Distress vs. Eustress-- Coronavirus and The Road Not Taken

Posted on April 10, 2020 by Dave. Tagged: Resources for Candidates, For Candidates, Resources for Entrepreneurs, For Clients

Distress is at an all-time high for many of us, but so is eustress.  Each takes us down a very different path.  Where one leads far down the path to where it bends hopelessly into the undergrowth, the other has perhaps the better claim. It's the one less traveled by...

I make the fair distinction between distress and eustress this fine Friday with the poetic inspiration of Mr. Robert Frost and ‘The Road Not Taken' to encourage you to consider the path of eustress, as it can make all the difference...


Robert Frost- The Road Not Taken


Distress Takes A Toll

Distress is truly negative stress and no doubt, it’s real, and it hurts.  Health-compromising, relationship-breaking, life-ruining, bottom-5%-of-your-life stress.  Distress is evident all around us, especially now as the world grapples with crisis. Some challenges we face are simply that crippling no matter how you spin them.

Too often, however, we immediately dump any kind of stress we face into this nasty bucket of distress, it’s almost become natural.  Heck, most people don’t even use the actual word ‘distress’, it’s like stress and distress have somehow become one in the same, and they’re not!

Quickly identifying our many challenges as being only distress can be unhealthy. Psychologically and physiologically, this can lead to depression, chronic anxiety, and real illness.  How can we better manage the overwhelming feeling of being taxed to the max with our weighty decisions?  We have a choice with how we accept our stress. We can choose what bucket we put it in, just as there are two paths in the wood.

These two kinds of stress, distress and eustress, are at the intersection of stress recognition. What if we realized that maybe, and often, that these same challenges we so commonly link to distress could truly be those of tremendous eustress? What difference does that make on how we handle them? Mr. Frost says knowingly that 'way leads on to way'…

Shifting Towards Eustress

Eustress is the choice to recognize challenges as being positive. Turns out 'eustress' is a word, embrace it, I ain't making this shit up! 'Eu' has Greek origins meaning 'good and well,' and trust me, it is euphoric when you embrace your challenges as being eustressful and not distressful. Eustress is when we rise up, when we get knocked and get right back up. It's when we grind ruthlessly with purpose, where we can remain both positive and real in difficult times, and where we find the bottomless resolve to keep going.

What if we GET to handle a compromising situation because of the fortunate position we are in, rather than dwelling on when we HAVE to deal with it and it sucks? So frequently I hear the outcry of stress when a better understanding of context and cause is really eustress. Beneficial weight! Bring it on!

I choose the path of eustress first. Eustress is my default 'road not taken' when we have our choice between how we handle the two paths diverging at the intersection of stress. I know that somewhere up ahead, ages and ages hence, I shall look back with a sigh, knowing I took the path less traveled by, and it has made all the difference.

…And miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep…Oh wait, different poem.

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