You should agree that everyone has stress. Your ability to deal with stress is what separates the ordinary from the extraordinary. Here you will learn to cultivate distress into eustress, motivation, and action. Most importantly if you take only one thing out of this article believe that your body’s response to stress is good for you.
Types of Stress
Doctors break down stress into three categories based on periodicity and longevity. The three types of stress medically are Acute, Episodic Acute, and Chronic. This breakdown helps you to understand what kind of stress you are dealing with. Once you understand what kind of stress you have and what the source of your stress is, you can begin to overcome it. Although better than overcoming stress is using your stress. We will break down stress into two categories, distress, negative stress, and eustress positive stress. When you can cultivate distress into eustress, you have become a master of your stress.
Acute Stress Defined
Acute Stress – is short-term stress brought on by near-term demands and pressures, or reliving recent past issues. This stress can be both good and bad. You can be thrilled by acute stress or terrified, just like an amusement park ride. Acute stress can be positive or negative, some examples of acute stressors are:
- Death of a loved one
- Having a child
- Getting separated from a spouse
- Getting married
- Buying a house
- Taking a Vacation
Episodic Acute Stress Defined
Episodic Acute Stress – frequently reoccurring acute stress. If you are under acute stress frequently, don’t be distraught you can overcome this stress. Now, as we will discuss, this can actually be a good thing. If you are a “Type A” personality or a “Worry Wart”, you likely deal with a lot of episodic acute stress. You will have the most to gain from turning your distress into eustress.
Chronic Stress Defined
Chronic Stress – continuous, unrelenting stress. If you are under chronic stress, it is eating away at you. This stress is likely brought on by a circumstance that you believe can’t be changed or you can see a way out. For you, this may be very true that there is no escape, or you may choose to not escape for multiple reasons. Some examples of chronic stressors are:
- Being a prisoner of war (POW)
- Bad job
- Unhappy Marriage
- Abusive relationship
Define Your Own Stress
Both acute and chronic stress can be used to either motivate or destroy. If you are distressed then your stress has won, and you are not in control. But instead, if you use your stress as motivation then you have changed your stress into eustress. Admittedly it is not always easy to overcome distress and turn it into eustress. As a result, you may have turned some acute stress into chronic stress. Nevertheless, even chronic stress can be turned into eustress.
What is “Distress”?
You may still be wondering what distress is. We are going to simplify the answer for the sake of the discussion. As a result, we will be using the term distress for stress that produces negative results in your life. For example, let’s say you lost your job. Consequently, this destroyed your motivation and negatively impacted your relationship. We would consider this “distress.”
What is “Eustress”?
Furthermore, we will be defining eustress in this discussion based on the results of the stress. Similarly, using the same example of losing your job can be eustress. Obviously if losing your job motivated you to start your own successful business then you would consider the stress, “eustress”. Accordingly, you can define your stress by choosing what kind of stress it is. Admittedly it is not always easy to turn your distress into eustress. For that reason, all the best stories are struggles of how individuals turned “distress” into “eustress”.
How Can You Turn Your Distress Into Eustress?
You might be thinking that the circumstance of your stress is too overwhelming. In other words, you may think there is no way to overcome your stress or use your stress. Understandably the events that cause your distress are usually out of your control. However, the actions you take when faced with stress are under your control. Accordingly, we will equip you with the tools so that you can turn your distress into eustress. Below we have broken these methods of dealing with stress into categories of Physical, Mental, and Spiritual.
Stress has been linked as a factor for many diseases. Your body will produce and release more Adrenaline and Cortisol when you are under stress. As a result, if you don’t use or get rid of these chemicals your body will amplify your anxiety. This can lead to many acute symptoms such as tiredness and impaired thinking, “brain fog”. Consequently, it can also increase your risk of weight gain, higher blood pressure, and even heart disease. So it is very important to deal with your physical symptoms of stress and cultivate them to eustress.
1. Focus on Breathing
Focussing on your breathing is a method to deal with intense acute stress. When you are in the face of danger and your “Fight or Flight” instincts are at work, calming down will give you the clarity to make better decisions. For example, if you are in a crowded building and the fire alarm goes off your first instinct may be to panic. Meanwhile, if you focus on your breathing and overcome your initial reactions you can calmly locate the nearest exit and help others to evacuate. So when you think, “I need to calm down.” Concentrate on your breathing, and slow your breathing down.
As soon as you start down the path of performing some physical exercise to deal with your stress, you have already turned your distress into eustress. Now you may not have overcome your stress. But you are going down the right path. Besides your body feeling better, your mind will also be able to think more clearly through exercise. When you are under physical and mental stress, your body will produce and release chemicals like adrenaline. Unless you use up these chemicals through physical activity, they
10 GREAT WAYS TO BEAT FINAL EXAM STRESS
Research proves that exercising (such as taking a walk) can boost your memory. The image below shows the effect exercise can have on your brain’s activity. Improves your exam performance! Take care of U!
Tomorrow, Tip #3 pic.twitter.com/lWUo15hJKC
— Ed Raines (@RainesEd) December 13, 2018
3. Stay Busy
Exercising is one of the quickest ways to deal with some of the physical effects of stress in a positive way. But you can also use other physical activities. Similarly, you could clean your home. Understandably this may not be something you enjoy doing. Despite most people enjoying a clean house, we don’t enjoy the actual cleaning. Because your goal is to perform a task that keeps you busy and is productive, cleaning is a great choice. Similarly washing your car, mowing your yard, or shoveling snow can be activities that will help you overcome stress. Any physical activity that provides some temporary relief to your physical symptoms of stress, will help you clear your mind.
4. Talk it Out (Find Someone to Listen)
Have you ever been a sounding board for someone else? If you have, you may remember being thanked for listening. You don’t always need someone else to solve your problem, but it can be very helpful to say what is bugging you out loud. Although you may seek out people to talk to that may be able to solve your problems, that is not always good. Suicide prevention hotlines and AA groups utilize the fact that talking it out can relieve your stress. The people who pick up and dial the phone need someone to listen to help relieve their stress.
Writing is listed under physical methods to deal with stress, but it is as much mental as physical. You can use writing similar to staying busy doing something physical. Admittedly writing can also add to your stress if you don’t enjoy writing. To use writing productively you need to write about what is causing your stress. Write about how you feel and why you feel that way. However, take caution when writing. If you are under stress based on a past traumatic experience, writing about it will make you relive that experience. For this reason, writing about traumatic experiences could bring on more anxiety initially. Most importantly through writing, you will face your fears more quickly and overcome your distress.
6. Use Supplements
You may not be aware that there is a class of herbs categorized by their ability to help your body use stress productively. The category of herbs is known as Adaptogens. For example, my favorites are Rhodiola and Ashwagandha. Admittedly there are many more herbs that are considered Adaptogens and they will help your body utilize the natural chemicals your body releases. Since your body chemistry is different from everyone else you may find other Adaptogens work better for you.
When you are under immense stress, you are likely having a difficult time sleeping. But sleep is a powerful stress reducer you need to tap into. Understandably anxiety and worries from your stress are likely keeping you from getting a good night’s sleep. Using the above physical methods will help overcome most of the anxiety that is preventing you from sleeping. After you have overcome the physical anxiety, and you still can’t sleep you must use Mental and Spiritual methods to deal with your anxiety. Above all, you must have the time to sleep if you can’t sleep all at once napping is also proven to be very beneficial.
Even though stress manifests in many physical ways, most of the symptoms can be changed using your mind. Although you may believe the circumstances that are causing you stress can’t be changed, doesn’t mean your stress is bad. Specifically, how you perceive your stress is worse than the stress itself. Of course, only you can change how you perceive your stress. This TED talk will give you a few mental tools to use stress to your advantage, making your stress eustress. Then we discuss some more mental ways to turn your distress into eustress.
8. Think Positively to Create Eustress
Just thinking positive may sound a little cliche to you. But if you watch the above video you will understand that you don’t have to think positively about what is causing your stress. Instead what you have to think positively about is that your body’s reaction to stress is helping you overcome your problems. As a result of believing that your body is helping you overcome your situation, your mind will be free to come up with solutions to your problems.
9. Think Negatively (Define the worst)
First I tell you to think positively and then I tell you to think negatively, why the contradiction? Sometimes the best thing you can do is to face and overcome your fears. Start by imagining what is the worst that could happen, then determine how likely is that to happen and what you would do if it happened. If that result is so bad that you couldn’t stand it, think about how can you make that result less likely. Continue to do this exercise with all the possible results that you can imagine. After you are done focus on doing the things that will increase the possibility of your best outcome.
Once you believe that you will overcome your circumstances, you will. The only way to find a way out is to believe that you can. Admittedly this is not always easy. You can start with daydreaming or imagining what it would be like to not be under this stress. Interestingly enough, you don’t even need to believe that it is possible, you can imagine what you believe is a totally fictional future. Eventually, if you set your mind on this future enough, you will begin to think, what if it was a possible future? Once you believe in the possibility, your mind will start to create a path to reach that future, but it all starts with hope.
You may have known someone who overcame adversity with pure determination. In other words, this person despite all odds overcame their situation out of pure will. The mantra “I Can” is so powerful. With just a little courage and belief, the phrase “I Can” will make all the difference. Although you don’t even have to believe it at first, you just need to say it. Your mind doesn’t like to think that you are a liar. So when you speak out loud that you can overcome your circumstances, your mind will work on ways to make that a reality.
12. Live in the now
You have likely heard this a thousand times, “you can not change the past.” Despite knowing the truth in that statement and not owning a time machine, we continually think about the past. As a result, you will worry about things that have already happened and are finished. Before you waste the present thinking about the past, just learn from it. Once you have the lesson from that circumstance, figure out how you will stop it from happening again. Finally, be done and focus on now, and have hope for the future.
Being forgiving can be very challenging. When you are mad and unforgiving of someone else the only person that is hurt by your unforgiveness is YOU. Despite knowing that fact, most people will not forgive others. Consequently, you may not forgive yourself. Above all, you need to forgive yourself. If you don’t forgive yourself, you will never forgive others as well. If you are having trouble forgiving, here is a great TED talk for you.
14. Make Goals
Sometimes it takes more than just believing that you will overcome. Likely it will take seeing what that actually looks like for you. Be specific, about what overcoming your situation look like. Once you have your desired outcome, set that outcome as a goal. If you can’t believe that you can reach your final goal. Then set smaller and smaller, intermediate goals, until you do believe.
By this point, you should believe that all your stress can be eustress. You have the ability to use your body’s physical response to stress for your benefit. You have ways to use your stress both physically and mentally. Now it is time to prioritize. None of us have time to do it all right now. That is why you must prioritize reaching your goals. Make the most important thing, the most important thing.
I have listed meditation so that you wouldn’t think that I left it out, but it is not a very good way to turn stress into eustress. Also, many people believe that meditation is spiritual, but I have classified it as a mental method. You may be someone who considers meditation spiritual. But the majority of meditation is about emptying your mind of thoughts. Accordingly, there is nothing spiritual about emptying your mind, it is all mental. Being able to empty your mind of all thoughts gives you relief from all your anxieties and worries. But meditation doesn’t turn your physical and mental response to stress into a positive benefit unless the positive benefit of your stress is to get you to meditate.
There is but one perfect way to get rid of your worry and anxiety and that is prayer. Admittedly you may think that if meditation is not a way to turn your stress into eustress how can prayer? With true prayer, you are turning over your problems and outcomes to God. Believing with faith that whatever the outcome God is in control and he will provide you the ability to handle your situation. You may think then that prayer can’t be a method to turn stress into eustress. Understandably that is based solely on your definition of positive benefit. For example, if through prayer you overcome your stress by turning over your troubles to God and strengthening your faith, it is now eustress.
Let us imagine that you are on death row for a crime that you didn’t commit. You have just had your last meal and you have been released into a garden for a few hours before you will be brutally beaten and executed. You would likely be under a great deal of stress, what would you do with those few hours before your coming beating? This is exactly what Jesus went through on the night of his betrayal. Jesus was under so much stress that he sweat blood (hematidrosis). Consequently, Jesus under this extreme stress prayed.
Luke 22:40-44 NIV
40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down, and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.