How Stress Can Be Both Useful & Harmful

Published 7th February 2021

In this article Collin Bell at Peak Performance Consultancy offers some advice on how stress can be both useful & harmful.

How Stress Can Be Both Useful & Harmful

Stress in the workplace is nothing new, but as we start the year in lockdown, the term stress is more prevalent than ever - in addition to trying to manage our work in very different and challenging ways, many of us are also having to home school and live/work full time with partners and family members.

None of us signed up to this, and yet here we are, stressed! Well, what if there were an alternative way to think about and manage our stress? Not to oversimplify it, but what if we held the belief that there is bad stress (Distress), and there is good stress (Eustress).

So what is Stress?

Stress is the body's reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental and emotional responses. Stress is a normal part of life. Stress can manifest from your environment, your body and your thoughts. When the human body is stressed it produces larger quantities of the chemicals cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. (Further Reading)

Researchers believe that some stress can help to fortify the immune system. For instance, stress can improve how your heart works and protect your body from infection. In one study, individuals who experienced moderate levels of stress before surgery were able to recover faster than individuals who had low or high levels.

What is Distress?

Distress is the most commonly known type of stress. It is negative stress that causes feelings of worry, fear or anxiety. Distress is typically caused by negative experiences and situations.

How about Eustress (Positive Stress)?

Eustress means beneficial stress, either psychological, physical (e.g. exercise), or biochemical. The term was coined by endocrinologist Hans Selye, with the word consisting of the Greek prefix “eu” - meaning "good"

Eustress produces positive feelings of excitement, fulfilment, meaning, satisfaction, and well-being. Psychologist Dr Kara Fasone says eustress is all about sufficiently challenging yourself without expending all your resources.

What are some examples of Eustress?   

The excitement of a roller-coaster ride, a scary movie, or a fun challenge are all examples of eustress. The anticipation of a first date, the first day at a new job, or other exciting firsts also fall under the umbrella of eustress.

Can you substitute Stress with Eustress?                                                        

Substituting stress with eustress begins with the transformation of a threat into a challenge.

In a work context, if a task is perceived as ambitious yet achievable, it can make all the difference for the employee assigned to it. There is a certain intrinsic motivation in doing it and therefore the stress that the person goes through is experienced as eustress. (Further Reading)

Stress Management                                                                                                      

While it may seem like there’s nothing you can do about stress at work or home, there are steps you can take to relieve the pressure and regain control. (Further Reading)

Colin Bell

Following a 10-year career in the digital media industry, with roles including eBusiness Manager, Head of Online, and Private Consultant, Colin Bell transitioned to the Personal Development and Sports Performance Sector.

Now devising and delivering bespoke coaching and consultative services to a global client base, providing both online and in-person solutions. Working with academic institutions, businesses, individuals and sports teams.


Telephone: 0845 689 0016


Peak Performance Consultancy

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