How To Tell The Difference Between Good And Bad Stress

How To Tell The Difference Between Good And Bad Stress

Stress is an inevitable aspect of our lives. We toil all day at work, cram hard for exams, maintain relationships and raise our children, and it all results in a level of anxiety that can seem untenable at times. There’s no way to lead a life devoid of stress; sometimes, that’s a good thing.

Stress, good stress, in particular, is one of the greatest motivators that exists. It pushes us to face life head-on, overcome obstacles, and makes us want to achieve all the goals we’ve set for ourselves. Good stress can push you to work harder and ultimately leads you to a better quality of life. Distress, however, can be detrimental to your physical and mental health and leaves you disoriented and unable to focus.

So, where do we draw the line? And how can we differentiate between the different forms of stress? This article expounds on what good and bad stress mean and how you should react to them.

Good stress

Stress is natural during adverse situations. It’s instinctual and encourages us to act. Eustress, also known as good stress, is a short-term response that gives people that quick boost of energy and concentration they require to surmount challenges.

Good stress will make an individual feel like their goals are achievable, despite hardships. For instance, this feeling can occur when you’re getting married, approaching a deadline for work, or seeing off your child on their first day of school. As such, you can consider stress good when you feel the task ahead is feasible and know that the feeling won’t last forever.

You feel invigorated, not dissimilar to how you might feel upon watching a horror movie. Your heart starts racing, your breathing quickens, and hormones flood your body. In effect, you’re motivated, focused, and energised to meet your targets.

As long as the stress you experience forces you to act in a way that will be beneficial to you in the long-run, eustress is a perfectly normal part of life.

Bad stress

Bad stress, however, is not quick or fleeting at all. If you’re not careful, it can become a chronic condition and exhausting. It dampens your sense of motivation and makes you feel worse about yourself.

Distress hinders you in the pursuit of your goals. It can take a toll on you physically and mentally because, unlike eustress, you don’t get a chance to recover from your heightened state and will constantly feel like you’re in danger. Without intervention, the effects of distress can be worrying.

For example, good stress can motivate you enough to finish your assignment before the due date. If you’re distressed about multiple deadlines, however, the quality of your overall work will suffer.

Ultimately, it can be very draining and tiring to exist in a constant state of worry. Often, individuals would rather give up because of how difficult it all seems.

Instances of bad stress include staying in an abusive relationship, loss of someone close to you, extremely high-pressure jobs, or financial strain.

The physical effects of bad stress include the stalling of many of your bodily systems. This can result in serious health issues like weight gain, lack of focus, inability to sleep, memory loss, depression, anxiety, cardiac problems, and high blood pressure. Hence, the identification and ability to cope with bad stress are vital.

Coping with bad stress

Because of the intrinsic connection between our minds and bodies, there are physical things we can do to help control our stress response.

Things like getting out of our seats in the middle of the day to stretch and move around, using heating pads on our shoulders, cutting off the use of phones before sleeping, and breathing exercises to regulate breathing during stressful situations can go a long way.

It’s also crucial to engage in mindful thinking when stressed. Avoid thinking too negatively about yourself. Instead of thinking something like “I’m useless”, replace it with a more compassionate thought process; “This is difficult, but I’m trying.”

A Word from A Space Between

Despite the negative connotations of the word, not all stress is bad. It’s a necessary and inescapable part of life and can give you the push you need to reach your fullest potential. While distress can be detrimental to your overall well-being, knowing the difference is half the battle. It is possible to strike the right balance. If you require professional guidance to help channel your stress correctly, A Space Between can provide you with just that.

We help those struggling with their mental health navigate the search process for group therapy, individual therapy, couple’s therapy, and family therapy sessions in Singapore. Want to learn more? Contact us today or visit

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A Space Between provides flexible co-working office spaces for rent to therapists and other professionals in Singapore.

A Space Between is a destination for mental health therapy activities. Counsellors utilise our many conducive therapy rooms for consultations. Located conveniently downtown and offering your independent therapists rent by the hour, we house many professional mental health practitioners, including LGBTQ+ friendly ones. To find out more about the therapists practising in A Space Between, write to us at [email protected].

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