6 years ago · Leah Fogt · Comments Off on Know Your Stress Sweet Spot
How many times have you found yourself saying or thinking, “I’m so stressed out!” and not being sure what to do about that feeling? Typically when we say we feel “stressed out” we are referring to a specific type of stress (or arousal) that is better labeled “distress.” Distress is often described as feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or concerned. When we are distressed we are usually less productive and likely experience more physical complaints like muscle tension or headaches. Distress is the negative stress we experience from things like loss, divorce, financial strain, interpersonal conflict, un/underemployment, legal problems, injury/illness, etc.
There is another type of stress we call “eustress,” which is a more positive type of stress. Eustress is when we have enough stimulation to challenge, motivate, and interest us without overwhelming us. It usually results from positive things like starting a new project/job, holidays, learning, moving, receiving an award/promotion, beginning a new relationship, etc. When we experience eustress we are usually motivated, though short-term. We typically believe that the challenge we face is within our abilities – it’s something we can handle. Eustress generally feels exciting and energizing, and our performance/productivity peaks.
The psychological theory call The Yerkes-Dodson Law suggests that the relationship between our performance and stress (arousal or stimulation) has a dramatic impact on our quality of life. If we can individually determine what level of stimulation and challenge “gets us going” and when we “go over the edge” to feeling overwhelmed, we are more likely to have satisfying and productive lives.
So the challenge we have is to find our personal “stress sweet spot” and aim to have enough in our lives to keep us interested, productive, functioning, and stimulated, but not overwhelmed. This sweet spot typically changes depending on our circumstances, age, and health, so it is valuable to monitor where we are at on a regular basis.
The infographic below illustrates these concepts pretty well – for those of us who are visual learners! Essentially our goal with stress is to stay at the top of the curve, where our performance, health status, and motivation all peak. (Click on the image to see it the most clearly.)
Here are some things you can do to try to stay at your “stress sweet spot:”
- Monitor your feelings carefully
- Monitor your health carefully
- Practice saying no when you need to set a limit or boundary
- Identify the challenges that get you excited
- Evaluate your successes to identify the factors that helped you do well
- Know your strengths
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