I Stress, Eustress, We Stress

The first weekend in May I attended Hedgebrook’s Vortext Writers Workshop on Whidbey Island (off the coast of Seattle). Many of the breakout sessions took place at the Whidbey Institute, home to a giant gong—approximately six feet in diameter!

To stand in front of a gong that’s just been sounded—especially one this large—is an incredible experience! The vibration is deeply settling, while simultaneously euphoric.

In my experience, eustress is similar to the vibrational bath from a gong. Considered “good stress,” or stress from the anticipation, or experience, of pleasurable events, it envelopes us.

Eustress can share some physical symptoms with bad stress, such as a racing heart, but our body processes eustress as positive and releases endorphins, making us feel good.

Distress, or “bad stress” is associated with worry and anxiety, and it stems from concerns that your physical or emotional well-being is threatened. Distress can arise when you’re grieving, or more commonly when you’re having problems at your job or in your relationship. Your body processes distress in a negative way, and it can cause some nasty side effects, such as headaches, stomach problems, insomnia, and anxiety attacks.

Eustress or distress—what was your most recent encounter with stress?

© lauriebuchanan.com

59 thoughts on “I Stress, Eustress, We Stress

  1. I’ve been in that room and felt that gong, Laurie! Loved my experience there. Wrote about it on my blog. We had a storm and electricity was out for several days. Stress for staff, but mostly eustress for the writers.

    • Shirley — I remember that you’d been there, but I’d forgotten about the storm. I call well imagine that was EUSTRESS for the writers (most of us think of storms as writing weather). And I can also imagine the DISTRESS for the staff—”What are we going to dooooooo?”

  2. That gong is beautiful, Laurie. It must have been fun to be there.
    I have a manuscript due at the end of the month–and I still have not received several chapters from contributors, and I still have sections of my own to write. Somehow I’m not feeling stressed at this moment, but I’m sure I will be soon. 🙂

      • Laurie, I’m not sure why I’m not frantic yet. I think I’m in denial. 🙂 Though I just discovered I’m missing more articles than I though. Yikes! I have these two books with contributors to complete, and then I really do not want to do one with contributors again!

  3. I experience sports stress when I watch my son. He’s a baseball pitcher, and I swear I feel every one of his pitches in my own body: anticipation, fulfillment, resolution. It’s a roller-coaster of stress – of both kinds.

  4. It looks amazing, Laurie. I had been waiting to hear of some training I might have to undertake to be able to become an instructor online and that came through, so I guess eustress is what I am experiencing (although due for the evaluation soon..)

  5. I have felt distress over clearing out yet another house (my third) in the last three years. But now I feel eustress because we have helpers. They are literally coming out of the woodwork.

    Eustress is a new word for me – I’ll share it with my sisters today. Clever title, Laurie!

    • Marian — I can’t even begin to imagine clearing out three homes in three years. The thought of it boggles my mind. My hat is off to YOU and yours for the energy and elbow grease you’ve applied to the tasks at hand. 🙂

  6. I wish I could have joined you there, Laurie.

    Much like the one on Whidbey Island, visitors to the Japanese gardens on Mayne Island will find a giant gong. I strike it every time I visit and feel that the sound enhances inner peace and a connection to nature.

    I experienced my own special blend of mild distress followed by eustress before and after my latest author reading. What helped me was adding a few drops of Bach flower oil to my water and remembering the past author readings I’ve given.

    “You’ve got this,” I told myself before beginning. “And remember it’s as much–if not more–about my listeners than it is about me.”

    • Leanne — I’m currently in the same “before” mode as this evening I’m a presenter at what amounts to a pretty big deal (at least for me). I’m going to remember your great advice: “I’ve got this,” and “it’s more about the listeners than it is about me.” THANK YOU! 🙂

  7. Unfortunately more stress than eustress – the former with ongoing health issues, limited financial resources and lately having friends saying “no” when I ask for help. But I am a stubborn so-and-so (a trait I inherited from my late dad) so I persist in my own way to get things done.

    A couple of eustress happenings – my third Beyond book – Beyond Faith being published by Blue Denim Press in the fall 2017 and my garden. Even weeding and you can bet the weeds get names of those giving me grief. But it is safer than punching people’s noses.

  8. Funny, but I just saw an advertisement for the return of the ‘Gong Show’ an amateur talent contest, which is not at all what you are wonderfully talking about stress :). However, it made me extra smile to see this post and that upcoming show advertisement within days of each other! There is a message there somewhere! Sounds like a good reminder about the positive and negative vibrations which you alluded to. For instance, In the television show experience a gong is hit when a contestants talent is rejected, verses the positive euphoric gong experience you describe.

  9. I’m late to comment today because I was working on a self-imposed deadline to complete a work product deadline. I’m a few weeks ahead of their final deadline. Stress is less when self-imposed. I would love to experience the full-bodied resonance of such a huge gong. I have enjoyed drumming in a lava cave in Hawaii with a group of women. Drumming waves echoing off the walls. I think Pele enjoyed it too!

  10. Laurie, I did a double take when I read the title of this post….I wondered, “Has Laurie gotten into cattle breeding?” Looking again, I saw the definition of eustress, good stress. On the other hand, estrus is when a cow comes into her “season” and is ready to be bred. Mercy, I have been in and out of any number of dis- and eu- stresses in the last week or so. Out of state visitors from Georgia, a daughter with a potentially dangerous medical condition, Dennis’s car in the shop with transmission woes and this, that and the other odd things that fall like dominoes some days. Right now, I am done with Mr. Trump, I didn’t like him before and I sure don’t like him now. But like all other noisome pests, he too shall pass.

  11. Laurie, this post is the perfect invitation for me at the moment. I have reached the peak of a distressful year these days: my wife and I decided to split up, I stayed jobless for almost five months, I escaped in Brazil without my family knowing, resulting in the breaking of the relationship between them and my wife, who was appointed as the scapegoat for my fleet.
    So yes, it was a distressful year. But the worst part is behind my back. In Brazil I distanced from my problems and looked at them with renewed eyes, I plunged into spiritual and expanded-conscience experiences and now I am going back to take what’s mine.
    On with the eustress now!

  12. I’ve just had to look up eustress because I’ve never heard of it . If you mentioned it in your book, I must have overlooked it . I honestly don’t thing you can call any form of stress ‘good stress’ I know we need euforia to be ‘up beat ‘ excited about things …is that a type of ‘healthy stress’ ? …I don’t know . I ‘d like a stress…less world . I don’t handle stress well at all . My antidote is meditation , nature and my King Charles Oscar 😊

  13. Love the gong. I went to a gong bath here in Wales in a yurt …I think it was June of last year . It was freezing . Not something I’d want to do again 😏😜

  14. My most recent eustress was visiting a dear friend with another dear friend. My distress was the process of getting there in airplanes, which are no longer bastians of comfort of even something similar to comfort. Our stewardi were pleasant (unlike those I met on another airline a couple of years ago), but the seating – not! I am home again now, happy to be here with my furry girls.

  15. In what I have read, eustress happens at the time of stimulation and challenge, before it turns into overwhelm and distress. Either way, it is connected to our thinking and how our mind perceives circumstances.
    A part of me also believes that “eustress” is a theory that is applied to organizations, so they can push employees to their “full potential” before burning out …..
    On the other hand, I also know as a yogi, that just the right amount of stress on the body can bring us to a new level of openness and awareness.
    I guess my joy is still out in this 😉

  16. Distress recently with my computer….until this day! when 752 junk emails were in my junk folder and only 3 on my work email and 2 on my personal email. My personal emails were not coming in on my work email and and visa versa…and I was able to reply on my work email once again. I will not say I vibration-ally feel euphoric but I feel relieved. Thank you Norton Anti Virus folks and IT Girl it has been a long month….Whew! NO RAIN today that just feels delightful.
    Hoping my computer stays on track now…and I have book group tonight. YES Good post Laurie and interesting timing. How was the rain on Whidbey Island?

    • Patricia — You’ve been through the technology wringer!

      My flight to Seattle was delayed due to a storm. Once I got there it was great…. until that evening, when there was an AMAZING storm: rain, thunder, and lightning. After that, it remained gorgeous (but I was glad I brought a jacket because it was a bit nippy)… 🙂

  17. Hello, I am new to the blogging world, I happen to come across this blog and it’s irony that this seems to be my very problem in dealing with my stress. I currently carry a lot of negative stress, however my problem is switching from distress to the good stress. I really loved that this breaks down and explains how each one can overcome us. Thank you!

  18. First, as a person who has experienced a lifelong love affair with learning, I sincerely thank you for introducing me to a new word (eustress). I always enjoy discovering new ways to contemplate and communicate. Clever blog post title. Bravo! 🙂

    These past several days (and weeks) I’ve been in the process of preparing for a rather lengthy visit with my out-of-town siblings. The process both delights and frustrates me at times, in that I tend to be chronically short on energy, while simultaneously being emphatically energized at the prospect of spending quality time with them, which is such a rare privilege. Preparations provide me with an opportunity to practice both planning and balance, while also attempting to remain in-the-moment, savoring the anticipation. The stress comes in when I experience frustration with the limitations of my energy reserves.

    Thank you for the timely reminder that allowing my underlying worry (stress) to deduct even a speck of energy from my excited anticipation (eustress) is an unbalanced mathematical equation. This business of learning in life is such an interesting journey. Thanks for sharing a fresh perspective (and a bonus new word, as well). 🙂

  19. Hi Laurie,

    What level ???

    Waking up to a 7.8 earthquake sets off about every kind of stress system the body has.

    No shortage of lesser forms of stress since then.

    And mostly I manage to leave them in the past quite quickly, and just get on doing what seems most appropriate with what I have.

    I feel so privileged, that stress just seems to be too much of an indulgence.

  20. My latest Eustress was on our daughter’s birthday when I had purchased her gift knowing she would be truly surprised as it wasn’t on her list and that she would love it. I couldn’t wait for her to open it and she did not disappoint 🙂 Tina

  21. I always try hard to keep stress at bay, though sometimes it infiltrates our being. Not sure how it happened, but we are currently dealing with an unexpected downer–a bed bug infestation. Ugh.

  22. Wonderful experience reading it after a long time. As i am your fan Laurie and the way you explain things is just awesome.
    Could not follow your blog due to busy schedule of my school .
    When are you visiting India ?? Plan it please as soon as possible .

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