Stress is anything that causes a disruption to our current state of being. We often think of stress as a bad thing. That is because, over time, the word stress has become synonymous with distress, which is a negative form of stress that leaves us worse off than we were before.
It turns out that there is another kind of stress: Eustress. Eustress is a positive stress that is ultimately beneficial.
Exercise is a great example of eustress. Exercise damages muscle, but that damage causes our body to build stronger muscles as a result. If you had no stress on your muscles, they would atrophy since the human body is a very efficient engine and will not waste resources where they are not needed.
Modern health advice are all forms of recommended eustress:
- Sprinting stresses your cardiovascular system and makes it stronger.
- Saunas and ice baths expose you to temperature extremes that improve the responsiveness of your body.
- Intermittent fasting stresses your body by withholding fuel for moderate periods of time which triggers clean up processes in your body.
- Meditation is fasting for your mind by focusing on emptying your mind and settling your thoughts which builds mental resilience.
The same idea applies to personal development. Putting yourself in a safe but challenging position, such as public speaking to a large audience, may be difficult in the moment, but allows you to adapt and grow.
The trick with stressing yourself is to avoid doing it continually. Why? Stress is damage in the moment. The benefits of stress come in the recovery process as your body and mind learn to handle the additional load. If you never give yourself a chance to recover, all you are getting is the damage part. Overdone, eustress can become distress.
Want to grow? Eustress yourself, take enough time to recover, and then do it again.