Stresses are not created equal. Obviously, the loss of a loved one is not equivalent to getting cut off in traffic. Receiving a Nobel Prize and having to give an acceptance speech is not the same as getting called out by your boss.
Basically, stress is any stimulus that triggers your body to activate the sympathetic? nervous system. It’s often referred to as the fight/flight/fuck response, but this is too simplistic.
Eustress — It’s the Good Kind
Simply put, there are two kinds of stress. The negative kind is simply ‘stress”. The positive kind is eustress (the prefix means ‘good’ in Greek)
Eustress is rarely referred to outside of psychology literature, but you might see it referred to as ‘challenge,’ ‘stretch goals’ and competitiveness. Quite simply, eustress is stimulus that triggers a stress response in a way that is productive and beneficial.
Exercise is eustress. So is sex. Any mental or physical challenge that you perceive to be interesting, possible, and worthy of your time, is eustress.
This is why entrepreneurs work a lot, and why they tend to spend their downtime in hair-raising pursuits: they like the high that eustress brings.
Does this describe you?
It doesn’t have to, of course. I see these days a lot of emphasis on gentle approaches. But what I’ve come to realize that that just isn’t how I like to roll.
Of course, chasing the battle fever has it’s dark side. Chasing that high can get you hurt, some times badly.
Look at me. I’m *cough* closing in on a quarter century and I’ve been in several accidents, and exhausted myself to the point of hospitalization twice. I won’t say I was necessarily having fun by that point. But it started off as fun. I guess the reason the medical field doesn’t differentiate between stress and eustress is because the effects on your body are identical.
What happened to me is that, over time, I overstimulated my adrenal glands to the point where they never shut down. Even though I rode the wave with fierce confidence and determination, in spite of being in top mental and physical form, I went to the cupboard and the cupboard was bare. No more adrenaline for me. 🙁
I can’t be fighting all day, everyday.
Even though I love it.
But I sure as fuck am not retiring, either.
Slow and steady does absolutely nothing for me. About the only thing that I can attest to is that it’s hard to maintain the pace. But who cares? As long as I get systems in place to allow for down time, I’m gonna BE a sprinter.
Enough About Me– What About You?
If you’re a sprinter, brawler, scrapper, or fighter, accept that you have significant cycles in your energy level. Chase that excitement, as long as you also listen to your body when it’s time to chill.
That’s our weakness, isn’t it? I mean, I promised my husband I would quit work faithfully at 5 everyday. I hate it! There’s so much I want to do, and I generally get a wave of creative energy at three in the afternoon. I could, and would, keep going until 7, but by that time it’s been a 14 hour day.
I’d just as soon work 14 hours for four days and take three off to do nothing in particular, but that’s not how it works when you cohabitate. Still, by being aware of my ideal rhythms, I can recreate them when my husband travels.
Think about your own situation now. How have you negated your own preferences and rhythms because it was inconvenient or it seemed weird, or you’re getting older or what-the-fuck-ever. I’m not knocking the marathoners, now, goodness knows they’ve earned their day in the sun. But if you lived alone, and worked on your own schedule, how would you operate? If you didn’t have a clock, if you had no way of knowing it was a weekend or a weekday, what would your rhythms be?
Now, how could you rearrange things so it was closer to ideal?
When I was learning to drive truck, my trainer bet me that I couldn’t drive all day without grinding a gear. If he lost, he couldn’t smoke in the the truck. DONE.
Could you make bets with a loved one to improve your focus? Could you hide your laptop in a drawer until your morning pages are are finished? Could you create benchmarks on your projects just to see how much you can destroy them?
Are you a sprinter, or a marathoner? How does that work in your world? Do you find yourself at cross-purposes, or does it work well for you?