Understand the Difference Between Good and Bad Stress

When it comes to stress, it’s often difficult to talk about since it isn’t something you can put under a microscope, or see on an x-ray. In fact, rarely do two people experience stress in the exact same way, further compounding the challenge around understanding stress.

The reality is that “stress” is a term we all use in very different ways to describe very different life experiences, yet we all know what it feels like to deal with stress – and the negative consequences that follow if we don’t cope with stress effectively.

Generally speaking, stress is based on our human perception of people, things, events, and expectations. When we perceive things as threatening, we respond accordingly with heightened anxiety. Take for an example your first thoughts when you look at a tournament bracket and see that you will be playing a strong player – do you feel the negative stress associated with worries around losing, or do you experience an excitement associated with a winning mindset eager to pull off an upset?

This decision regarding how you respond to potential stressors is the big point of today’s column – there are both good and bad stress that humans experience, and how we interpret the world around us dictates what we will experience. Psychologists have identified good stress as “eustress,” and examples include the stress associated with good things in your life – buying your first car, preparing for the holidays, or even going on vacation. In all of these examples we experience some stress, but the stress is associated with good life events.

On the other hand, “distress” is stress associated with negative life events, like falling on tough financial times, being ill, or losing a job. A few more thoughts on stress are below:

Interestingly, most of the stress pool players experience is eustress, or good stress. Playing pool is fun, and focusing on beating good players should be a positive stress.

By framing stress properly, it allows you to take control of situations with confidence, as opposed to feeling helpless to situations.

Good stress is healthy! When faced with good competition, try to think about how to overcome the challenge rather than running from the fear of failure.

Remember, stress is a part of life that cannot be avoided. The key to beating stress is to frame situations accurately, and then decide of healthy and effective means for coping. The better you manage life stress, the better pool you will play.