ARE YOU EUPHORIC WITH EUSTRESS? How to avoid the dangers of this lesser known stress
Most people are aware of stress and generally, we have been taught to view it as extremely negative and something to avoid at all costs. The affects of such bad stress or ‘distress’ are widely known, from general
ill health, edginess to complete breakdown. However, the good things in
life can also provoke a stress response too: eustress. First-time
pregnancy, going on holiday, getting married, a new job even winning the
Lottery (!) and other exciting experiences can cause the adrenaline in
our bodies to surge and for us to be in a heightened state of what I
call euphoric arousal for much of this time. It is not only new, happy
situations that can create this feeling and physiological reaction. If
you really love your work or are forever socialising (interestingly,
those always out and about meeting people are seen as having
‘competitive’ personalities… being ambitious is a term that I prefer!)
and are totally revved up for much of the time, this can also tax your
mind and body.
This is because the physiological responses in the body (e.g. increased heart rate, perspiration rate, immune system changes) are exactly the same for both distress and eustress. Physical and mental reactions vary for each individual and this may be a result of whether we view the stressor as a perceived threat or challenge. Hence, why some people get extremely stressed by going on holiday… As always, how we think about an event affects the outcome!
We need this ‘eustress’ or positive stress to help us achieve in life and reach our potential. Eustress helps us perform well at work, attain deadlines, seek out new adventures and get us out of our comfort zones. It gives us our ‘competitive edge’ in any performance related activity from public speaking to sport. It is also responsible for the high created from other ‘adrenaline-inducing’ activities like a roller-coaster or bungee jump.
Plus, it is the buzz from lots of productivity and creativity. For example, since running my own business I often go to bed extremely excited about my work, creating new ideas etc and feel ‘wired’. Whilst I enjoyed much of my previous employment, I cannot recall ever having this experience! However, maintaining this state of ‘flow’ in the long-term could be counter-productive and eventually exhaust me. Consequently, it is important to find balance and to recognise when it is time to have a break, regroup and to literally ‘switch off’.
Naturally, when I coach I help people to both achieve more than they ever thought that they could and conversely, help them to say no and slow down when things are getting too much. So how do we know when we are in the danger-zone of having too much eustress?
Predictably, it is by being in tune with our mind and body and realising if we are generating too many feelings of highs and lows and are actually on a roller-coaster with ourselves. Sounds obvious however, it is amazing how we ignore these feelings…
If you manage people in work, it is essential you lead by example and learn to recognise the signs in your staff and help them to take time out.
Encourage them to think for themselves as to how they can best look after themselves, so they take responsibility and ownership for their health. The benefits are likely to be increased performance and profit over the long run, plus a healthier, happier, more satisfied, sustainable workforce.
Finally, can you find some time to chill out by yourself in your usual week? If you are going on holiday soon, do you need to fill it with activities every day?
Remember, to stop and listen to what your body is telling you. It may reveal more than you anticipate.