physical activity and the consequent release of energy. 

This process helps reduce the feeling of stress and improves mood. Additionally, exercise can help improve your ability to focus and concentrate. This is because it increases blood and oxygen flow to the brain, which in turn helps boost your brain function.

Additionally, regular exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality and duration. 

Overall, exercising can help you achieve positive stress by relieving tension and promoting better moods. It can also help you concentrate better and get more sleep.

2. Read

Reading can help you achieve positive stress in a number of ways. 

Firstly, it can provide a sense of escape, allowing you to forget about your troubles for a while. 

Secondly, reading can be an interesting and challenging experience, which can help stimulate the brain and keep it active. 

Also, reading can lead to a range of new knowledge and insights, which can help regulate emotions and improve overall mental health.

In addition, reading can be a relaxing activity. When you read, your mind is free to wander. This can lead to a state of relaxation.

Finally, reading can give you a sense of accomplishment. When you finish a book, you may feel proud of yourself. This feeling can help reduce the amount of stress that you feel. 

3. Take on a new project

Taking on a new project can help you achieve positive stress. When working on a new project, your brain is constantly working to come up with new ideas and solutions.

This type of stimulation can help you to stay alert and focused, which can lead to improved work productivity. Additionally, taking on a new project can provide an escape from your current stressors.

By focusing on a new goal, you can de-stress and enjoy the process of completing the project. In short, by taking on a new project, you can improve your overall stress levels and productivity.

4. Learn how to set goals

Setting goals is a great way to prevent negative stress and achieve positive stress. By taking the time to set goals, you can better control your life and achieve your desired outcomes. 

There are a few things to keep in mind when setting goals: 

1. Make sure your goals are achievable. Don’t set impossible or unrealistic goals that will only frustrate you and drain energy from your efforts. 

2. Set short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals should be attainable within a few months, while long-term goals can take longer but should be more ambitious. 

3. Make sure your goal is motivational. If your goal isn’t motivating, it will be difficult to stay focused and motivated during the journey to reach it. Find something that fills you with passion or enthusiasm when you think about reaching your goal and remember to keep that feeling alive as you work towards it! 

4. Celebrate milestones along the way. When you reach a goal, celebrate it! This will help keep you on track and motivated and remind you why you’re working so hard towards achieving your larger goal. 

By following these simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to setting yourself up for success and managing stress in the best possible way!

5. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone

In order to achieve positive stress, you need to challenge yourself cognitively, emotionally, and physically. 

Here are four ways to do this: 

1. Challenge your cognitive abilities. Think of a difficult problem that you’ve been avoiding for fear of solving it. Take on that challenge head-on and see if you can solve it. This will help increase your cognitive flexibility and stamina, two key ingredients for achieving positive stress. 

2. Emotionally challenge yourself. Challenge your emotions by facing tough situations head-on without bowing down to fear or panic. Doing so will help you develop emotional resilience, a key trait for dealing with stress in the future. 

3. Physically challenge yourself. Challenge yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically by pushing your body to its limits. Doing so will help build muscle memory and Endurance, both key ingredients for coping with stress in the future. 

4. Find support groups or coaching programs that fit your needs and goals. Pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone can be challenging, but it’s also rewarding when you see positive results in your life. 

Find support groups or coaching programs that fit your needs and goals so that you can reach your full potential – both physically and mentally – under pressure.

6. Track your progress and hold yourself accountable

If you want to achieve positive stress, it’s important to track your progress. This can help you see where you are succeeding and where you need to improve. 

This can also help you stay accountable for your goals and keep yourself motivated. There are a number of ways to track your progress. You can use a journal, an online tracking platform, or a physical calendar. 

Whichever method works best for you, ensure you regularly update your tracking information. This will help you stay on track and achieve your goals.

Related Articles:

  1. Stress Relieving Foods
  2. Burnout vs. Depression: What’s The Difference
  3. What is Emotional Flooding?
  4. Different types of Stress

Final Thoughts

Stress can be helpful or harmful, depending on which type you’re dealing with. 

Negative stress is a state of mind where you are worried, anxious, and stressed out. Positive stress is when you are excited, engaged, and motivated. 

When we experience negative stress regularly, it can lead to health problems like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and depression. 

On the other hand, positive stress is good for your mental and physical health. It increases energy levels, makes you smarter and faster at learning new things, and helps you stay focused during difficult tasks. 

So next time you’re stressed out, try to find something that makes you happy or engage in creative activities to help you build on positive stress.

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