Until now, and maybe it’s just me, I thought all stress was the same: stressful. Turns out that’s not the case. Besides (hopefully) inspiring you to find a hobby in our last blog, my deep dive into hobbies led me to a new word: eustress. Eustress and distress are opposite forms of stress, one helpful, one harmful.
Eustress is defined as a positive form of stress having a beneficial effect on health, motivation, performance, and emotional well-being, whereas distress is pain or suffering affecting the body, a bodily part, or the mind. Both are forms of stress, interpreted very differently by the body.
Everyone has stress in their lives, and we are always trying to reduce stress to improve our lives. But studies show that not only is eustress good for us (in doses), it can actually be enjoyable and motivating. Take starting a new job, for example. Certainly, you feel stress and anxiety about it, but also anticipation and excitement. When we lean into doing something we’re excited about, but also have to learn new information or hone old skills, it sets the stage for personal growth and accomplishment. That learning edge can sometimes be uncomfortable, but it can also encourage you to focus and find meaning.
Eustress can also happen during a demanding, but not too demanding, workout; I think of Buff Bones which educates people about good bone stress (see Jayne doing heel bumps below), or Mandy attempting jump rope tricks and challenging her brain to do something new. You also see eustress at the start of a new relationship or when traveling to a new place. But it can be different for different people. For those who love roller coasters, they cause you enjoyable eustress. For me, it’s utterly distressing.
The stress of being yelled at by our boss is distressing for everyone. But you know what can help temper it? Having a hobby that reminds us we are more than just our work selves. We are artists, athletes, helpers, and more.
So for those of you who already have a hobby, I have a new challenge. Have you tried a hard hobby? By hard, I mean something you’re not naturally skilled at but enjoy. Why? Because things that are challenging but fun teach us humility (I’m okay if I’m not perfect!), help us overcome fear, boost creativity, and can even reduce our risk of dementia.