Eustress is a term that is sometimes used to refer to what many call good stress. Rather than being the root cause for discomfort or emotional distress, it motivates people to continue moving forward and enjoy actions and events that require some effort but ultimately provide a great deal of satisfaction. The term appears to have originated with Hans Selye, an endocrinologist who wrote about the impact of stress on the mind and body.
Just as there are many stressful situations that can lead to the development of depression, anxiety, and apathy, there are also types of eustress that promote general emotional and physical well being. Physical exercise is an excellent example of this kind of good stress. The action of engaging in planned physical activity such as walking, running, or working out in a gym does place some degree of stress on the body. However, that stress ultimately allows the muscles to develop and the heart and lungs to strengthen. At the same time, the stress of exercise causes the release of endorphins that help to elevate mood and protect individuals from depression.
There are other examples of eustress that many people encounter throughout their lives. All of them ultimately provide some degree of happiness and well being. Graduating from high school or college, the birth of children, and securing a highly desirable job are all events that come with some amount of stress, but ultimately provide a positive emotions that help people to find meaning and value in life.
It is important to note that eustress does not refer to satisfaction that is achieved without effort. Students must study and successfully complete coursework in order to earn a degree. Going through a pregnancy for nine months requires dealing with a wide range of physical and emotional issues before a mother knows the joy of cradling her child in her arms. Getting into top physical condition requires a commitment to regular exercise that challenges the limits of the body and mind if the individual is ever to experience the joy of a well-built body.
The effects of eustress are many, and range from short-term to long-term benefits. In the short-term, eustress provides motivation to keep moving forward with an activity or project, even though it may be taxing. In the long-term, good stress helps to promote emotional balance, confidence, a sense of being wanted and needed, and a general feeling of being in harmony with the rest of the world. All these positive benefits help to minimize the chances of a number of physical and mental ailments developing.