In this post you will discover what types of stress are, the price we pay for not recognizing the difference and how to change this.
What are the types of Stress?
What we call “stress” and consider a source of pain is actually a misinterpretation that it is costing us to have a personal and professional life experience with which we feel satisfied.
Stress is a type of tension that is generated in any type of circumstance. This stress can be real or perceived, and it can be physical, mental, or emotional.
But, the word “stress” falls far short to describe an experience that we all go through at all times.
What do I mean by this?
What we call stress is actually divided into two types: Distress and Eustress, as explained in more depth in this post.
- Distrés es el tipo de estrés con el que te sientes abrumado, tu salud se deteriora y te genera pensamientos negativos. Es estrés negativo. Cualquier tipo de situación puede ser percibida como distrés, incluso si es positiva. Para comprobarlo, simplemente recuerda a la persona más pesimista que conozcas.
- Eustrés es el tipo de estrés que sientes que puedes manejar, te desafía y te motiva a dar un paso adelante y afrontar el reto y te genera pensamientos positivos. Es estrés positivo. El eustrés proviene de: hacer ejercicio en el gimnasio (eustrés físico), aprender algo nuevo (eustrés mental), tener una conversación difícil para resolver una situación (eustrés emocional) y otro tipo de situación similares.
The price we pay
Not differentiating these two types has the following consequences:
- By default we are trapped in the “distress” type, and therefore we avoid any type of discomfort, even if it may be beneficial for us.
- By not knowing what our stress tolerance limit is because we escaped it, we generate two situations: 1) we end up burning ourselves when we don’t realize that the distress has increased millimeter by millimeter within us (like the tale of the frog and the pot ), or 2) we end up performing poorly at work and personally, leaving us dissatisfied.
In both situations we lose meaning and purpose personally and professionally, and little by little this affects our quality of life and that of our close circle, both work and family.
The Spectrum of Stressors
Although stress comes in two types, it does not mean that it is a toss-up situation. Rather, it’s a spectrum that looks like this:
As you can see, the Distress/Eustress ratio, although it looks pretty even on the graph, is tricky, because once you can enter the Eustress zone and easily fall, either ending up in the Boreout or Burnout zones.
It is similar to riding a bicycle, where the body mass will tend to fall to one side or the other. The key is to keep moving forward while avoiding leaning too far to the sides.
By doing this, you will find the right balance, avoiding the extremes of Boreout and Burnout.
¿How to break this cycle?
Our Central Nervous System, the convergence point of all internal and external stimuli, is constantly under stress, perceived or real.
At every moment of our life, we are giving meaning to all situations of the external and internal world. We call this neuro-associations.
In other words, we assign a label to everything we perceive. This label can be “stressful/painful”, “not stressful/neutral”, and in some cases “pleasurable”.
For example, some people can’t stop having a meal without adding a hot sauce to it. They simply do not find “pleasure” in food without this seasoning. While others, we shun anything spicy like the plague.
Another example: having children!
Some people perceive that their life will change drastically at the moment of having them, they know that their sleep, routine, diet, and even finances will be affected (tell me if that is not “distressing”), and even so, they decide to have 3 or 4 and this situation it brings them a lot of satisfaction (eustress). While others consider that they already have enough with a pet (eustress) and escape having children (distress).
My theory is that the word stress, and our neuro-association with it, is f*cking us all.
Because? Well, because we are not making the clear separation between Eustress and Distress.
If we call something a “thing,” then the neuro-association is neutral. But, if we call losing a job or money “stressful,” and we call learning something new, or exercising the body, or even stepping out of our comfort zone into something that could potentially benefit us “stressful,” well, our brains will tend to escape from all this
I am very confident in saying that not realizing the difference between the 2 types of stress is what is causing burnout for knowledge workers like you and me.
So, I invite you to ask yourself: What would happen if we began to identify what are the true causes of our stress and to make the difference between them?
Furthermore, what would happen if we began to understand that we are the ones who give meaning to what we consider stressful and that the source of that stress is always neutral?
This is the start of a conversation about stress and Burnout. Let me know what you think and if you’re curious, I’m organizing a course on how to avoid burnout.