Eustress can be experienced when our perceived ability to cope outweighs our perceived demands as shown in Figure 5. Although we have an imbalance here, clearly this is a desirable one. In this respect eustress can be regarded as an extension of the normal zone of the stress balance.
Notice here that the situation is different from that described in Figure 4 where distress results from having too few demands. The eustress situation gives rise to a feeling of confidence, of being in control and able to tackle and handle tasks, challenges and demands. The stress response is activated by just the right amount to provide the alertness, the mental and physical performance required to be productive and creative.
Situation: perceived ability to cope far outweighs the perceived demands; boredom, frustration – distress experienced.
Figure 5 the eustress zone
Getting the balance
Because of the way we live today, we are almost certain to feel distress at some time or another so we need to reduce the
frequency and extent to which the stress balance tips into the distress zones. We can do this by decreasing the number and types of demands and by building up our coping resources. This will help to avoid or to minimize the effects of distressful situations. We need to learn how to increase our excursions into the eustress zone by getting the right balance between demands and coping resources.
To get the right balance we need to reappraise how we perceive and interact with our environment because this determines the way we match up our demands with our ability to cope.
When the term ‹“stress’ is used throughout this blog, it refers to any degree of activation of the stress response outside the normal zone, be it either distress or eustress. The activity of the stress response in the normal zone should be considered as an inevitable part of our lives and when in this zone we do not experience ‹“stress’.
We cannot live a life devoid of distress so the important thing is not to allow our stress balance to remain permanently in the distress zone and not to stray into this zone too far and too often. Instead we should aim to use our stress response to improve our lives and performance by keeping our balance in the normal and eustress zones. This can be achieved by learning the skills to alter the balance between demands and coping ability and this is the basis for the effective management of stress dealt with in Part Three. In order to learn these skills it is necessary to understand how the stress response operates in the body, what it does and how to recognize the signs and symptoms of distress and eustress.