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Good Stress And Bad Stress

What determines good stress vs bad stress?

The stress response of the body is similar to that of an airplane readying for take-off.

Virtually all systems including the heart and blood vessels, the immune system, the lungs, the digestive system, the sensory organs and the brain are modified to meet the perceived danger.

The thing is, that perceived danger often never exists. And that’s where things get interesting.

good stress vs bad stress plane image

Is It An Emergency Or False Alarm?

The stress response (commonly called the fight or flight response) is critical during emergency situations, like when a driver has to suddenly slam on the brakes to avoid a car accident.

It can also be activated in a milder form at a time when the pressure’s on but there’s no actual danger – like stepping up to take the foul shot that could win the game, being in a crowded place, getting ready to go on a first date or even while sitting down for a final exam.

A little of this stress can help keep you on your toes, ready to rise to a challenge. And the nervous system quickly returns to its normal state, standing by to respond again when needed.

But when things spill over, you enter the world of bad stress and anxiety.

A Heart Working Overtime

It’s a fact that stress can increase your risk for heart disease.

A heart working harder than it needs to can make it difficult to execute precise, controlled skills. And the intensity of our focus on survival interferes with our ability to make fine judgments based on drawing information from many sources. We find ourselves more accident-prone and less likely to make good decisions.

You can counter this be becoming aware of your stressors and your emotional and physical reactions.

Notice your distress. Don’t ignore it. Don’t gloss over your problems.

Determine what events distress you.

What are you telling yourself about meaning of these events?

Determine how your body responds to the stress.

  • Do you become nervous or physically upset?
  • If so, in what specific ways?

Stress Affects Your Brain

Stress can literally create a chemical reaction in your brain.

When life is smooth, your brain is able to produce enough “calming chemicals,” such as serotonin, to keep up with normal levels of stress, demands and expectations. But when too much stress is placed on the brain, it begins to fall behind in its ability to cope.

As the stress continues, some of the calming chemicals may begin to fail. Important nerve centers then become distressed. You enter a state of brain chemical imbalance known as “overstress”.

Overstress makes people feel awful. With stress overwhelming the brain, a person feels “overwhelmed” by life.

People complain of being tired, unable to fall asleep or to obtain a restful night’s sleep. They have plagues of aches and pains, lack of energy, lack of enjoyment of life. They feel depressed, anxious, or just unable to cope with life.

Stress Affects How You Look

From the above description, you can probably imagine that overstress can affect your looks.

When you can’t sleep, you look tired. When you have aches and pains, you look (and feel) unhappy. When you have no energy, you can’t participate in life with your usual smile and sparkle.

Stress can also cause skin rashes and stomach problems, which will also affect how you look.

Types Of Good Stress


Eustress is interesting because it is actual beneficial stress that can produce feelings of satisfaction, meaning and fulfillment. In fact the term Eustress in Greek uses the prefix ‘eu’ which literally means “good” and when combined with stress literally means “good stress”.

Examples of Eustress:

  • Watching a scary movie
  • The start of a challenging sporting game
  • Riding a stimulating amusement park ride

Types Of Bad Stress

Acute Stress

Acute stress is usually triggered by a stressful event or series of events. The word acute means that the stress symptoms come on quickly but usually are not long-term in nature.

Symptoms Of Acute Stress:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Feelings of nausea
  • Heart palpitations
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches

Chronic Stress

Chronic stress is a long-term feeling of stress and related symptoms. It is frequently characterized by feelings of being overwhelmed and under constant pressure.

Symptoms Of Chronic Stress:

  • Frequent illnesses
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Feeling depressed and hopeless
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of focus


Not all stress is bad.

Good stress provides much-needed adrenaline in times when we need it most.

Bad stress can be deadly if left unchecked.

If you can condition yourself to identify and harness the good stress, and reduce the bad stress that can accumulate, you will improve the quality of your life.

difference between good stress and bad stress image