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All Stress Isn't Created Equally

Updated: Aug 24, 2020

How to make stress work for you.

Eighteen years ago, there were two experiences that would really stress me out. One was magnetic, while the other, well, let's just say I never want to go back. I remember eighteen years ago, taking my weekly surf lessons at Linda Mar in Pacifica. Every morning I'd wake up in the morning feeling jittery with nervous energy in my stomach. I was most nervous about getting pounded by waves while paddling out with a board almost twice my length. The occasional thoughts of sharks would cross my mind but my self-talk would argue, "Why would a shark attack me? I'm chicken-wing size compared to the turkey-sized wetsuits around me." You'd think it would become less stressful with each lesson. To this day I still feel the same sensations of stress in my body before getting into the ocean. It's a magnetic pull I can't seem to deny. The other experience that'd stress me out was paying bills. It was tough as a single mom of two kids. The thought of being eaten by a shark was half of the stress than balancing the checkbook, addressing the envelope, and licking the stamps. The process of paying bills added a tremendous weight of worry onto my chest. Both are stressful and two completely different experiences. This is because there are two types of stress, "good stress" aka "eustress" (Positive Psychology "What is Eustress"), and "bad stress", aka distress.


Stress simply means pressure, tension, or emotional strain. Both eustress and distress trigger your fight-or-flight response system. They increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol. One of the differences between the two is the duration of the fight-or-flight process. Eustress is a short-lived experience, while distress takes much more time to revert back to homeostasis. Chronic distress is the most dangerous to our minds, soul, and body. For the most part, eustress and distress are subjective as we have different life experiences and perspectives.


The Greek prefix for good is "eu", hence, the term eustress. Eustress feels exciting. You anticipate something good will come out of the experience, for example, a new skill, joy, or growth. It generates positive energy and adds fuel to your tank. It makes you feel ALIVE! Examples of eustress experiences are:

  • pitching an idea

  • vacation flight

  • first kiss

  • making your friends a meal

  • your first dance class

  • running an extra mile


The Latin prefix for "di" is "apart", meaning apart from homeostasis due to stress. Distress is what most people relate to when they hear the term stress. This type of stress depletes your energy leaving you drained and tired. It feels heavy on your chest or head. It also tends to linger and weave in and out of your thoughts, emotions, and body. Over time, continued distress puts a strain on your body contributing to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses, including mental wellness disorders. Examples of distressing experiences are:

  • loss of something (although this could be subjective)

  • confrontation/conflict

  • financial hardship

  • job burnout or loss

  • burdened relationships

  • car fender bender

The simple awareness of understanding the two types of stress types will help you choose the eustress you want to multiply in your life to make you feel alive and live authentically. It will also help you identify the distress in your life and minimize any long term effects on your mind, soul, body, and leadership. Managing stress takes conscious effort. You now have awareness and freedom to amp up the good stress and turned down the bad stress. Play with the Life xSpearmint below to maximize eustress in your life in five easy steps.

Life xSpearmint

  1. Take a piece of paper and fold it vertically in half or draw a line. I know we live in a digital world but writing involves your five-sensory motor skills which support long-term retention.

  2. In the left column, make a list of the eustress in your life. What are the experiences that give you a rush of energy and make you feel alive?

  3. In the right column, list the experiences that drain your energy and have a heavy weight on your mind, body, and spirit?

  4. In each column, circle the one experience that stands out for you.

  5. Commit to one eustress that you will spend more time on this week and one distress you will minimize this week. *You can now take a digital picture of your list :)

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