The two types of stress you absolutely need to know

Retire from your job but never from meaningful projects. If you want to live a long life, you need eustress, that is, a deep sense of meaning and of contribution to worthy projects and causes, particularly, your intergenerational family.” ~Stephen Covey

Not all stress is bad.

I used to believe that I wanted to eliminate all stress in my life. I wanted to be stress free and full of glee. Boy was I wrong.

Rather than seeking to eliminate stress once and for all, I found that it is much more constructive to acknowledge and appreciate stress for what it is, then make it work in my favor. This post is all about understanding what stress is and how to identify attributes of the two types.

What is stress?

Stress is a physiological response to any change that alerts your brain and body to trigger a fight or flight response – aka the “uh oh” trigger. The “uh oh” trigger can be good or bad.

When I wake up in the morning and start to do a wall sit as part of my morning routine – that is stress.

When my boss send me an email with that red exclamation point next to it, and I almost s**t my pants because I remembered that I forgot the cover sheet on my last report – that is stress too.

Stress is simply the physical and mental response to some shift/change. The response that we have can either lead us to perform better or fall out.

The two types of stress to recognize


Attributes: Clarity, Focus, Motivated, Energized

This is the good kind of stress. Usually rising from an incite. This type of stress gets you moving and creating. You feel energized and challenged just enough to maintain the desire keep progressing.

This is after-workout-creative-inspiration kind of stress.

This is the “I can do that” incite.

This is the “dunk on them (in Dikembe Mutombo’s voice)” feeling on a fast break.

A little background: Way back in 1908 two Harvard researchers, Robert Yerkes and John Dodson, found that efficiency increased as stress increased, but only to a certain point. Then there was the second type of stress.


Attributes: overwhelm, anxiety, fatigue, procrastination, tired

This is the kind that will burn you out if you are not careful. The stress you feel becomes more like an overwhelming weight above you that can’t be held for long. It’s just a matter of time before you get crushed.

This is the “oh my gosh” feeling.

The “how can I possibly do this” feeling.

The “I just can’t deal with this right now” feeling.

The “he is going to pin it to the backboard.

Those are the two types of stress that we can experience. One is a good, motivating type. The other is an enervating, defeating state of being.

Understanding the two types of stress is the first step to making it work for you. In the next post I will be how it looks against performance. Get Ready for the Yerkes Dodson Curve.

Yerkes Dodson Curve


Your turn:

How would you describe your eustress and distress? What attributes would you use?

Like the post? Grab the worksheet to help explore your stress attributes – it’s FREE

eustress distress worksheet

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2 thoughts on “The two types of stress you absolutely need to know”

  1. Pingback: Stress tips you can try in the next 5 minutes | Paris A Law

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