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Good stress and bad stress: here's the difference

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It’s said that stress is the difference between our expectations and our reality. And, sometimes, that can be a good thing.

There’s good stress – that’s called eustress – that motivates us. It pushes us to reach our goals and strive towards something we want. Eustress can be thought of like exercise – your muscles might hurt, but you come out on the other side stronger, more resilient and a little more immune. When you push yourself, you can extend your limits.

We also feel bad stress – distress – when we feel like we’ve pushed too far. It happens when we start to get overwhelmed, when the gap between what we think we can achieve and our expectations gets too big, and we begin to feel defeated. It can lead to withdrawal, anxiety, depression and can even impact us physically. Over a sustained period of time, it becomes unhealthy.

But, here’s the thing: Your body doesn’t know the difference between good and bad stress. The difference is in how you think about it. Your mindset plays a critical role. It’s why optimistic people tend not to let their problems weigh them down as much.

That’s not to say you can think all your problems away. If you’re drowning in projects, you’ve undergone a traumatic experience, or some other significant event has happened to you, it’s not just ‘in your head.’ You can’t control the world around you.

But, you can control your response. If you're struggling with stress and how to cope or respond to it, MindBeacon is here to help with a variety of supports available in our Virtual Mental Health Therapy Clinic. If you are part of our Workplace Mental Health Program, please visit your company page for access to services covered by your workplace.

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Stronger Minds content is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to establish a standard of care with a reader, you should always seek the advice of your mental health professional, physician or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. If you think you may have a medical or mental health emergency, call your doctor, go to the nearest hospital emergency department, or call emergency services immediately. You should never disregard or delay seeking medical advice relating to treatment or standard of care because of information contained herein. Medical information changes constantly. Therefore the information herein should not be considered current, complete or exhaustive, nor should you rely on such information to recommend a course of treatment for you or any other individual. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.